Spotlight on Certification: Laura Okell

Name: Laura Okell, CPSM

Title: Director, Marketing & Proposals

Firm: Axias

SMPS Chapter: Washington, DC

Number of years in the A/E/C industries: 17

How has SMPS helped you in your career?  I started in SMPS Twin Cities back in 2009. Going to events and getting to know fellow peer marketing coordinators really helped boost my confidence and build my own little network I could come to for advice. I was the only marketing coordinator in the office so having this group who understood the local market was fantastic.

I had the honor of being selected to serve as the chapter president. Being on the board and in this role helped me find my leadership voice, overcome nerves speaking in front of large groups, and gave me invaluable management training and experience that was not available to me in my day-to-day role.  I can confidently say that if I had not taken on the challenge of serving as a chapter president I would not have gotten where I am in my career today. Today I am involved in SMPS Washington DC, and it has been great to connect with professionals in the organization and network with peers in marketing that is new to me.

Helpful hint to share with your fellow SMPS members? My two favorite tools: Grammarly and an online subscription to the AP Stylebook.  Like many I have also been getting into AI. ChatGPT can really help add some flair to a boring LinkedIn post!

Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you: I was born in England and lived there until I moved to the U.S. when I was eight. Manchester, England to Minneapolis, MN, it was a big change.  I am a huge Manchester United fan and if you don’t know what that means, I will tell you everything you need to know about the English Premier League.

What I did at work yesterday: My firm’s business is primarily cost estimating, so we do a lot of sub-work. I worked on three submissions to our A/E partner firms for pursuits in New York, Washington, D.C., and Denver. This means reviewing the resumes, firm profiles, and project sheets prepared by our marketing assistant, adding any notes and comments for her, and ensuring they get sent out on time.

On Fridays, we review opportunities from our leads services. I met with each office lead to identify any pre-proposal meetings we wanted to attend or opportunities to contact firms about. My firm is in growth mode, so we just recently implemented a new CRM system and are getting in the groove of using our new system to track leads, so every other word out of my mouth is, “Did you put it in the CRM?”  I’m a broken record, but user adoption is so crucial with these system rollouts, so I have to be the enforcer!

We’re also working on overhauling a section of our website with new content, photos, and layout. I met with our marketing assistant to review what changes she had made, what was working, and what wasn’t. Looking into possible new website platforms gets added to my never-ending to-do list.

My last task every Friday is email admin. I go through all unread and categorize for follow-up or archive, delete what needs to be deleted, and feel good that I will start fresh on Monday morning. Our inboxes can be overwhelming, and I have found that taking the time needed every Friday and dedicating it to managing my inbox really cuts down on that inbox anxiety.

Before signing off for the weekend, I quickly tie up some SMPS business messaging with our special events director on Slack. We had our fall kick-off event last night, and serving as the chapter treasurer, I paid the bill and got the receipts, so I needed to let her know the final numbers for the event. I am a rare marketer who also loves finance, so serving in the Treasurer role is perfect for me.

As a CPSM, how has certification benefitted you? In 2022 I joined a new firm back in a marketing/proposals role after having been in a project management/client-facing role for several years. I knew I still had all the same skills as before but there were a few moments of doubt and imposter syndrome and that little voice in the back of my head saying, “you have no idea what you are doing.” Studying for, taking, and passing the CPSM exam was almost like an internal validation for me boosting my confidence and reminding me that I always knew what I was doing. Being part of the CPSM group on MySMPS is fantastic as well, We have been implanting a new CRM in our firm and being part of that group connected me with a user group for the CRM software that has been really helpful.

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