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14 Dec, 2020

Strengthening Business During COVID: Interview with Charmaine Josiah

Irene Kwon

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Read time: 3 minutes, 1 second

Charmaine Josiah is the BD & Marketing Manager at SK&A, a 60-year structural engineering firm based in the Washington DC area. She has worked within the AEC industry for over 17 years, including previous marketing roles within civil engineering and architecture firms locally, as well as in South Florida. Charmaine is a native Washingtonian, born in DC and raised in Hyattsville and Silver Spring, MD.

What are three key areas to successful business development during the pandemic?

1. Researching & strategizing – With the extra time saved from commuting and the focus space provided by working remotely, it is a great period to hunker down and catch-up on strategizing, planning, and researching. Especially with 2020 winding down (whew!) and the 2021 new year gearing up – this is a prime time to take stock of business development efforts at the firm, as well as personal levels. From reflecting on which activities have been the most effective, to reading up or watching programming on industry forecasts and trends, as well as gleaning feedback from fellow staff and colleagues, this window provides us with an opportunity to further formulate and strengthen our “game plans.”

2. Participating in industry organizations, particularly committees – This is another fundamental that is true whether during the pandemic or when we’re back to our normal times. Fostering genuine connections and relationships with technical staff from our various client pools (developers, contractors, architects and others) can be a challenge for us marketing staff, in comparison to our technical personnel who regularly interact with client contacts. It has been wonderful to see how quickly our industry organizations have pivoted to the current, more virtual formats, while continuing to provide meaningful programming and opportunities to connect. It is crucial to maintain memberships in a few key groups, whether formal or informal, and to actively participate within their committees.

3. Maintaining core networking relationships – Tagging onto above, whether its relationships formed through industry organizations, past networking events, referrals or vendors, it’s important and helpful to maintain core connections. I have found that the friendships that I have formed over the years, many through professional activities, have been incredibly supportive as we’ve all been riding the waves of this historic year.

Have you adopted any new BD strategies since COVID? Which ones are likely to stay post-COVID?

Virtual Communication Tools – The predominant use of virtual tools, like Zoom and Teams, etc., is another epiphany that has emerged from COVID. Their ubiquitous use has been a definite pivot point this year. The funny thing is that we’ve all had access to these tools for some time, but without this forced need they’ve been overlooked...and now we’re actually using them. I know that many complain of video fatigue, but I think that video calls have been a fantastic addition to our communication toolbox, along with e-mail, phone, snail mail, and in-person visits.

I also noticed, early in our collective shift to remote working, that there are similarities between in-person vs. virtual/video interactions. I found that networking events that may feel awkward in-person are similarly awkward within the video platform. And likewise, I have found that the networking groups that I shared camaraderie and connection with in real life, feel just as bonded whether it’s on Zoom or Teams. Of course, we will all eventually return to our regular in-person lifestyles, but I think that virtual communication will continue to be a tool that we integrate within our interactions.

What are you doing with the newfound time that you’re saving from traveling?

Education – It’s been tough, because although we’re no longer commuting, like many others I definitely feel like I’m trying to crunch even more within my working as well as personal hours. But, I’m trying to incorporate more learning, whether webinars, online classes, and reading. There are so many resources available, especially online, via industry association websites, education platforms like Khan Academy, CreativeLive or others, local libraries, and let’s not even get started with the YouTube rabbit hole!

Exercising - Also, I’ve been relatively consistent with exercising. I love going on long walks and I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to take breaks from the workday and actually see my neighborhood during regular working hours and throughout the changing seasons. I’m not quite as motivated to go outside when the temps drop to 40 or below, but as we enter into the winter season, maybe I’ll get back to using the pilates machine I bought from QVC that’s been sitting in my basement! Ha!