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Changing the way we think future – one step at a time

Shubhada Kulkarni

This pandemic has forced us to introspect many aspects of our lives. At personal as well as professional levels. We are consciously thinking of the skills we need to build, to take on the future. I have been thinking about my journey as a proposal writer and how I can improve my ‘proposal writing’ skills.
As I visit my most significant life-changing memories as a student and a professional, I recall one memory vividly.
It was our farewell get together. All the professors, lecturers and students from my Engineering Graduation class were reminiscing the happy memories. Some of us were excited about what the future holds for us.
One of my classmates very animatedly said, “I am just so happy that I don’t have to write any more assignments. I am not going to be writing as a working professional. I don’t see why we have to do it”. The entire class cheered as we shared similar feelings.
My mentor, however, had a different opinion. He told us that the corporate world works differently. This is just a start and as professionals, we would be writing more than we ever wrote as a student. He said it is going to be different, of course, but also challenging because you are not prepared for this, sensibly.
Throughout my 15 years of professional career, there were several instances where his words echoed in my head. It was when I was drafting my résumé for the first time and every time I was updating it. It was when I was filling up my annual self-appraisal, sharing feedback about a trainer or training material. Lastly and almost daily, when I am working on business proposals.
I am sure we all can relate to some of the instances that cause us anxiety – we all feel it would so much better if someone else wrote my résumé or self-appraisal for me. We even depend on the templates to write about our skills and achievements.
I feel part of the problem is – as students – we are not encouraged to write down our own thoughts or understanding about any topics. We are provided with writing aids and exemplar answers, even before we write about our understanding.
This significantly affects our ability to think differently and write down our thoughts. This could be the reason why people prefer using images or visuals to long texts.
As a proposal writer, I have experienced that many senior and experienced professionals get jitters the moment you ask them to write their own thoughts. While scanning résumés of experienced proposal writers when I was expanding my team at Fujitsu Consulting India (Fujitsu), I came across number of profiles that failed to stand out.
I keep wondering how I would have approached writing and proposal writing, if I studied it as an under-graduate course. It would have certainly helped me in knowing the career opportunities that exist for proposal writers and intentionally choosing it as a profession than accidentally stumbling on it.

During my conversation with Rick Harris, the CEO of APMP (the Association of Proposal Management Professionals) at the Winning Business Virtual Experience 2020 (WBVE2020) also touched upon these points. We acknowledged that there are hardly any major universities offering full-time courses on bid and proposal management.

What caught me by surprise during WBVE2020 though was the webinar by two young girls working with Burns & McDonnell’s – Sara Pool and Evelin Gutierrez, who are excited about being proposal coordinators/associates. It was amazing to see young minds sharing same passion about this profession as the experienced ones.

All of this observation was only directing towards one view – we need to change the way we think about writing as a medium of expressing ourselves – writing about ourselves, the emotions we experience and our achievements. It is as satisfying as painting, writing a poem or song, piece of music, or a picture.

With this thought and relying on my 15 years’ experience as a proposal writer, I approached the Dean: Student Careers, Dr. Swati  Shilaskar, at Vishwakarma Institute of Technology (VIT), Pune. 

Vishwakarma Institute of Technology is one of the leading autonomous Institutes permanently affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University, willing to conduct the ‘Business Proposal Writing’ course for the Under-Graduate Engineering students.

We had a long discussion about the role of a proposal writer and opportunities in the industry. She discussed this further with the College Management and they all agreed to this idea conceptually.

I spoke with my management at Fujitsu, Prasad Washikar and Poorva Godbole as well, on my thought process.

Now we are working on the curriculum design and getting students to look at writing as an employable skill. The idea is to build awareness about the proposal writing skill along with the profession and the APMP community.

This will give VIT an opportunity to be the first institute offering a course not available at most universities, for a skill that is highly sought-after across all industries.

The students will learn the basics about this sought-after skill as well as get a sneak-peek into the career opportunities in this profession. This skill is going to be useful whether they decide to work in a corporate organization, become an entrepreneur themselves or pick any other career path.

As an employer, Fujitsu will get access to top talent pool for their Pre-sales functions and for other companies seeking entry-level proposal support.

With a win-win situation for everyone, I feel this is just a start on the right direction. It will only grow from here and have a positive impact on the way we think about ourselves and for ourselves. I am excited to see how the journey unfolds and how I will be able to contribute.

Bridging the gap – one-step at a time…

In the next blog, I plan to include some feedback from the students.

Do you think having a ‘writing’ course for your under-graduate curriculum would have helped? 

How do you approach ‘writing’ on your own? 

Drop a comment.

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