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Insights The best thing about her job is PEOPLE.

As part of our #PeopleDriveResults campaign, this week we caught up with Kenzie Kelterborn, Director of Bids & Proposals, Nuclear, based in Ontario, Canada and winner of a Top 40 under 40 award by the APMP (The Association of Proposal Management Professionals).

1.       Hi Kenzie! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in the business.

I joined AtkinsRéalis about 13 years ago and have worked in several business units such as Rail & Transit, Infrastructure and Nuclear, always in the Proposals space. I had carved a niche for myself in writing proposals and it grew into a full-fledged career. In my current role, I lead the Nuclear Canada proposal team. Our focus is to develop value-added offerings for our clients, support a healthy pipeline of opportunities and focus on process improvements by leading quality and efficiency initiatives. I continue to provide a space for proposal professionals to develop, connect resources across business units and learn about proposal industry best practices. In my role, I continue to look for opportunities to apply my academic experience in International Development and Social Justice and Peace Studies. Currently I do this by participating in AtkinsRéalis ’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Committee and Nuclear Canada’s Indigenous Relations task group.

2.       What inspired you to become a proposal management professional?

I fell into this profession. When I first started at AtkinsRéalis , I was working part time providing administrative support while I finished my Masters in International Development; in my mind it was a temporary gig. I got pulled into proposal work for my writing skills and ability to herd cats and coordinate anything. I started to see the value I could bring to winning new work for the company. My inspiration developed over time as I met others in the company who were involved in proposals and strategic planning. I knew I didn’t have the technical knowledge for project delivery but seeing I could provide valued-added skills to the upfront efforts inspired me to continue in the field. Working in proposals you get exposure to so many elements of the business. It’s a great way to build your network, understand how the business operates and our overall capabilities. These elements allow for constant growth, new learnings, and sustained inspiration. 

3.       What is the best thing about your job?

People – In proposals you are constantly working with various stakeholders and multiple departments and business units…as much as the proposal process is always the same, it’s the different people I work with that add the flavor! 

4.       You recently received an award for Top 40 under 40 by the APMP (The Association of Proposal Management Professionals), what does this mean to you?

For me, this award is a third-party acknowledgement of what goes on behind the scenes in winning work for the company. It is an honor to be nominated and win, twice! I won in 2018 and 2022 for different contributions but the feeling is the same, being acknowledged for all the work that goes into Proposal Management is testament that our work is recognized and valued. 

Also, this award is proof that Proposals is a career if you make it so. There is a dedicated field in Proposals that can take you very far. In a company where technical knowledge and billable hours are highly regarded, it helps to know that there exist other career paths outside those two spaces.

5.       What challenges do you face in your role and how do you overcome them?

Time (there’s never enough), short turnarounds, competing priorities (i.e., winning new work to keep the pipeline full vs. current billable work to be delivered).

Overcoming these challenges requires constant communication with various teams so that they are aware and aligned, sharing the big picture and strategy, and letting people know what part they play in the big scheme of things. Also, being agile and able to move quickly and efficiently are key.

6.       What qualities are necessary to be a Proposal Management Professional?

I’m a proven case that you don’t need to have a technical background to be a successful Proposal Manager. But there is a slew of skills that would set someone up for success in this role. You’ll need project management and writing skills. You can’t underestimate the importance of communication, collaboration, resourcefulness, and flexibility. You’ll need to be detail-oriented, possess the ability to influence people that don’t directly report to you, and handle (or thrive off of) constant deadlines.

 7.       What is one of the major deciding factors for companies when choosing a supplier?

This is a question we ask at the beginning of every bid opportunity. Competition is steep! Every company will say they have experience, expertise, and on-time delivery, but what differentiates your company? The answer to this question needs to be client-focused and opportunity specific. We need to know what is important and what burning issues keep our clients up at night. What we need to do is identify the features that matter to a client and then offer benefits by connecting the dots - WHY does something matter to the client? A winning proposal is both RFP compliant, and responsive to client needs. We are an amazing group of professionals that are doing some really cool an innovative work. Let’s make sure we are explaining the “what” and “why” it matters to the client in each offering.

8.       Why is AtkinsRéalis a great place to be?

AtkinsRéalis is a company that invests in their people, makes valuable training available (including stretch assignments), and is large enough for professionals to create their own career paths. Through training and exposure to new areas of the business, I was able to invest in my development and gained the ability to create my own path within a larger ecosystem. A lot of the roles I have had didn’t exist before I paved the way with the help of what the company was able to give me.

9.       What is a quote that best describes your philosophy in life?

Not a quote per se, but a concept dear to me is the mindful self-compassion idea to ‘treat yourself like you would treat a friend’. We are often very hard on ourselves, and if we treated others like we sometimes treat ourselves they wouldn’t want to be our friend!

10.    What do you do in your free time?

If I’m not knee deep in proposals, I’m lifting weights, enjoying the outdoors, or watching a Toronto Blue Jays game (die-hard fan!). I also sit on a board for a non-profit, Save A Family Plan.