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John Walker is an avid writer and editor with over 15 years of experience in Federal Contract proposal writing, drafting/editing government correspondence, marketing, and FOIA responses. Recently, he attended APMP’s BPC Dallas and met up with us to be this month’s member spotlight.
Tell us about your proudest professional accomplishment.
The proudest accomplishment of my career thus far is winning a huge bid with a new state partner. We were able to parlay that into a great, long relationship. However, that initial bid took all hands on deck, requiring a lot of late nights. As Team Lead, I was able to bring everyone together and we collaborated as a team to put together a successful strategy. We got it done on a short deadline and we won. The success of that bid led to many others as we expanded the relationship with the state.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career is one that I’m sure we all have experienced. It’s when you have high expectations for a bid from management, but very little information to work with. As I grew as a Proposal Writer, I realized that when you do not immediately have all the tools to do the job, you really, really have to be proactive. You have to do the research to be able to ask the right people the right questions. You have to spend time with SMEs and make sure they understand what you have to do, their role in it, and ensure they understand the impact on the company. These days I keep that urgency in mind and maintain a proactive attitude. I am now always ready and willing to track down the right people, get the right information, and get the job done.
In your opinion, what is the most important trait needed for someone to be successful in the industry?
I think the most important trait is patience. Patience plays a role in everything we do. Whether it’s waiting for information or reading through RFPs and their hundred pages of requirements, you have to be patient. Many of our bids will require weeks of research and months of writing. But it’s like they say, “How do you eat a whale?” You don’t try to eat the whole whale at once because that is impossible. You take your time to separate the work into bite-sized pieces. It can take an immense amount of time to fully address the complex bid tasks with which we are confronted, so patience is critical.
Why are you proud to be APMP?
I am very proud to be APMP. As one of the speakers said in their presentation at BPC Dallas, you don’t really know that this is an industry of professionals until you see others like yourself in person, all with the same mindset. It really is like a family. Many times, when you are working on a proposal, it’s just you, your computer screen, and your small, local team. But when you come here to the APMP conference and see 900 people, it really lets you know that you are part of a huge family. Being in attendance, I’ve learned a lot, shared my own stories, and built new industry friendships. It is a powerful thing when people with like minds come together in one place. I really appreciate that.
How did you get started in your career?
Like many people, failing at something I thought I wanted to do led me to the career I was born for. I graduated high school in 1999 around the time of the internet boom and just knew I could make it as a Computer Science major and simply ride the wave into the future. Unfortunately, math and coding did not love me back and I had to do a hard reset. I took my hurt ego and anger and directed my energy into writing and have never looked back. I started my career contracting with the Department of Energy where I developed newsletters and reviewed incoming proposals. Over the years, I wrote and edited bids for several small businesses until I was fortunate enough to be offered a position at Maximus, Inc., where I am today.
What do you love the most about your job?
I used to run a fairly successful charity and have always been a great fan of helping others overcome their current roadblocks to reach their goals. Working with Maximus and other contracting firms has shown me the human benefit of the work a Proposal Writer does. Yes, we are trying to win and make our organizations money. However, the powerful effect we have isn’t limited to increasing a bank account balance. We are supplying employment opportunities to real people and helping them provide for their families. We are educating citizens to make optimal healthcare decisions that will benefit their families for generations. It is a motivating, powerful feeling to know that my work can have such a profound effect on thousands of lives.
What are your future goals and aspirations for your career?
Early on in life, my father taught me that successful leaders help others reach their goals through employment, education, and opportunities. In the future, I would like to lead more writing teams and eventually start my own contracting firm. In doing that, I believe I can really make a difference in a lot of lives within the organization and the greater population that we serve.