Member Spotlight: Courtney Franklin

courtney-franklin-final.jpgMarketing Coordinator at Hensel Phelps

SMPS Central Florida Position: Treasurer, but this coming year I will be joining the Communications Committee, so Treasurer is up for grabs!

Member Since: 2015

Why did you want to be on the board? I wanted to get the most out of my SMPS membership. I felt that throwing myself into a role would allow me to meet more members and grow my network.

What do you hope to accomplish as director/chair? As Treasurer, I hope to help the chapter grow and have a successful year.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a board member? Joining the board is one of the best things you can do as a member. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn and grow from other professionals but you develop friendships along the way. 

How would you describe your role/job? As a marketing coordinator, I help my company win work! I can do everything from leading a proposal to assisting on a proposal with one of my team members. We also handle all social media, headshots, advertisements, community service events, and many other aspects within the company. We really have our hands in every pot!

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career? For me, the most difficult challenge was joining an industry I knew nothing about. I had to learn a lot before I could understand what exactly was being asked of me. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the excitement of the entire team when we win a job!

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project? I think my most meaningful project was my first proposal I lead completely on my own. At the time my team was chasing four jobs and everyone had to work in silos on their respected proposals. This allowed me to challenge myself and prove to myself, my team, and my Operations Managers that I can handle it!

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?  Through my connections through SMPS, I was able to land an interview with Hensel Phelps and eventually secure my job! I absolutely love Hensel Phelps and am so grateful for the members who connected me with Carrie and Michelle!

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry? Continue to learn! Stay up to date on the new technologies and what’s popular so you can compete with the younger generations that will be stepping up soon!

What’s one thing you’re glad your employer didn’t know about you before you were hired? I’m glad my employer didn’t know that when I am designing or writing that I blast movie soundtracks (i.e. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter)

Favorite book? The entire Harry Potter series!





MENTOR: Gail L. Kroll, Executive Vice President, Marketing, FINFROCK

Length in the industry: 40 years

SMPS member since:  2000

Why did you apply to the mentorship program?
I realized a few years ago my involvement with SMPS was decreasing, but that I still wanted an opportunity to stay connected with others in our industry.  I’ve learned a great deal from a variety of fantastic mentors through the years and thought the Mentor/Protégé program could give me a chance to be a sounding board and to share a little of my insight the way others did for me.

What do you hope to learn from each other?  I’ve been with FINFROCK 20 years, and I sometimes forget how other companies operate.  Spending one-on-one time with Michelle, I hear another viewpoint.  Also, not only do I market to potential clients, I’m responsible for our internal marketing efforts too.  After working for the past 40 plus years, it’s no surprise my coworkers keep getting younger and younger.  Michelle can give me a youthful perspective that I hope to use to foster an enthusiastic workforce at FINFROCK.

How did you (or plan to) structure your mentorship? Do you meet at the same time every week? Do you have an agenda for each meeting?  We share our available dates and pick a mutually convenient time each month, usually lunch.  If schedules don’t allow, we arrange a phone call.  We try to pick a topic that Michelle is interested in learning more about and where I can impart some knowledge.  Then we discuss it.

What do you like best about working in the A/E/C industry?  I’m a pretty task-oriented person and derive the most satisfaction from seeing things take shape and having tangible evidence of my efforts.  When I watch building designs develop, products manufactured and then construction as well as our company growing and prospering, I’m not just satisfied that I have the opportunity to play a role in it; I’m excited.

What is your biggest strength in your current position?  Understanding our company’s strategic differentiation, how that benefits clients and being able to articulate that to others.

White,MichellePROTÉGÉ: Michelle White, Marketing Coordinator, BRPH

Length in the industry: 4 years

SMPS member since:  2016

Why did you apply to the mentorship program?  The desire to learn new things, career satisfaction (becoming better at my job), and coaching from another marketer in the A/E/C industry.

What do you hope to learn from each other?  Insight on the ways other marketing departments support BD efforts before the RFP is issued and after the project is won.

How did you (or plan to) structure your mentorship? Do you meet at the same time every week? Do you have an agenda for each meeting?  I live in Brevard County, so we decided to meet in person once a month.  We’ve also had an in-depth phone conversation.  For the initial meetings, we decided to follow the “possible topics of discussion” in the SMPS Mentoring Information Packet.

What do you like best about working in the A/E/C industry?  It’s exciting to be such a crucial part of bringing in revenue to my firm, learning something new, and being productive and valued.

What is your biggest strength in your current position?  I’m a resourceful employee.  I started working for BRPH at the front desk and have since worked on the project side, as Marketing Assistant, and am now a Marketing Coordinator.  I’ve done a little bit of almost everything in the company so I understand the big picture.


Mentor-Protégé Spotlight: Rania Sadrack + Sarah Carmany

headshot.jpgMENTOR: Rania Sadrack, Principal/Healthcare Center of Excellence BD, TLC Engineering for Architecture

Length in the industry: 11 years

SMPS member since:  2007

Why did you apply to the mentorship program?
Mentoring will allow me the opportunity to enhance my skills and aid my own professional growth.  Mentoring will also strengthen my coaching and leadership skills.

What do you hope to learn from each other?  Sarah is an intelligent and an energetic young lady.  I know that she will help me gain a fresh perspective and insight into my job.  Additionally, I believe Sarah will help me take a critical look at my leadership skills and identify areas I will need to adjust for improvement.

How did you (or plan to) structure your mentorship? Do you meet at the same time every week? Do you have an agenda for each meeting? We’ve been meeting a couple of times per month, over either lunch or at networking and professional development events/programs.  Post attending the events/programs we plan on de-briefing our thoughts and lessons learned.  This format will help us identify ways to implement what we learn at the events; therefore, capitalizing on the benefits of attending such functions.

What do you like best about working in the A/E/C industry? I can honestly say, the people I get to meet and develop sustainable relationships with.    

What is your biggest strength in your current position? I believe my biggest strength is my ability to foster sincere relationships and help carry on my organization’s legacy by passing on its values and mission.


PROTÉGÉ: Sarah Carmany, Marketing Coordinator,
Balfour Beatty

Length in the industry: 2 years

SMPS member since: 2017

Why did you apply to the mentorship program?
My goal for the year is to create meaningful relationships within the industry and I knew participating in the mentorship program would help me build that foundation.

What do you hope to learn from each other?

  • How to build meaningful relationships and network
  • How to build leadership skills
  • How to approach upper management with innovative ideas
  • How to find my niche within the industry

How did you (or plan to) structure your mentorship? Do you meet at the same time every week? Do you have an agenda for each meeting?  Rania and I have been meeting at least twice a month – not including the events we attend together. Typically, we leave each meeting with one goal for me to achieve or an event to attend (the events are aimed to build upon my larger goal of networking to create meaningful relationships). For example, Rania and I attended OBJ’s Mentoring Monday a few weeks ago, which is an event for business women throughout Orlando to gather together and receive guidance from each other.

What do you like best about working in the A/E/C industry?  The best part about working in the A/E/C industry is proudly being able to say that I play a part in building Orlando, the city that I was born and raised in.

What is your biggest strength in your current position?  I think my biggest strength within my current position is using empathy and emotional intelligence to create action.

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.