By Michelle Crandall, creative design associate

“Everything is marketing.” That’s what a business professor at St. Bonaventure University told my class on the first day of my sophomore year. I knew his theory was correct and with my marketing degree there were countless opportunities waiting for me after graduation. What I did not see coming was working in the AEC industry and not wanting to leave it.

Coming from a small, rural town in western New York (I always tell people that my hometown has more cows than people) I never thought that I would be living in Northern Virginia (definitely more people than cows here!) doing something that I truly love to do. Several things in my personal and professional life led me to where I am today. Professionally speaking, open communication and direct support from my supervisor has been the most impactful.

I started off in the AEC industry at a firm in New York doing all sorts of different marketing related tasks – but never proposals. When I told my supervisor there that I was moving to Virginia, he told me that if I got some proposal experience then I would be unstoppable. But I said, “oh no, I most definitely don’t want to do proposals.” Of course, in my next role, I was immediately thrown into the proposal world, and I felt certain that I would drown. As I began to navigate my way through, not only did I not drown, but I started to get pretty good at it. Working on proposals can be extremely stressful, but once you understand all the pieces it becomes easier to put them together.

When I took a job at Pennoni as a proposal specialist, I had a good understanding of what it takes to put together a great proposal (hint: it takes a lot more than just providing standard answers to what the RFP asks for!) Being a part of something successful always comes down to communication. Although I’m in corporate communications, I do not sit at headquarters in Philadelphia, where most of the marketing and corporate communications team sits – and more importantly where my supervisor is. Being a few states away, at first it wasn’t easy to develop an open line of communication with her. Over time, with work on both sides, a steady line of communication was established, and it became easy to build our professional relationship.

However, I knew that I didn’t want to do proposals forever. I knew I wanted more from my career, and I was very honest with my supervisor. I told her that there would come a time when I couldn’t do proposals. When that time came, instead of wishing me good luck in my next career move, she asked me what I wanted to do. We started to pinpoint what types of things that I was interested in doing and what my skill sets are. Working together, we developed the role that I currently have, creative design associate – which never would have happened without her support and the support of the director of marketing and corporate communications. It would have been easy for them to say goodbye when I said that I couldn’t work on proposals anymore. Instead, they worked with me to develop a role that I was excited about. As a creative design associate at Pennoni, I lead a range of marketing and communications functions, including graphic design, slide presentation development, brand management, and implementation of communications-focused project elements.

Open and honest communication (and asking lots of questions!), coupled with the direct support of my supervisor, has gotten me where I am today, and I am so thankful that Pennoni has allowed me the chance to advance my career and pursue the type of work that I’m passionate about.