7 Things I’m Thankful for in 2020


I can’t believe it’s December already—and since I missed posting about it last week, I thought I would use this week’s blog to talk about all of the things I am thankful for this year. Despite a global pandemic that has locked down much of the world, this year has really flown by. I started this year out with a bang—I embarked on a new life adventure and moved to Nashville with my boyfriend, Kevin. I also took on a new leadership role with APMP-NCA chapter and served as the Corporate Partner and Membership Chair. Also in January, Baskar Sundaram and I started recording the Scribble Talk podcast! Then at the end of January, Kevin and I took a trip of a lifetime to Australia—a trip that almost got cancelled due to early uncertainties surrounding COVID-19. And that was all in January! I know that this has been a rough year, but despite all that has been wrong with the world this year, I am excited to share some of the things I am thankful for in 2020.

1. Scribble Talk Podcast

Firstly, I am thankful for the Scribble Talk Podcast. This podcast kept me busy and sane throughout this global pandemic. Baskar Sundaram and I recorded our first podcast on January 13 with one of my long-time mentors, Eric Gregory (posted as Episode 4). Less than two months later, on March 3rd, the podcast went live. And over the last 11 months, Baskar Sundaram and I have had the honor to interview more than 80 of the greatest business development, capture, and proposal professionals across the globe, including some of my own personal mentors, Betsy Blakney (Episode 8), Kristin Dufrene (Episode 9), Jim McCarthy (Episode 30), as well as some friends, Kevin Switaj (Episode 23) and Steve Skeldon (Episode 27), to name just a few! I’ve also made countless new friends and connections (too many to name—you know who you are!). And of course, Baskar Sundaram and I have become great friends—at times talking nearly every day this year! We’ve had thousands of downloads and have received great feedback from the bid and proposal community. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, and Google Podcasts. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you definitely should!

Link to Scribble Talk Podcast

2. Proposal Reflections Blog

I am also thankful for this blog, Proposal Reflections. I started Proposal Reflections in January of 2018 in an effort to share insights on business development, capture, and proposals. The blog has proven to be such an amazing avenue for collaboration with professionals across the globe. It has been really fun watching the blog grow and seeing its reach and impact. In 2019, Proposal Reflections had 15,000 views, with 60% of readers from the United States, 20% from India, 5% from India, and 4% from the Netherlands. This year, Proposal Reflections has had more than 40,500 views and 50 comments (plus many more on LinkedIn). Interestingly, the top countries in terms of readership are Hong Kong and the United States, followed by India and the United Kingdom. It’s exciting to see that I also have readers in Israel, China, Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Australia, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Portugal, Japan, France, Spain, and Mexico. I’ve posted 34 articles so far in 2020, which is fewer than last year, but it’s definitely been a much busier year! Here’s a synopsis of some the most popular posts (with links if you’d like to read more!):

6 Strategies to Tackle Tight Page Limitations (4,390 views in 2020)

This article was inspired by a proposal with particularly challenging page constraints. In the article, I point out the fact that as tight page limitations become a more frequent challenge, we need to approach our proposals with a strategy for keeping our content lean. By focusing your text, using active voice, and simplifying your word choice, you’ll begin the revising process with shorter narratives. Going back and stripping out empty words, eliminating redundancies, and using graphics and tables strategically will help to tighten the content further. I point out that by using these strategies, not only will you find that your content is shorter, but you’ll find that these strategies actually help to make your content clearer. I further conclude that if the evaluator actually understands what you are writing, that will help them award you the score that you actually deserve.

Why the Proposal Process has Always Been Agile (1,450 views in 2020)

The first of a seven-part series, this article examines eight key Agile terms and draws their correlation to proposals and the proposal development process. It pushes back on the notion of Agile proposal development being something new or innovative—since, as I point out, I have practiced Agile proposal development my entire career. I conclude with the fact that our long-standing best practices in proposal development are inherently Agile—and that these processes have been Agile long before Agile was the latest industry craze.

Agile Proposal Development: A Spotlight on Scrum (1,130 views in 2020)

This was the third of the seven-part series on Agile Proposal Development that stemmed from my initial Agile blog. I built on key LinkedIn discussion points in a series of articles focused on how we can expand the application of Agile in our opportunity pursuit processes. In my second article, I discussed the role of stakeholders and explored how we can better integrate stakeholders into the business development lifecycle. In this third article, I took a look at Scrum, how our proposal best practices fit into the Scrum model, and how we can learn further from Agile ideologies to improve our proposal processes.

What Exactly is This AI Thing? And What Does it Mean for the World Proposals? (998 views in 2020)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be a hot topic in the proposal field. In the last two years or so, the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) has hosted multiple webinars on AI at both the international and chapter levels. At Bid and Proposal Con 2019, there were even back-to-back sessions dedicated to the topic—and I was honored to share some of my own insights as part of in Karthik Koutharapu’s panel, “Leveraging AI for Persuasive Proposal Writing.” From the audience and panelist reactions to the various questions, it’s clear that many of us have some angst about the potential negative effects on the industry. But some of us are more optimistic about the ways AI may be able to improve our work-life balance. In this article, I provide an overview of AI and present some of the ways I am hopeful that it will improve our industry.

3. Collaboration

I am also thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with RFP360 and APM Group this year. Check out some of the insights I shared in RFP360’s free ebook, The Future of RFPs, in the link below. You’ll learn more about the role I have seen technology play in the evolution of proposal responses, as well as some of my insights on where I see trends in the industry heading.

Link to the ebook

You can also check out some of the insights I shared with my APM Group Collaboration Blog in the link below. In this article, I talk about my personal entry into the proposal field, as well as how I found myself in the proposal consulting arena. I share some of the traits I find most beneficial in a successful proposal professional and provide some insights on how professionals from other fields can break into the industry.

Link to the article

4. Building Presentation Skills and Sharing Knowledge

Beyond Proposal Reflections and Scribble Talk, I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to share knowledge with the proposal community while building my presentation skills. In January, I presented a webinar entitled, “How to Refresh Your Writing Skills” to APMP-GMC. In May, I was honored to present a webinar to the APMP Maple Leaf Chapter called, “Ways to Increase Your Win Rate.” In July I recorded a webinar for the APMP International Winning Business Virtual Event on “How to Implement and Effective Storyboarding.” I also shared some similar storyboarding insights in my Solutioning Techniques Guest Webinar for Baachu Scribble in November.

5. Steady Work

In the midst of this busy year, I’m thankful that 1) AOC KeySolutions, Inc. supported my move to work remotely; 2) my clients adjusted well to remote support (COVID-19 precautions helped for sure!); and 3) that work remained fairly steady this year (I know others were not as lucky). In 2020, I supported seven clients on more than 30 proposals totaling over $20B. I’m super grateful for such a successful year in terms of work!

6. Good Health

Knock on wood, but all in all Kevin and I, as well as our friends and family, have remained healthy this year. A few friends and family have contracted COVID-19, which has been a bit scary, but thankfully all have fully recovered so far. Adopting our rescue pup, Blue, in May has helped Kevin and I to stay a bit more active, but that’s definitely an area we can both improve. We could also be eating a bit healthier as well!

7. Great Support System

Finally, I’m so thankful to have such great people in my life! From my amazing mentors who continue to support me and my career aspirations, to my amazing friends and colleagues, to my family, to Kevin—I’m so lucky to have such an amazing support system. I couldn’t have made it through the year without them. This year I also joined a Virtual Women’s Networking Group (open to all women; private message me if you’d like an invite!), hosted by Liz DaRosa and Linda McBee. I’m so thankful for these women for all of their support throughout the year, as well as all of their words of wisdom, encouragement, and guidance!

Final Thoughts

This has been a difficult year as we’ve struggled to adjust to a “new normal.” With so many terrible things happening around us—uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, deaths, riots, fires, hurricanes, and more—it’s so easy to lose ourselves in the negativity. However, there have been some positive outcomes from the pandemic. When lockdown measures were implemented, the world saw major improvements in the air quality, companies recognized improved productivity from remote workers, and people have found a renewed appreciation for daily luxuries that have been restricted during lockdown. I have been thankful for the technologies that have enabled me to stay in touch with colleagues, friends, and loved ones—phones, messaging aps, Zoom, Teams, and others. And I am thankful that I have had to opportunity to personally see so much good come out of this year: good health, an amazing support system, steady work, personal development, professional collaboration, and multiple opportunities for knowledge sharing. Reflecting on the year has definitely helped to raise my spirits, and I hope others will follow suit and reflect on some of the positive things that have happened for them this year as well. #whatareyouthinkfulfor?


Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP

Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)



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