Spotlight – Mel Mae Smith

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Mel is without doubt one of the busiest people in our profession right now, holding down a full-time job at Harmonic whilst leading the UK Chapter of APMP at a time of rapid growth and professional development. I was delighted when she said she’d find time to answer some of my questions. It’s a fascinating insight into Mel and her selfless commitment to our profession.

Greatest achievement personally?

My greatest personal achievement has to be completing the London to Paris cycle ride a couple of years ago. It was one of the most physically challenging things that I have ever done and in the most immense heat. I was certainly proud of myself when we reached Paris.

Most difficult loss in bidding?

Losing the weight I gain eating late night bidding pizza!

Biggest pet hate?

Seeing the wrong ‘there, their or they’re’ written in bids and proposals.

Guilty pleasure?

Eating Cadbury’s Creme Eggs any time of year!

Describe yourself in three words.

I would say that I am an approachable, motivated grafter!

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

No is a complete sentence, it does not require explanation or justification.

Who do you most admire and why?

If I had to choose one person, I’d probably go with JK Rowling. A single mum with very little money who had an incredible idea and decided to go with it. After writing her book, it was rejected countless times by publishing houses, but she didn’t give up. Now she’s one of the most successful British writers of all time. That persistence and self-belief is something I really admire and aspire to.

What was your dream job growing up?

As I said at the conference last year, no one my age ever left education and said, “I want to work in bids!” Growing up, I always fancied myself as a doctor. I used to love the seemingly glamorous life of the likes of Dr Kildare and thought that I would fit right in with that. Clearly that was not to be my path in life, and I now love my job and the people I get to meet and work with on a daily basis.

How would you describe APMP UK to someone new into the profession?

I would say that APMP UK is a local chapter of like-minded professionals who are all part of a support network. All of our members are members for the same reason, to help raise the profile of our profession, promote bidding as a discipline in its own right and learn about best practice.

In your opinion, what is the single biggest benefit of becoming an APMP Member?

Having access to a like-minded body of bid and proposal professionals and the networking opportunities that the Chapter creates with its events and conference.

Does APMP UK have any detailed plans to offer services specifically for freelancers / consultants?

I believe that all bid and proposal professionals should be treated equally by APMP UK, whether they are employed or freelancers, because both populations are our members so both should have access to the benefits. It was good to see the recent launch of the Consultants Directory by APMP International, and we would encourage any UK Chapter members to list themselves if they are working as freelancers/consultants.

The APMP Certification programme has been very successful, so much so that I often get asked ‘What next?’ for those attaining Professional status, but keen to continue developing. What do you recommend?

APMP is planning specialty certifications that address specific job functions related to bids, proposals and the entire business development lifecycle. For example, APMP has three ‘specialty’ certifications planned over the next two years. The first is specifically for Capture/Opportunity Management professionals that will be released by January 2020. The next two specialty certifications will likely address ethics (specifically for HR managers and business executives) and bid and proposal leadership (for emerging and practicing executives). Additionally, APMP has a full range of speciality certifications planned over the next five years to address professionals in the industry who may prefer to be certified in their specific area. This is part of APMP’s global commitment to provide industry certification to the widest number of professionals who are a part of the business development and work winning lifecycle.

The role of Chair brings a lot of responsibility. How do you juggle working full time with the commitments of leading the profession’s representative body?

I work long hours 😊. As a Board member (and like the rest of the Board), I am committed to doing the absolute best I can for the benefit of our members. We have an exceptionally strong Board this year and we are all passionate about APMP. My employer is committed to supporting APMP and they believe that the value we get as members is beneficial to both us as members and to our clients.

What qualities does a member need to succeed on the UK Board?

I believe that to succeed on the Board you need to have a passion for the industry and the profession. You need a willingness to deliver for no personal gain and always remain focussed on what is best for the members.

The 2019 UK conference looks set to be the biggest yet. What are you looking forward to most?

This year I am really looking forward to our new Professional Development Day which is being held the day before the conference itself. We have pulled together some of the leading experts in the country to deliver sessions which we believe the members will love. As for the conference itself, I am especially looking forward to meeting members that I haven’t met before and connecting with others that I may only see a couple of times a year. For me, it’s a brilliant opportunity to network and find out what’s new in the world of bidding.

I often speak to professionals that say the conference and certification are expensive. What are you doing to support those in the profession less able to afford high fees?

I believe that, given fees of other associations and similar certification training events in general, we are delivering value for money to our members. With the conference, we keep costs in-line with inflation by absorbing increases in operational costs. We subsidise elements of the annual conference and offer early booking and summer discounts right up until the end of August. We also offer corporate discounts for anyone booking three tickets or more. All of these things offer savings to freelancers and employed alike should they wish to take them up. We also offer members free entry to the majority of our events.

What questions are you asking yourself lately?

I constantly ask myself, “How are my buckets being filled?” I see five buckets which I fill with time. These are: career, fulfilment, community, health and relationships. I question myself regularly as to how I am filling my buckets. Sometimes I may be spending too much time being social and too little time on my bike. Other times I find I haven’t spoken to my family for weeks as I have been too busy working.

One thing you would like to do better?
Play the saxophone! I have been learning for about two years and I am still terrible!

If you won the lottery, what would be your first indulgence?
A new motorbike! I’ve got my eye on a lovely little Ducati Supersport S as my next one.

This article was written by Martin Smith.

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