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15 Jan, 2014

SMPS U…and Me: One Old Dog’s Journey

Veronica (Vicki) White

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I often joke that I’m way too young to have been in the A/E/C industry for 20 years. The reality however, is that it’s been 20 years since I first stepped foot inside a professional services firm. I certainly had no idea 7,300+ days ago that my marketing and business development career would still be going strong. But what surprised me the most, was that this old dog wanted to learn new tricks! It is for this reason that last spring; I applied and was awarded, the SMPS DC Chapter grant to attend SMPS University.

As a more “seasoned” professional, I admittedly didn’t think much about my professional development. I always encouraged younger professionals to seek out as much industry knowledge as they could but didn’t practice what I preached. When the Chapter announced their generous grant opportunity, I jumped at the chance to expose myself to the business side of the industry that I had never before sought. What an amazing experience it turned out to be!

SMPS National, through a partnership with the University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business, developed the SMPS University: Leadership Advancement Program. Over the course of two separate sessions held in October and November of this past year, I joined 18 classmates representing 16 SMPS Chapters in 12 States (Alaska was even represented!). Our individual experience ranged from just a few years in the industry, to a few other veterans like me with at least 20 years under their belt. That range of experience, know-how and aptitude, was one of the key successes to my program experience.

As a group, we focused and studied a number of business practices including those we’re familiar with such as marketing service strategy and customer centric marketing. However, we spent the majority of the time dealing with business topics outside our usual comfort zones such as financial management fundamentals (balance sheets, income statements and cash flow); quantifying the return of invested capital (never did I think that I would actually understand the driving financial metrics of A/E/C firms!), and quantifying the value of marketing. We were also exposed to concepts such as service blueprinting, customer lifetime value, and service lifecycles. It was on these last 3 concepts that the class had to prepare and present team projects that were worked on in-between the two classroom sessions.

While it was the cause of much anxiety (ok, just for me!), the team project was where we were truly able to apply what we had learned by utilizing real life Harvard Business School case studies to identify critical problems impacting the bottom line. Overcoming geographic and time zone challenges, project groups worked outside of the parameters of the classroom and truly showed what they had learned and how as a team, they were able to come together and offer practical, business savvy solutions.

While the program is intense and highly concentrated, it was an absolutely rewarding experience both in terms of knowledge gained and in professional connections and friendships fostered. If you have a professional development bucket list, I highly encourage you to add SMPS U to your list - it is well worth the time and effort required.

Thanks SMPS DC for affording me this amazing opportunity to be part of just the 3rd graduating class from SMPS U!

Written by: Veronica (Vicki) White, Senior Business Development Associate, Pennoni Associates Inc.