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CPSM: How Four Letters Can be a Game Changer for Your Career

Do those four letters really matter? The answer is yes and Sara Libby, CPSM, explains why!

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Libby about her role as the Corporate Marketing Manager at SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) and SMPS Arizona CPSM Chair. Besides picking her brain about the benefits of the Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM) certification and the CPSM boot camp, I learned some interesting facts about Sara!

A brief background on Sara Libby – Sara graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. During the first part of college, she took several Environmental Engineering classes, which has helped her succeed in her job at SWCA.

Sara has been in the A/E/C marketing industry for 11 years and 4 ½ of it has been with SWCA Environmental Consultants, where she serves as the corporate Marketing Manager for the company’s 31 offices and 850 employees. She enjoys the “nerdy” side of marketing – this includes the sharing of marketing information and resources throughout her company for marketing and business development support.

Now, back to why those four letters matter – Q&A time!

What do you consider to be the “nuts and bolts” of obtaining the CPSM certification?

Sara explained the requirements of the CPSM –being eligible to test based on experience (Bachelor’s degree + 4 years of experience, Associate’s degree + 6 years of experience, or 8 years of experience), passing the CPSM exam and then maintaining the 50 Certified Education Units (CEUs) every three years after passing the exam.

In addition, she explained that the CPSM exam consists of six domains of practice that cover the Marketing and Business Development gamut. It supplies a wide bank of knowledge in the marketing and business development profession that you might not be exposed to in your actual job. Study groups and study “boot camps” help members prepare for the exam. There is currently a boot camp taking place from January 20, 2017  to May 02, 2017. 

How has obtaining your CPSM impacted your career?

Sara attributes her CPSM certificate for getting her current job at SWCA. Her boss saw that she had the CPSM credentials and Sara feels it was the tipping point that got her the job offer.

What would your advice be to someone that is interested in participating in the boot camp?

She said, “Just do it! We’ve got a great lineup of SMPS Arizona CPSMs and Domain experts that will be presenting the study materials. On top of that, you’ll be in good company. There are 10 others signed up for the boot camp with whom you can study and who will hold you accountable to sit for the exam and take the next big step in your career.”

What information can you provide a marketer that is seeking approval from their boss to enroll in the boot camp?

“At only $80 for a 16 week course, this the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to getting a comprehensive education in marketing and Business Development for the A/E/C industry. Also, being surrounded by others who have the same goal as you – to pass the CPSM exam! – can be extremely motivating and can hold you accountable in reaching that goal.”

What are some interesting facts about you, outside of work?

Sara has a very exciting life outside of her marketing and CRM data. Sara sings Big Band and Latin Jazz music in two bands and participates in swing and salsa dancing. Recently she sang the National Anthem for the Goodman’s Office Chair Hockey tournament!

Sara is the CPSM chair for SMPS Arizona and she would be happy to talk to any interested SMPS members about pursuing CPSM credentials – she can also tell you the best places to go dancing!

Click here for CPSM FAQ sheet from the CPSM Info Session held November 2016, which featured Kevin Doyle, SMPS HQ Certification and IT Manager. For more information on the CPSM program or on the CPSM Boot Camp, contact:

Sara Libby, CPSM
SWCA Environmental Consultants|
2016-2017 SMPS Arizona CPSM Chair
[email protected]

Are you a CPSM? How has it benefited your career? Please share! 

Interviewer/Blog Writer: Debbie Parkins
Business Development, Western Technologies

Debbie Parkins, Business Developer with Western Technologies, has been a SMPS member for a year and a half. She enjoys the hosting duties of the hospitality committee and getting to meet other SMPS Members. Debbie enjoys her communication role within her job and loves to ski during winter! 

Interviewee: Sara Libby
Marketing Manager, SWCA Environmental Consultants 

Sara is a marketing professional specializing in branding, communications, graphics, public relations, copywriting and proposal creation. She has been a SMPS member for 11 years and is currently the CPSM Chair. Sara loves to sign and dance in her free time!  

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All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

For Pete’s sake, a late proposal is like a woman “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” Voilà – two clichés in one sentence.

It’s 2:58! Whew, you made it! Another one signed, sealed, delivered! Two minutes to spare until the 3:00 pm deadline passes – high fives all around. Although you made the deadline, just-in-time (JIT), delivery should not be condoned.

Waiting until the last minute to turn in a proposal has proven to be detrimental. What can go wrong on the way to deliver a proposal that you have spent weeks preparing? I’m sure you have your own stories, but here are a few scenarios I have encountered: heavy traffic, snarly auto accidents, everyone’s favorite car problems, torrential monsoons, blinding haboobs, fierce flooding and of course there’s also running out of time. Super Bowls, concerts, large gatherings, police actions, sporting events, Spring Training – and the list goes on.

Since the beginning of my career, proposal delivery has been forethought and planned out in the beginning of the pursuit. I’ve been in the practice of being over prepared.

Here are a few examples from throughout my career, where my team and I have taken extreme measures to ensure a smooth and timely delivery.

Our Phoenix team members co-located with a designer in Albuquerque for a large design-build pursuit. The proposal team worked long hours and had many components of the price and proposal to prepare. Management did not want to burden the team with the stress of driving the large submittal package two hours away to Santa Fe to turn in. Instead, we had two team members drive the proposal to Santa Fe, in separate cars, just in case one broke down. They called to check in a few times along the way and it was delivered four hours early. 

Take away: Be over prepared, failure to deliver is not acceptable.

I made a deal with a new, young colleague that if they turned in a proposal to the City of Kingman using the company car, they could stay over in Laughlin and use the company car over the weekend. I asked her to call me when she left and to check in along the way for peace of mind. We discussed what time she was to leave so she could turn the proposal in hours early but she never called to tell me she was on her way. I called her company cell phone and personal phone numerous times over several hours and was not able to get ahold of her. As the proposal team assessed the situation, we decided to reprint the proposal and travel the opposite way in case there was an issue on the highway. Both drivers got to the City of Kingman at roughly the same time. The new employee was so shocked to learn that we reprinted the proposal and traveled using an alternate route. She had no idea how important communication and timely delivery of a proposal was.

Take away: Communication is KEY!

My favorite and most embarrassing story – While living in Hawaii, my plan was to fly to Honolulu, spend the night and turn in the proposal in the morning. I decided not to go over the night before and canceled my flight, hotel and rental car. Getting last minute accommodations is usually not a problem, except for that week. It was approaching ProBowl weekend and every flight, hotel and rental car was booked. A coworker, who scheduled travel, noticed that I had canceled and she figured I wasn’t aware of the busy weekend and limited resources. She was able to get me a flight due to her family connection at the airlines. I took the proposal in a medium-sized box and placed it under the seat in front of me as the overhead bins were already full. The flight attendant told me I would have to put the box below board as it was oversized and not within regulations to be under the seat. I explained to her how important this box was and that I couldn’t take the chance that it might get lost or damaged. She wasn’t having any of my argument. My eyes welled up with tears, I placed a label on the box with contact information. When she saw my label she said, “oh, my Aunty works there, we can put that box in the juice closet right here.” Thank goodness for Ohana (family). When I got to Honolulu every car was rented. Back in the day, not all cabs took credit, so I had to wait for one that took a credit card. The proposal was turned in two hours before the deadline. I dodged a bullet on that one.

Take away: Stick to the plan and learn from your mistakes.

Every day is a school day! Although we are out of school, we never stop learning. Learning from your mistakes is some of the best medicine we can take. Here’s a list to help you get your proposal delivered smoothly:

  • Start with the end in mind. What do you want your delivery to look like? Build your schedule to reflect it
  • Have a plan B & C
  • Be over-prepared and assign someone to deliver the proposal
  • Set a ‘pencils down’ date for authors/content. Give marketing time to take over and prepare the proposal for delivery
  • Get all the last minute stuff done first - labels, tabs, forms and find the delivery route
  • Be finished a day ahead of time. You have 70% of the proposal material in your knowledge database
  • Always be prepared. Bring supplies (tape, envelopes, scissors, cash, extra labels) so you can be nimble in the field

Your team is only as strong as the weakest link – don’t be the weak link. Get that winning proposal in. All dressed up and nowhere to go – a late proposal doesn’t win the work, period.

Oh, by the way, never use clichés in your proposals! Never! That will be my next blog post. Keep it Simple Silly (KISS)… oh gosh, I can’t help myself with these clichés.

What are some instances where you can relate to our writer's personal stories? We would love to hear other lessons learned when it comes to delivering a proposal you worked so hard to complete! 


Guest Blogger 

A special thank you to our guest blogger who wrote this great blog post while participating in the 2016 SMPS Mentor-Protégé Program. We appreciate Maisha Hagan's support of the chapter blog and encourage more mentors and protégés to guest write for our blog. Please reach out to Ashley Black if you have the desire to write freely and creatively! 


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What I have gained – and lost (so far) by taking a risk.

About a year ago, I did something really brave -or some would say really stupid. Two days after graduating college with a Bachelor Degree in Marketing Communications, I bought a one-way flight to Phoenix, leaving behind my family, friends, my favorite winter coat and everything I’ve known for the past 21 years. Why? Well, since we are being brutally honest, I left my life behind to be with my (then) boyfriend of five years. We had been together since our senior year of high school and he had recently transferred to Arizona State University, which postponed his graduation to the fall of 2016. At the time, I had the perfect plan; I had it all figured out (at the age of 21, LOL, laugh with me please): I would kick-start my career in Phoenix, he would finish off his last year at ASU, we would settle down, buy a house, get married, own a dog, have kids and live happily ever after— so I’d thought.

A month after moving to Arizona, reality hit me and I found myself very unhappy in my relationship. I decided to put an end to it – I packed my bags and moved out of his apartment. I drove to my cousin’s house in Chandler and sat outside crying on the phone to my parents. My mom was on the other end of the line frantically looking for the next flight back to Washington D.C. As much as I wanted to go back home, I told my mom no. I told my parents that I was going to stick it out and see what this new state had to offer. During this time, I had barely any money saved; I was currently employed but looking for a better job and had no place to live. Luckily, my cousin insisted that I stay with her while until I got back on my feet. I crashed on her couch for three weeks until I had saved enough money for my own apartment. During that time, I struggled finding job opportunities that didn’t include a call center or door-to-door sales. I was interviewing left and right for all the wrong positions. I was beginning to feel discouraged and I was completely regretting not taking my parent’s offer to move back home.

After a month without any luck, I received a phone call from Danielle Feroleto at Small Giants. We chatted for a bit and scheduled a day and time to meet in person. We hit it off and had a great interview, but she said that they were looking for someone with more marketing experience. However, she explained that she knew of a company that I would be a great fit for –  Willmeng. She showed me their marketing advertisements, their proposals and what I would be doing as a Marketing Coordinator if offered the position. At first, I was a little hesitant. I knew nothing about construction –absolutely nothing about the industry. How was I supposed to market something that I had no prior knowledge of? The night before my interview, I looked over every tab, hyperlink and picture from the Willmeng website. I took notes, LOTS of notes. I studied their mission statement, their staff members and their projects trying to figure out what I would be getting myself into.

I felt pretty confident after leaving the interview and I received a call from Krystal Book, Marketing Manager/Executive Assistant at Willmeng, a couple days later, offering the position as their Marketing Coordinator. I think I said yes before I even let her finish asking.

I’ve been working for Willmeng for almost a year now and I have nothing but excellent things to say about the company, the culture of the company and everyone I work with. We truly are one big family. I’ve learned so much about construction and the industry itself working for Willmeng. I was also given the opportunity to join a great mentorship program with SMPS. I’ve met inspiring women and mentors who remind me constantly what I’m working toward. I may not be where I want to be yet, but I know I’m heading in the right direction and it all started from taking a chance at love, watching it fail and later transforming itself into a blessing. There have been so many times where I have asked myself, why am I here? Why did I ever leave home?  But, then I look around and see all the friends I’ve made, how much independence I’ve gained, the great job I have and I remind myself – Oh, that’s why.

As Albert Einstein once said, “The person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”   I couldn’t agree with him more. Life is all about trial and error. Take a chance, make some mistakes and watch all the things you will gain and lose (for the better) because of it.


Lizette Naranjo
Marketing Coordinator,
 Willmeng Construction, Inc.

An inspiring marketing guru in the making, Lizette Naranjo is an East coast girl living the post-grad life in the West. Being just a baby in the A/E/C industry, she enjoys being outdoors, doing yoga, playing and watching sports (football and college basketball, especially) and spending time with friends. 

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Five Internal Customer Service Tips to Incorporate at Work

Customer service is something every company strives to provide in any external interaction. It’s what solidifies a company’s reputation and brings them the opportunity for more business. But, in an industry where retention of employees can at times be a struggle, how can these same principles be applied to internal communications with employees, making them feel more valued through marketing efforts?

1. Celebrate Employee Achievements
This one seems obvious, but take time to celebrate the little achievements as much as the big ones, like extended years of service or awards. If you have an internal weekly email, intranet site, or especially a weekly newsletter that actually goes out to customers, mention small accomplishments of all employee levels. From passing inspections and OSHA certifications, all the way to going above and beyond in the field, little recognitions let other employees know they are valued and their hard work does not go unnoticed. Improved morale is infectious and it can go a long way to promote a strong team environment.


2. Each Request is Worth Your Time
Everyone has deadlines and what seems like a never-ending mountain of tasks in a given day, but when another department or employee reaches out to you for an unusual request or something that seems unrelated to your department, take the time to use your resources and point them in the right direction. Going the extra mile to find a solution, or even just responding with, “I don’t think I have the means to help you, but I think this person might have some information you’re looking for,” can mean a world of difference. A company culture of helping hands may sound cheesy, but ultimately is what sustains a successful work environment. 

3. Support, Support, Support
When possible, go out of your way to support other departments in ways that you normally wouldn’t. This could mean attending a tradeshow with the sales team or a meeting that doesn’t necessarily pertain to your department, but introduces you to functions of different departments; opening the doors to greater communication, understanding and collaboration between different sectors of the company.

4. Survey Employees Like You Would Customers
Surveys are often ignored, pushed aside to collect dust, deemed unworthy of our time. Consider for a second the limitless amounts of information waiting to be discovered about how the company can better serve and utilize its employees in a manner that begets the most efficient work, but yet leaves employees feeling satisfied and appreciated. Imagine the number of undiscovered ideas that could be waiting for an opportunity to be discussed. All of this information is at our finger tips, we simply need to seek it out and put it to good use.

 5. When in Doubt, Get Back
If you have any doubts about an idea or request brought to you by another employee or department, do not hesitate to simply get back to them with an answer when you have reached a certain conclusion. While, it may seem like the best approach to have answers instantly on hand, providing information or solutions that you may not be able to follow through with could create resentment and tension between employees or departments. Take the time to be certain you are able to help or have the correct information before giving that data to someone else. It is the best courtesy you can offer.


Internal customer service is often overlooked but, if executed properly, has an immense impact on employee satisfaction. This type of customer service requires cooperation combined with communication, resulting in departments working cohesively. What are some of the ways you attempt to be internally customer centric?  Or, are there specific colleagues that come to mind while reading this that you might feel particularly thankful for? 

Chelsey Lutteke 
Marketing Coordinator, Sunland Asphalt

Chelsey Lutteke recently reached her one year mark at Sunland, which also marks her first year in the A/E/C Industry! She has been involved with SMPS for about a year as well and enjoyed participating in the SMPS Mentorship Program. Before entering the A/E/C world, Chelsey was a Marketer in several other industries, including: Higher Education, Healthcare and Law.

Chelsey is very interested in intercultural communications and the influence of culture on communication! This urge to learn about other cultures has fueled her passion for traveling, which most recently brought herto Peru for two weeks in June to climb Machu Picchu. 

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The Pursuit...To Happiness

Do you remember that time when an RFP was almost literally “thrown in your lap” and you had less than a week to do it?  Your first question is “who is available to assist with the technical pieces?” and the response is “haven’t we already written something like this?” Right then and there you realize they are not invested in this project, so you ask “why should I spend my nights and weekend putting this together?”  Oh, did I forget to mention it was issued two weeks ago?  I know you’ve all been there, don’t lie.  But things are about to change….

Michelle Martin, SmithGroupJJR’s former Marketing Manager for the San Francisco office, and current Higher Education Corporate Practice Manager, alongside her marketing team and office leadership decided to make a change. The team created a transparent process, one that all parties are enthusiastic, and acquiescent, to pursue work.  Here’s how you can improve the process, but remember it takes buy-in from leadership:

STEP 1: Identify what is going wrong and why.  The quality of responses are only as good as the thought put into them. A poor proposal response results in a loss 99% of the time, dropping your firm’s win rate and revenue. This approach creates unsatisfied internal clients, and thus unhappy marketing personnel. Most likely, the result of this unsuccessful process can be attributed to one or more of the following reasons: a lack of understanding of what it takes to win work or where involvement is critical, assuming others will do the work or that “we already have this write up” approach, and lastly— avoidance. So, change this mindset of your team and take the steps to create a transparent process. During this first step of developing an improved process, you should gather statistics including how many hours (or dollars) are spent on any given pursuit, hit rates (wins vs. losses), and possibly even marketing turnover rates to help sell why a processis critical. 

STEP 2: Develop a transparent process for the environment you work in, and gain buy-in before launching. The ideal process is a holistic one where we have gained insight about the project opportunity through business development. We have an idea of when the RFP/Q is coming out and why the firm is uniquely qualified to win the project.  The RFP/Q hits the street and you have a team of business development, technical leadership and marketing to dedicate the time and effort necessary for a winning, tailored response. The two key players are the Pursuit Champion and the Marketing Lead. A  Pursuit Champion is identified off the bat— this person is a technical staff member who understands the expectations and is invested in the project. Ideally, the Pursuit Champion is a decent writer, has capacity, adheres to deadlines, and is an efficient communicator and leader. The Marketing Lead also adheres to the deadlines they set forth, leads the pursuit kick off, creates a story board and creative graphic representation, and of course, effectively communicates. Depending on your firm, a Business Developer or other technical staff are critical to the success of your projects.  Identify who should be involved and at what stages to ensure a smooth process for all.  Once you have done this, try a soft launch with those you can identify as “brand ambassadors” who are invested in your new process. Ask for buy-in and adjust as needed.

STEP 3: Execute the process.  Try it out, follow through and alter as you see fit or as suggestions arise.  Train those individuals who are, or may become “Pursuit Champions”. While an ideal Pursuit Champion embodies all the skills and characteristics listed above, ideal is hard to find. Lead training sessions to help Pursuit Champions realize their potential. Remind everyone that we are all in it for the same goal— to win awesome work! Remember, if you don’t execute, then the process stays broken.

Reevaluate your process by looking at your shortlist and win rates. Ask the staff if they are happier and just as important, ask yourself if you are happier.

Check out the pursuit booklet here for a step by step process developed by the SmithGroupJJR California team.  We would love to hear how you have implemented a new process, or if you have any feedback!

Rachel Minzey
Associate| Marketing Manager, SmithGroupJJR

Rachel Minzey began her career in the AEC industry in 2007.  She lived in New York City for four years and then came back to the Valley in 2012, where she has grown her career within SmithGroupJJR. She has been a member of SMPS since 2014 and has truly enjoyed the opportunity to meet individuals with similar roles, sharing best practices and lessons learned.

Before having her two young sons, Rachel was an avid synchronized swimmer since the age of 8. When she’s not playing with her children, Rachel enjoys being crafty - she enjoys making jewelry, as well as crafts to spruce up her home. 


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2016 Conference Top Takeaways

Why go to a conference? More specifically, why go to a SMPS conference? How do you determine whether you should attend the regional or national SMPS conference?

SMPS conferences attract hundreds of business developers and marketers to dive into trends within our industry, offer information to better differentiate your firm from competition, and highlight information to guide firms to thrive in existing markets. Yet, how do you pick which conference to attend if you are only able to participate in one?

The good news? You will benefit by attending any conference! However, there are a few different things to consider when making your decision!

Here are just a few reasons to attend Build Business: it is the only national business development, marketing and management conference for the design and building industry; you will expose yourself and your firm to top marketers and business developers throughout the entire country; you learn about the top trends in our industry from around the U.S; renew your passion for A/E/C marketing and business development; increase your referral business and gain direct access to the decision-makers in the client organizations in hot markets! 

Here are a handful of reasons to head to the Southwest Regional SMPS conference:  you will meet hundreds of marketers and business developers who are located within your own region; you will learn about the hot trends closer to home; renew your passion for A/E/C marketing and business development and build relationships with more members from within your own chapter! 

Check out some of my favorite takeaways from Build Business and some of our members’ key takeaways from the Southwest Regional Conference.

Five Great Takeaways from Build Business: Synthesis

1. Don’t sell yourself short and be ambitious!
No one likes to be asked a question they don’t know the answer to. Saying “I don’t know” or “No” can leave you feeling uninformed or behind. Instead, try incorporating the word “yet.”

For instance, if someone asks you if you are proficient in Adobe Illustrator and you aren’t, try answering with, “not yet” instead of with ”no.”

2. The what, who and how are the most important elements of a proposal.
The most important pieces to the proposal are the cover letter, fee and resumes. Selection panels want to know what it is you plan to accomplish (cover letter), with who (the team) and how much is this going to cost (the fee).

3. Be in permanent beta mode.
We’ve all seen the reference ‘beta mode.’ Companies will often label new products as “beta phase” or “beta testing” to emphasize that the product is not complete and improvements are on the way. Apply this to yourself!

Keep learning, stay relevant and train your mind to be in permanent beta mode. Remember that your career is a work in progress. 

4. The best qualities of a great leader:
Great leaders have strong convictions, develop visions, develop high performance culture, convince rather than control, and are continually learning.

5. Most often, management of ourselves and how well we manage relationships with coworkers determines success or failure in a job.
It is so important to be self-aware! It is easy to say what others could be doing better, but have you taken a second to evaluate yourself and your attitude lately? Managing your relationships with your coworkers is important. If you build that relationship early on, you will trust each other and work better together as a team.

Five Great Takeaways from Southwest Regional Conference

1. “An RFQ/RFP is not a subpoena – you do not have to respond.”
Sometimes it feels like we are blindly throwing darts at a dartboard, hoping one of them will stick. We can fall into the trap of responding to every RFQ or RFP that is sent our firms’ way. However, it is important to look at the RFQ/RFP and decide whether it makes sense for your company to submit. Then, set up a go/no-go meeting to help determine that final decision. Remind your teammates that it’s not a subpoena, and you do not have to respond.

2. Learn, Do, Master, Teach.
Many of us are in roles in which we set up conferences, training sessions or even interview preparation meetings. When determining learning objectives for a conference or training session, you want to cover all types of learning styles. The three objective types are affective, cognitive and behavioral:

      • Affective - relates to moods, feelings and attitudes
      • Cognitive – of or relating to cognition/learning
      • Behavioral – involving, relating to or emphasizing hands-on learning

 3. You have the power!
We all have power – whether it’s positional or personal power and a corresponding weapon of influence. Leverage your power to do something positive and position yourself as an expert.

4. The 5-50-100 Rule.
Turn your relationships into opportunities! Of 150 connections that we are able to maintain, 100 are peripheral, 50 should be strategic partners, and five should be trusted advisors that help you support your journey fully!

5. Focus on how great your client is, not how great you are
Before you start a proposal, ask yourself a few questions:

      • How will you show the client your passion for this project?
      • What’s the client’s vision for the project?
      • How will you use your IQ to connect with the client?
      • How will you use positive attitude to come across as confident, not arrogant and make you potential client at ease with who they are?
      • What story will you share that exemplifies you and your companies’ integrity?

If you’re starting to see the value that SMPS Conferences can bring to you and your firm, now is the time to speak to your employer and plan/budget for the upcoming events in 2017-2018. The next Build Business Conference will July 12 – 14, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN. For more information, visit:  The next Southwest Regional Conference will be in January 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Keep a look out on  for more details in the coming months.

If you need more concrete data to convince your employer, check out this article written by Cricket Robertson, Immediate Past President and CPSM, about how to earn a greater ROI on your conference attendance here

Ashley Black
Marketing Administrator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves hot yoga, basketball, cooking and spending time with her newborn niece, Halle. 


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New Year, New Me – The Productivity Fumble

As the end of 2017 approaches, we find our workload getting heavier and heavier. End of year reports, last-minute submittals and deadlines that just seem to keep creeping up. But despite the end-of-year rush, the new year is just around the corner and we cannot help the feelings that come along with that—a clean slate, a fresh start, a metaphorical reset button for all the goals we maybe didn’t quite get to in 2017.

Whether or not you are the New-Year-Resolution-type, below are some tips to make sure you get a running start into the New Year.

“New Year, New Me”
I’m going to tell you the one thing you don’t want to hear – you aren’t a new you. You’re the same you. But you know what?  That’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing. You are the same person who made that tight deadline everyone thought was impossible. The same person who brought an innovative and creative flair to your workplace. The concept of new year, new me is a fallacy. Instead, think ‘Same me, but better’.

Whether your goals are to chase a promotion, live a healthier lifestyle, or get around to that vacation to Greece you’ve been wanting to book for too long to remember—create a big picture goal and work down from there. What are small steps you can take toward achieving that promotion?  Let your intentions be known. Take initiative, don’t wait for someone to ask you step up and make that extra effort. For a healthier lifestyle, make smaller changes that add up to bigger results. Go for a walk every day. Get a fitness tracker and invite your friends to competitions so you have accountability to more than yourself. Take all the junk food out of your house. Replace one meal a day with a healthy alternative. What about that vacation?  Make a savings goal. Chart your progress each time you hit a milestone. Put a picture of the Anthem as your phone wallpaper to remind yourself of what you are working toward.

Take little steps toward that goal. You’ll get there sooner than if you never started.

Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
Recognize that things worth having are hard to obtain and the only way to get them is through sincere dedication. You’ve got to play an active role in your happiness; it has to be a choice. By announcing your interest for a promotion, your committing to the level of effort it takes to get there. By choosing to rise a half-hour early everyday to make time for that walk, you’re making a choice to commit to your fitness goals.

Immerse yourself completely
When I set out to make my resolutions, I don’t make a handful, I typically focus on one. Then I build myself slowly around that goal. Last year I told myself I wanted to be published before the end of the year. I made time every day to write, spent time every weekend sending query letters and for every rejection I submitted two more. I listened to writing podcasts and audiobooks on my commute to and from work. I froze my Netflix subscription and started reading more books. Essentially, I focused every bit of my energy on obtaining that one goal. Before I knew it, I had four short stories published.

It may feel like you are shoveling rock from a sitting position. But you’re not – you are building a mountain. And you can’t get to the top without making your way up that hill.

Taryn Marie Herbert 
Corporate Marketing Coordinator, Rider Levett Bucknall 

Taryn joined the AEC industry in 2015 and is a corporate marketing coordinator with RLB. She joined SMPS last year and loves the organization. She is part of the publicity branch working on the social media committee. Taryn loves creative writing - she's ben published several times! She loves to read, hike, camp and practice yoga in her free time. 

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The Power of WHY

The number three is an important number. Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The Three Stooges. The Three Musketeers. There are three primary colors. All graphic designers and photographers know the rule of thirds. It’s a powerful number – and it also has significant meaning for our Chapter.

 Last year, Cricket launched a three-year strategic plan to help us be deliberate in continually engaging our members, improving our resources, and increasing opportunities for growth and learning. This year, we’re continuing the momentum for year two. As a part of that effort, the incoming Board of Directors participated in a strategic planning session in June. We had the privilege of hosting Society President Elect, Craig Galati, AIA, FSMPS, CPSM. Craig facilitated the session and helped us “check in” on our strategic plan and refocus on goals and objectives to support the plan. From that session, three goals emerged for the year: 

  1. Increase value to members and emphasize advocacy for the profession
  2. Focus on quality over quantity of programming
  3. Communicate value to both members and non-members through targeted strategies

Those goals tie in directly to our Chapter’s mission statement:

To Advocate, Educate, and Collaborate
for the A/E/C industry to build business for a thriving economy.

This year’s theme is the power of WHY. This comes from Simon Sinek’s inspirational TED Talk and subsequent book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon’s message is powerful. He talks about the WHY, how, and what of a company or organization; also known as The Golden Circle:

  • The WHAT of a company/organization is pretty simple—every single company on the planet knows what they do
  • The HOW of a company/organization is often given to explain how something is different or better than other companies or organizations.
  • WHY? Very few people can clearly articulate why they do what they do – what is your purpose, cause or belief? Here lies the inspiration. What is your why?


By itself, an arrow is just a flimsy piece of wood. But pick up a bow, and pull that arrow backward 180 degrees from its target, and you’ll find that it becomes unstoppable.

SMPS Arizona is in a great position and we have so much positive momentum. As we move forward into our three-year strategic plan, let’s focus on our WHY – as individuals and as a Chapter. We are all leaders, no matter what level we are at in our jobs or careers. We impact others every day, whether we realize it or not. What inspires you? What’s your cause? What are you passionate about? What would you do TODAY, if you knew you could not fail?

I’m excited to be where we’re at now. We have so many new members discovering the value of SMPS and becoming involved in the Chapter. Combine those new members with our dedicated 10-, 15-, and 20-year members, and we have a knockout team of fresh ideas combined with solid knowledge. There are still so many great things to come. I’m looking forward to the future of SMPS Arizona and can’t wait to see many of you at one of our upcoming events!

Maureen Varela, CPSM
Marketing Manager, Pulice Construction Inc.

Maureen joined the A/E/C industry in 2006 and has been employed by Pulice Construction since 2010. She has been an active member of SMPS for a decade and is enjoying her role as current Chapter President. Many know Maureen as the hard-working Marketer that she is,  but few know about her passion for adrenaline! Over the years, she’s tried out ziplining, skydiving, rappelling, and white water rafting, and she’s always on the lookout for the next adventure.

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Hindsight is 20/20

Hindsight is 20/20 – looking back over the last decade of SMPS involvement, I would have never guessed I would be Chapter President. I can honestly say that each opportunity I’ve had with SMPS has changed my life in some way. Being the Arizona Chapter President was a life-changing position and it is great to be able to look back at the last two years with a complete perspective. Wow … what a ride! When I started this journey two years ago as President Elect, I honestly didn’t know what to expect or what would unfold. I could not have anticipated it fully— which is probably a good thing. I learned life lessons and grew both personally and professionally more than I thought possible. The lessons are numerous, but the following three had the greatest impact:

The only failure is to not try. I was so afraid of failure when I started, but a conversation with our very own, Barbara Shuck, at the President Leadership Symposium (PLS), helped put things in perspective: failure is a part of the experience and I’m not trying if I’m not failing. Some things will work and some things won’t, but I won’t know unless I try. I was able to change my perspective to lessons learned. I made numerous mistakes along the way, but I always put my best foot forward and tried to do the right thing. Experiences are always a double-edge sword; while we would change things if we had to do them again, it’s going through those experiences that make us the people we are today.

It’s not life or death. Anyone who knows me knows I drink the SMPS Kool-Aid, but I had to remind myself that SMPS is not life or death. SMPS is priority #3 after our personal and professional lives. No one is going to die if SMPS things don’t get done. Being President does bring some pressure and responsibility to ensure things are moving forward, but I also had to remind myself that my job was to orchestrate and not to do everything on my own. If things didn’t get done, I could address the why, but I couldn’t force anyone to follow through on their commitment.

Nothing in life that’s worth it is easy. Being President is a lot of work, there’s no getting around that. But at the end of the day it was worth it! I learned life lessons, things about myself, and grew more than I would have ever imagined. I followed through on my commitment to SMPS, and more importantly to myself.

I am so incredibly grateful for this once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to the board, and entire leadership team, for everything you did last year. Our Chapter is truly amazing with tremendous momentum and energy. I am truly honored to have served as chapter President. I’m so excited to see where our incredible President, Maureen Varela, will take us!

Cricket's Year as SMPS AZ Chapter President

About the Author:
Cricket Robertson, CPSM
Marketing Director, Corbins Electric

Cricket is the Marketing Director at Corbins Electric and the Past President of SMPS Arizona. Cricket is a huge SMPS advocate who took up rowing last year! She is now on the Rio Salado Rowing Club Novice Crew!

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Diss Vs. Bliss: A Tale of Two Minds

Hey SMPS Arizona! The Call for Nominations for the 2016 -2017 Leadership Team is due one week from today and if you’re on the fence about submitting, we’ve got a blog post for you.  Whether you’re a newcomer nervous to take the leap or a tenured member not sure if leadership is right for you, here’s a little comic relief to help you sort out your own inner-dialogue.


“You’re pathetic,” that pesky little devil perching on my shoulder snaps at me as I open up the SMPS Call for Nominations Form.  “You’re not actually thinking of nominating yourself, are you?”  Her rhetorical question mark stands lingering in the air like a text bubble in a cheesy comic strip.  “I mean, no one nominated you for a reason…the last thing you should do is nominate yourself.” 

I knew she would say something like that.  She’s so judge-y; she’s so snarky; she’s so critical; she’s so MEAN! 

SHE, of course, would be me…or more specifically, the dark and extremely vocal side of my conscience…and she’s always ready and willing to stoke the fires of my ever-present self-doubt. If I ever need a quick kick in the gut, she’s the first one to show up, her steel-toed boots laced to the knee.  I’ve come to call her Miss Diss, and man does she deliver.

Of course, it’s not that her counterpart is some absentee participant in this on-going dialogue.  It’s just that her counterpart is much more subdued in her approach.  This would be Miss Bliss, whose style is typically sweet and reassuring and uplifting…and often overpowered by the constant onslaught of negativity emanating from my opposing shoulder.  Which is why her response to Miss Diss’ snide remarks came as such a surprise!

“Hey, why don’t you shut up for once and give her a break!”  Miss Bliss hollers around my aching neck.  She must have recently attended a course on assertiveness, I think to myself…that, or she just enrolled in a self-defense class.  Either way, this was a whole new side of Bliss that I was suddenly seeing…or rather, that I was suddenly hearing…

“Why do you always have to be so negative over there?” yells Bliss.  “If she nominates herself, it doesn’t mean that no one wants her on the team; it’s not like grade-school dodgeball.  Did you ever consider that maybe there are LOTS of people that would LOVE to have her on the team, but they don’t want to impose their will on her?  They might not be sure of her interest level and are waiting for her to tell them all about it.  Did you ever think about that?  Huh?  Did ya?!?!”  This was obviously a sensitive subject for Miss Bliss…she must not have been very popular in grade-school…

“Yeah, well why do you always have to bring up grade-school?” Miss Diss quickly retorts.  “It’s not my fault that you’re the most uncoordinated person on the planet.  You weren’t qualified to play then and you’re certainly not qualified to play now.  Why do you think this big talking head between us is so perplexed?  She remembers what it felt like to be placed on the team by the gym teacher while everyone rolled their eyes behind her.  You think she wants to relive that experience?  Just like you, she’s not qualified for any of the positions!  Just deal with it and get on with your…”   

KA-BOINK!  A giant red dodgeball hits Miss Diss directly in the thigh before she even has a chance to finish her thought.  “In case you haven’t noticed, Miss Snarky-Pants…a lot has changed since grade-school” Miss Bliss quips as her saucy Doppelgänger stands dumbfounded.  “Guess I’m qualified enough now to score on you,” she continues.  “So how ya like me now?! By the way, that’s 1-me; you-zip.”  

“Oh, it’s on…it’s ON!” screams an irritated Miss Diss, now flushed a bright red hue.  “You want to play?  Let’s play!  We’ll both be our own teammates.  First one to four hits/captures WINS.  And don’t forget, no crossing the center line!”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember,” scoffs Bliss.  But just so you know, win or lose, I’m still RIGHT.  Our girl can do it…and besides, if she’s not qualified now, how’s she going to get qualified if she doesn’t do anything about it?  You know as well as I do that she’s got to get out of her comfort zone and challenge herself if she really wants to get ahead in this world…and it could be exciting.  Like an adventure!”  Bliss was making some excellent points, even if Diss wasn’t at all ready to concede them.

“Well it’s going to be a lonely adventure, if you ask me.  She doesn’t know anyone at SMPS.  How’s she supposed to make this thing work when she’s got questions…and you KNOW she’s going to have questions.  She always does,” counters Diss with a hefty hurl of the ball in Bliss’ direction.

“Ha ha, you missed me!” Bliss yells back as she ducks down and quickly recovers her stance.  “Not knowing anyone isn’t a reason not to join; it’s a reason to join.  It’s a chance to meet the people that can help her become the leader that she is destined to be.  And as I recall, no one asked you…come to think of it, as I recall, you used to have a lot more skills than this!  What happened?”  Bliss dealt another quick zinger off of Diss’ thigh.  KA-BOINK!  She was enjoying this torment a little too much… “2-zip!”

“What happened is that I don’t have time to play dodgeball with idiots!”  Diss was clearly grasping at straws.  Why have I given her so much credit all these years?  “And neither does she!” Diss continues.  “You ARE right.  This isn’t grade-school; it’s real life…a life that she’s filled with work and pets and family…and work…work that pays bills.   PLUS, she’s got about a thousand hours-worth of Netflix to catch up on.  Don’t you want to know what happens on Season 5 of The Walking Dead?”  Hmmm, Miss Diss actually makes a compelling argument here…I have been wanting to catch up on my TV time…

Distracted for a split second by zombie-mania, Bliss is dealt a low blow in the stomach (of course) by Diss’ return throw.  BINK!  Diss was a real heavy-hitter…she wasn’t playing games anymore.  “1-2…watch out now, I’m coming up behind you…by the way, you’ve still got that ‘loser’ note from grade-school taped to your back.” OMG, I thought I burned that thing…

“Of course I want to watch Season 5,” Bliss manages to say between breaths, “but it’s not like we can’t watch itwhenever…it’s on Netflix for crying out loud!  And I know there are only so many hours in the day, but you make it sound like it’s impossible…like she should quit before she even starts!  I’ve never heard of such a ridiculous notion.  Anything is possible in her life if she makes it so, and she can still make the nomination deadline!”  Still catching her breath, Bliss flings a slow-moving ball and misses…

“Don’t sweat it, Bliss…you were never going to win this anyway,” mocks Diss as she stands clinging to the ball, reveling in the wicked satisfaction of her recent hit.  “Like the note says, you were born to lose.  But not to worry; there was nothing in it for her anyway.  We will all be better off when she skips this whole SMPS Leadership thing.”  Notably high on her own sense of superiority, Diss chuckles loudly and lobs the ball towards Bliss…only to have it caught! 

“That’s 3-1, Miss ‘Thang!’  says Bliss with a mischievous smirk starting to creep up the sides of her mouth. You can ‘yuk it up’ all you want, but you and I both know that the only reason I’ve ever had a note stuck to my back is because you put it there.  You’ve been feeding her a hefty load of crap for as long as I can remember.  There’splenty in this for her…it’s so obvious!” 

“Oh yeah?  Like what?”  Diss was never one to be easily dissuaded from a negative train of thought… 

But Bliss was getting her second wind and was ready with a comeback.  “Like maybe learning a few new skills to take with her back to her current position; like maybe developing leadership skills that could grow her career and open up new opportunities for her future…maybe even lead her to her dream job; like maybe the possibility of making best pals for life!  I guess maybe YOU could make that out to be nothing, but from where I stand, that’s not ‘nothing.’  Not ‘nothing’ at all.”

With that, Bliss jettisons a high-speed ball and catches Diss directly in the chest.  BOI-OINK!  “Boo-ya-ka-shaw!” yells Bliss before breaking into her infamous Roger-Rabbit dance maneuver.  “That’s the game!” teases Bliss as her opponent stands silent with a scowl. 

“That better not leave a mark,” Diss replies with a ‘sore loser’ look written all over her face.  “It wouldn’t for me, but I bet it will for you,” teases Bliss as she extends a friendly handshake while Diss stares back at her skeptically.  “Come on…at the end of the day we’re both on the same team,” says Bliss as she softens her approach towards a very wary Diss. 

“You want to hug it out or something?” Bliss asks with a hopeful expression.  “OK…hugs,” says Diss as her face returns to a normal shade of flesh.  “You might want to consider a shower,” says Diss as she embraces her cohort.  “You kinda stink…”


The Bottom line: Don’t let yourself be your worst enemy. We hope this post made you chuckle, calmed your fears, and helped you get one step closer to getting off the fence.  Here’s a recap of the common disses your inner Miss/Mister Diss may throw your way and some blissful reflections to disarm the negative thoughts.

  • Diss - You’re not qualified for any of the positions…
    A bit of Bliss: The whole point of taking on a new role is to LEARN and to GROW! There is no better way to challenge ourselves than to step out of our comfort zones.  CHALLENGES = EXCITEMENT
  •  Diss - You don’t know many people at SMPS and it would be super awkward…
    A bit of Bliss: There is no better way to get connected with this great group of professionals than to be part of the Leadership Team. A few months on Leadership Team and your physical network and your LinkedIn connections will expand (All-Star Level!), guaranteed! 
  • Diss - You don’t have time. Work, kids, Netflix…
    A bit of Bliss: We know that everyone is busy, but it’s amazing what investing a little time in SMPS does for you. Like stated before, you expand your network, learn new skills and get ample opportunity to try out your leadership skills! Many involved in the Leadership team wear the hat of manager, parent, organizational leader, etc. and still make time to serve on our team. Anything is possible if you make it so! 
  • Diss - There is no value in volunteering. What’s in it for me?
    A bit of Bliss: This answer is different for everyone.  We may not be able to guarantee how the value comes to fruition for you, but we do know that everyone takes away something positive from the volunteer Leadership experience.


About the Blogger:  Amy Villasana-Moore, CPSM is SMPS Arizona's 2016 Blog Chair, is a marketer and CRM super-geek, art and music enthusiast, fan of all animals, darkroom-trained photographer, recovering “workaholic” and movie buff.  She can meet you at the intersection of “strange” and “brew” and if the need arises, can have an entire conversation with you using only movie quotes.

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