Member Spotlight: Pablo Prahl


Promotional Marketing Specialist at Proforma 

Member Since: 2015

How would you describe your role/job?
I deliver joy to my clients every day by offering tools and resources to boost their existing marketing efforts. Working in the promotional products industry means I get to work with the fun side of marketing – providing a product to make a team member smile, to thank a long-term client or to boost what a company is already doing in the marketing space to better communicate their message.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
My biggest challenge that affected my career was moving to the United States from Guatemala in 2011. I had to learn a new language while I was working to open a new business to support my family. This has also been my biggest reward because it requires me to push my own limits every day and make the best out of my time and tools.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
One of the clients I work with is Prospera, previously HBIF. Prospera helps Hispanic
entrepreneurs start their own business in the United States. I love working with this organization on all of their projects because these people’s stories fall very close to my heart. Prospera provided me with assistance as I was establishing my business, so it’s wonderful to give back to the organization that helped me get my start.

How has membership/relationship with SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
My relationship with SMPS is by far one of the best experiences of my career so far. It’s important for members to become involved, and with involvement comes the loyalty, trust and support of the organization. The directors have been extremely involved with my team, always asking what they can do to help us grow.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
In the promotional products industry, it’s not about the products. It’s about the relationships you build with clients, the service you can provide them and the overall time saved by working with you.

Best lesson from a mentor?
Be careful where you allocate your time. Always try to network with people smarter and more experienced than you, but be careful between Networking and Notworking – there is only one letter difference.

One thing you wish everyone knew about your job?
Promotional products are not tchotchkes or giveaways. They are valuable, useful and desirable products to get in touch with consumers in tangible, useful, creative and meaningful ways. In an ever-increasing digital world, we need a message that focuses attention on the tangible ability of promotional products to touch not only the hands, but also the hearts of consumers.



Get Management’s Buy-In to Pursue Your Professional Development


Earlier this month I had the pleasure to attend the SMPS Southeastern Regional Conference (SERC) in Atlanta, Georgia. As anyone who has been to one of SMPS’s regional or national conferences can attest, these conferences are excellent learning and networking opportunities. Attendees hear from dozens of influential speakers who speak from their experience as industry leaders to impart wisdom on the day to day challenges facing marketers in the AEC industry. While it is easy for us marketers to understand the inherent value in our participation at these conferences, our employers may question whether the benefit outweighs the price tag associated with conference registration, travel, and lodging costs. If you are lucky enough to attend a SMPS or other industry conference, make sure you provide your management team with clear evidence that your continued attendance at these events will contribute to the bottom line for your company. Don’t let your experience at SERC or any other conference pass by without recapping your experience, creating an action plan, and following through on those actions, to guarantee that your most recent conference experience will not be your last.

SMPS Conference

While attending an industry conference, we are bombarded with all kinds of new ideas and information. After back to back to back seminars, one day after another, it is easy to forget about the key experiences and knowledge you want to retain and implement in your career. If you attended the conference with any of your peers, get together and discuss what you did or heard that you found most impactful. Talk about what you liked or didn’t like and write it down. Look over the conference agenda to help jog your memory about the things you may have already forgotten. Once you’ve captured your thoughts on paper, let these ideas sit with you, and start thinking about actions you can take to implement these ideas in your day to day work.

As you begin to identify actions you can take to improve your work performance, develop these ideas into a plan to be shared with your management team as an overview of your conference experience. Make sure to start your action plan with a description of the organization that hosted the conference, as well as the purpose of the conference. Your plan can include a commitment to read texts you discovered at the conference, research you plan to conduct on new ideas that caught your interest, and new methods you will use in conducting proposal work, presentations, or general marketing tasks. Present your management team with clear evidence of what you learned, and how you plan to use those materials to better inform your work as a marketer to win work for your company. Your action plan should include realistic ways you can immediately begin to implement your learnings to improve your performance. Once your plan is developed and shared with your management plan, stay true to your word and follow through with implementing these ideas.


If your action plan included new presentation techniques, make sure you give them a try when planning the next project interview. If you learned how to better write project profiles to appeal to your clients, try rewriting half a dozen project stories and share them with your management. At this year’s SERC conference, we learned new techniques to better serve clients from our early business development activities through project completion. Along with my team at PCL, we have used these techniques to identify specific actions that we are already implementing to improve relationships with clients and provide better service through our projects. Once management sees hard evidence of the knowledge you gained at SERC or any other conference – and witnesses your resolve to implement these findings in your work – signing off on your next conference trip will be all too easy.

While we all love going to industry conferences – not only as an opportunity to travel to a new city, spend time with our SMPS friends, and have a few days out of the office – don’t let the benefit of the informational sessions pass you, or your management by. Taking some time to recap your experience, creating an action plan, and following through with new methods and exercises to inform your everyday work will have tremendous benefits on your career. Not only will you be a stronger marketer, with new strategies to help your project teams win new work, you will be granted future opportunities to attend industry conferences and personal development opportunities with buy-in from your company’s senior leaders.


Member Spotlight: Jenifer Wonn

JCW HeadshotMarketing Coordinator at RLF architecture + engineering + interiors 

Member Since: 2014

How would you describe your role/job?
I am a Marketing Coordinator and enjoy the fast-pace, multiple-hat life. The ability to switch gears and do something different every day is a thrill. Sometimes glamorous, other times not so much, but working with and supporting talented designers on the architecture, interior design side of the industry is my passion. I enjoy the fact I have the opportunity to attend networking events and community service activities, which allows me to learn from others and give back.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
In 2014, I joined the AEC industry as a lone-marketer of one. Everything was new – the terminology, firms, proposal process, databases like Deltek Vision and Adobe products such as Photoshop and InDesign, and the list goes on. I knew in that instant that I needed an organization that would provide training AND fulfill a sense of belonging.

Immediately after joining SMPS, I could not believe the amount of support I received from its members (even competitors), introducing me to new faces at networking events, taking time to share intel about the state/collegiate registers, bid/proposal process, and so forth. Additionally, the amount of knowledge I took away from SMPS events and programs gave me the confidence to try new programs on my own and develop a keener graphic eye.

Walking away from this challenge, I felt strong and capable, and have learned the value in the statement “pay it forward”, simply helping others achieve their success, which is what I strive to do as other members have for me.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
One initiative I led was a national, internal “Market 101” which is a monthly webinar that’s broadcast from headquarters to branch offices, touching on each market segment the firm’s working in. As a company, we are all business developers, therefore the goal of Market 101’s was to provide knowledge to all employees of past projects, current projects, design trends, challenges within this market, who the right people are to connect consultants/clients with, as well goals for the year. After the first one, we received positive feedback from employees such as that it supported breaking down walls and allowed others to see outside of their segregated studios and into what the firm is working on as a whole. It increased collaboration, idea sharing, and overall became a great way to connect with others.

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
Through my many relationships from SMPS, the opportunities to work with dynamic marketing teams began to present itself, as well as the opportunity to learn from talented architects and interior designers. SMPS creates these opportunities to shine whether you‘re looking to change careers or not!

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
Be curious. Take your fellow engineers, architects, or accountants to lunch and pick their brains. Get to know them and their role, understand their personal or departmental challenges, even their client’s challenges. Invite yourself to meetings and simply listen or sit in a kitchenette around designers to emerge yourself in their world. You’d be surprised how much you learn and the amount of respect you receive be simply being curious.

What’s one question you always ask a potential employee?
At RLF, we interview as a team, because at the end of the day we are the ones who are in the trenches together! One question I enjoy asking that really adds an interesting spin to the conversations is, “It’s a Tuesday and you’re home sick on bed rest. What do you binge watch on Netflix”? You’ll be surprised how much it takes off the edge and enables comfort in the group.

What’s your favorite Central Florida restaurant and why?
I am a huge foodie and it’s always difficult to pinpoint one specific restaurant. If I had to pick one, it would be SOCO in Thornton Park. It has a great ambiance with the perfect mix of indoor and outdoor possibilities, and the food is just incredible contemporary southern comfort food. Recently moving here, I am always willing to take more suggestions – please reach out and share your favorite spot!

Member Spotlight: Allison Chalifoux

Chalifoux, AllisonMarketing Coordinator at DRMP

Member Since: 2017

How would you describe your role/job?
I help prepare internal and external marketing and communications for all 15 of our offices. In any one day, I help develop, coordinate, and write proposals and presentations and QC letters and marketing documents. I have also recently begun partnering with corporate communicates. Currently, our firm is celebrating our 40th anniversary, so I am working with a team to research social media trends and create a campaign to increase our firm’s presence in the online world and improve recruiting efforts.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced so far in my career is learning how to deal with the many personalities of the engineers I work with every day. Some are used to doing it one way, while others may prefer a different method. Staying on top of the constant changes in the industry and firm while learning to work effectively with my project managers and their various styles of work has kept me on my toes.

It’s hard to choose just one reward, as they are many reasons to love what I do. One of the biggest rewards is the pride I feel when my firm is chosen for the project that I spent time pulling together a proposal and presentation for. I might not be the one designing the bridge or the roadway, but I still know I had a hand in helping them achieve that work and success. They make me feel just as much a part of it.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
When I first started, I worked a lot with our office in Tampa. They hadn’t won a project in District Seven for years. I helped them submit a few letters and proposals, but still nothing. Finally, after almost a year later, I helped them put together a proposal for a huge job they really wanted to win. The hours were long, and we looked over it so many times our eyes began to hurt, but a few weeks later we received the email that our firm was chosen. It was such a great feeling to know, after years of trying, our hard work had finally paid off and we landed the elusive client.

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
Since I just joined SMPS at the end of 2017, I am still exploring all the ways to get the most out of my membership. However, I feel that this society has helped me come out of my box and increase my networking skills. I have already met some wonderful people and I have joined a few committees to help learn and grow even more. I look forward to getting even more involved.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
Don’t let the pressure of deadlines overwhelm you. There will be things that come up last minute. There will be time crunches, and headaches and early mornings with a lot of coffee to try to get something out on time. But don’t let that frustrate you. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step outside, walk a lap around the building, and come back refreshed with the attitude that you can tackle anything.

Which of your personal attributes has made you most successful in your career?
I am an extremely positive person and try to keep a constant smile on my face. I think this has helped me connect easily with my fellow team members. It has helped create a trusted environment among my project managers, so they feel comfortable coming to me with whatever they need. I am someone that will take on any task without complaining.

What’s your favorite Central Florida restaurant and why?
Hands down, Buttermilk Bakery. I went to pastry school and do a lot of baking in my free time, so I had to choose a bakery. They bake everything fresh that day and serve donuts, scones, muffins, quiche, and brunch on the weekends. Their pastries are so good I won’t get anything else – and they aren’t just plain croissants – I recently had one with Gouda cheese and poblano peppers. There is a line out the door on the weekends, but it is worth the wait.

Member Spotlight: Ritu Sandhu

RSandhuSenior Regional Marketing Manager at Barton Malow Company

Member Since: 2006

How would you describe your role/job?
I oversee marketing for the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Marketing at Barton Malow operates like a one-stop resource for all internal and external marketing and communications. Our team is responsible for everything from proposals and presentations to event coordination and social media. We try to be the eyes, ears and voice to ensure that the company puts its best foot forward always.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
I think that the biggest challenge is to make sure that we keep up with the times. The climate of the market has definitely been a steady stream of continuous growth and advancements, and I just want to make sure that we stay ahead of the game at all times.

The rewards are countless. I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. That’s my biggest reward. Equally gratifying is that I get to work with an amazing group of talented individuals that each bring so many wonderful qualities and benefits to our team.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
Two big ones come to mind. The Daytona Speedway Redevelopment, and the Orlando City Soccer Stadium. If I had to pick one, I think it has to be the speedway. The speedway played a significant role in my career for the last 5 ½ years. The pursuit alone was a year of such intense teamwork and dedication. Often, after a project is won, the marketer moves on to the next pursuit and doesn’t stayed involved with construction. For Daytona, I was lucky enough to partner with our operations staff, the client, architects and the media to support the construction through various events, print and television opportunities, award submissions and more.

Some highlights from this project were:

  • Best Groundbreaking of 2014 (instead of your everyday ceremonial dig, we had NASCAR drivers racing CAT front-loaders through an obstacle course with the winner making the first dig in an excavator.)
  • Over 700 million media impressions about the project
  • ABC Project of the Year
  • 22 Project Awards including AGC Build America

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
SMPS has opened up several doors and developed a ton of friendships, to say the least. I joined SMPS during my first industry job at Turner Construction and since that time, I have carried the friendships that I made throughout my entire career. SMPS has also helped us find rockstar employees as well as provided awesome programs with great information and unmatched networking.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
Turn every challenge into a success. And when you do, share your experiences with others. The best way to grow yourself is to teach people what you know. That’s what makes a good leader. Grow others to grow yourself.

What’s one question you always ask a potential employee?
Name as many uses for a brick as you can in one minute.

Your worst habit as a leader?
I can be bribed with twizzlers, wine or anything sparkly and purple.

Member Spotlight: Saskia Buggenhout

Buggenhout,-Saskia-767_best-1Marketing Specialist at Turner Construction

SMPS Member since: 2017

How would you describe your role/job? As a marketing specialist, my responsibilities include generating custom proposals and presentations, including writing and editing text, design layout, custom graphics, and tailoring resumes.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career? The most rewarding is when we win jobs because we put a lot of effort into creating proposals and presentations. My biggest challenge so far has been people’s perception of marketers. Many assume that marketers are administrators, but they are quite different.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project? I had the privilege of leading the presentation for the new Texas Rangers ballpark. Even though we were not selected for the project, I definitely learned a lot about myself and working under pressure.

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
I have only been part of SMPS Central Florida for 6 months now and I definitely enjoy connecting with other members who understand our industry and responsibilities.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry? Don’t ever stop learning! Continuous improvement, in any industry you are in, is the key to success.

If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?
I wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone. We each have our own paths. With hard work, I know I can achieve my own success.

Which of your personal attributes has made you most successful in your career?
I never thought I would say this, but patience and adaptability. You have to be patient and adapt to any situation that may arise.

Member Spotlight: Daniel Voss

20161008_abc_02712-e1516977073806.jpgMarketing Coordinator at Energy Air, Inc.

SMPS Member since: 2016

SMPS Committee: Programs

How would you describe your role/job? At Energy Air, my role is varied and very flexible. The responsibilities of a marketing professional for a subcontractor vary somewhat from that of my general contractor counterparts. Developing marketing collateral, bid packages, calendar management, and lots and lots of one-off projects make up my work. For me, the focus is on managing the input from several departments and synthesizing everything into a coherent and structured presentation.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career? The biggest challenge is being the single point of contact for Energy Air with our member associations, advertising outlets, merchandise providers, and clients. However, it is also extremely rewarding because my team allows me the flexibility to get involved in these pursuits and establish myself as a fixture with our company.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project? It’s more nostalgic than anything else, but I treasure my first EIC awards submission. I was brand new to the A/E/C industry and it was my very first project I did for Energy Air. The pedigree established by my predecessor was one that added plenty of additional pressure. However, I did what I always do – I say “yes”, do my best, and forget the rest. Winning the Marketing Award of Excellence in my very first attempt was precisely the confidence boost I needed to dive deeper into my work. It still motivates me to take on new challenges within my role today.

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
I can easily say that my involvement with SMPS has been singularly meaningful in my career advancement. In my short time with Energy Air and SMPS, I have learned countless skills, tricks, terms, and strategies to make my work better. From workshops to networking opportunities to a sense of community, SMPS membership has provided plenty.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry? I recently had a student job shadow me. We went to a committee meeting, looked at projects I’ve worked on, discussed the nuances of the position, and talked about what goals either of us has for this type of work. My biggest piece of advice that I gave her was to participate, not to anticipate. Getting your hands dirty and trying something new, even if it’s beyond your skills and means, can look a lot better than remaining stagnate and comfortable. Usually, coworkers and superiors address these types of failures as great attempts rather than condemnable offenses. So say “yes” to participation.

Which of your personal attributes has made you most successful in your career?  I have always been rather personable and easy to talk to. I’m pretty comfortable with talking, and more importantly, listening to others. I enjoy learning and asking questions through conversation and giving pieces of my experience as well.



Member Spotlight: Ben Parrish

ben parrishMarketing Specialist at Turner Construction Company 

SMPS Member since: 2012

Where are you from? Orlando.

How long have you been with your firm? I started with Turner in 2010.

What inspires you? Great work.

Where is your favorite vacation spot? Palau. Some of the greatest scuba diving in the world!

What is or was your most interesting deal? As marketers in this industry, we can create a swath of work that can have practical applications for the companies we work for. It’s not uncommon for me to do everything from a job site photo shoot, some video editing, page layout, rehearse for a massive presentation, get final documents out to the printer, and then update our charity website. The only limit is how many YouTube tutorials you can get through. The whole process fascinates me and keeps me coming back for more.

Which of your personal attributes has made you most successful in your career?  My eye for design and ability to defend it. I have developed both over the years. As a young designer, I used to think that people would just gravitate towards great work. I learned that’s not always the case. Especially in the AEC industry. Some of my greatest work was questioned and I had to defend it. Nothing worse than having great ideas but lacking the skills needed to pitch them.

What’s your favorite Central Florida restaurant and why? Right now, I love Eden’s Fresh. They make this salad called the Daisy. It’s amazing and I can’t get enough of it. As a bonus, it’s a nice walking distance from the office.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry? The power of InDesign Styles! Use styles for all the things!

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a mentor? I had a professor in college that constantly delivered one message to me: “push your work.” It didn’t matter what I did or how long I spent on it. His initial response was always “now push it.” I still tell myself that every day.

Favorite book? “Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!)”

Ben Parrish is an award-winning creative leader who helps set the vision for clients to bring creative projects to life while crafting stories that drive value for clients.

A gifted photographer with over seven years’ experience in marketing at Turner, Ben routinely designs and produces corporate presentations and business proposals valued at $100-900 million; including projects for NASA, JPMorgan Chase, Orlando International Airport, and Blue Origin. Ben was honored with the ABC Marketing Excellence Design Award in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Ben also provides advertising, web design and marketing production support for Kim Parrish Creative Services. KPCS clients include global brands like Walmart, ADP Small Business Services, Universal Studios and others. Ben is a true creative resource, utilizing a keen eye for design and advanced software skills to develop responsive websites, manage massive print projects and beautiful identity packages for companies of all sizes.

When he’s not designing proposals, and building brands for clients, Ben is fulfilling his desire for travel, having already explored a wide range of destinations including Micronesia, France, Italy, Germany, the Pacific Northwest, and Machu Picchu in Peru.

Slow Down

Well, here we are in the first days of 2018. Another year has slipped through our grasp, and we’ve set about making plans for positive change and growth in the new year. But with newly laid, ambitious plans moving forward, where do we find the time to fit in personal growth on top of our existing responsibilities? While working to make a #NewMe to accompany the new year, we’re going to have to find ways to work more mindfully. While instinct may tell you to work faster to accomplish more, I’d argue that by slowing down, reclaiming your morning, taking the time to stop and think, and taking breaks, you can increase your productivity and find more time to accomplish all your goals for 2018.

Reclaim Your Morning
I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my phone. While I am scrolling through the morning notifications, I can already hear the morning news reports blaring from my roommate’s bedroom. I have to wonder – why do we do this to ourselves? I don’t want to start my day buried in a Facebook newsfeed, or hearing about the latest Presidential tweet, but I do it to myself every single morning.

Here’s my radical idea – go screenless. No phones, no TV, just you and your thoughts. Think about what you want to accomplish for the day. Check in on your #NewMe progression. Maybe even put pen to paper and craft a plan for the day ahead. Reclaim your morning, and begin your day with a clear headspace. You’ll walk into work feeling brighter, and ready to take on the challenges ahead.

Stop. Think.
When starting a new task, it is easy to set your sight on the end goal without giving yourself time for proper planning. I recently jumped into an interview with one of PCL’s field engineers about our use of a Robotic Total Station to assist in self-performing concrete on a high-rise apartment tower in downtown Orlando. A few minutes into the interview, I realized I understood almost nothing about what this engineer was saying to me. Slab edges, concrete forms, established controls, placing sleeves…I was lost. By asking a lot of questions and taking diligent notes, I got myself through the interview, but afterward I thought to myself, why didn’t I Google “pouring concrete slabs” and “Robotic Total Stations” before going into this interview?

The lesson here is: slow down. Take some time to stop and think about what you know and what you need to learn before going into a new task. If I had pumped the breaks before initiating the interview process, I could have spared myself the embarrassment of some truly naïve questions, while ultimately saving time for myself and my gracious interviewee. Stop and think. Do your research. Google is your friend.

Take a Break
Don’t let your goal-oriented mindset get in the way of taking care of yourself throughout the work day. Sometimes walking away from your task at hand is the best thing you can do for yourself to reset and return to work with a clear and focused mind. Literally walk away. Get up and move. Your Fitbit is begging for it. Take a quick walk outside, or a lap around the office, stretch those legs, and come back feeling refreshed.

Need a quick break but you already got your 10,000 steps in? Introduce some yogic breathing into your day. Even when meeting the demands of a busy day in the office, it is important to take care of yourself, to keep yourself operating at peak performance.

Despite our busy lives and the rapidly evolving world pushing each of us to constantly move faster, faster, faster – slow down. Think carefully. Be mindful. Know where you’re going before you’re on your way there. Protect your headspace, treat yourself to tranquil moments and plenty of breaks. With each passing year we navigate a path of continual self-improvement, but we can’t get where we are going without pacing ourselves. Take the time to give yourself what you need. Be patient and appreciate the journey. Slow down.

– Michael Porter, Marketing Coordinator
PCL Construction