Member Spotlight: Lori Kropidlowski

    Lori Kropidlowski, CPSM, CF APMP | Ahtna Environmental, Inc.

    In our member spotlight, Lori Kropidlowski, takes time out of her busy day to chat with SMPS. 

    How did you find your way to the AEC industry and your current firm?

    My early career was as the executive administrative assistant to the Chairman of the Board of KeyBank. After nine years, I decided to try something new and took a position with a construction company as the President’s Assistant and Marketing Assistant. He was a savvy marketer and I got my first taste of bidding and qualification-based proposals. Unfortunately, due to the failing economy of the late 80s (yes, I am aging myself here . . . smile), that firm went under. I then took a Proposal Coordinator position with USKH, a local multi-disciplined AE firm. I was with USKH for more than 11 years and worked up to a Senior Proposal Coordinator (in essence, a Proposal Manager), earned my CPSM, and became an Associate owner of the firm. I have been an AEC marketer ever since – nearly 30 years!

    What was a pivotal point in your career? 

    Two come to mind.  The First pivotal point was deciding to study and sit for my CPSM through SMPS. In 2000, Alaska did not have a SMPS chapter [instead we had a local society called AE Marketing Association of Alaska (AEMAA)]. I was active with AEMAA and served on the board. Someone had told me about the SMPS and the CPSM certification. After researching it I purchased six of the suggested textbooks to start a self-study program. I dedicated myself to study every night and took practice exams until I felt comfortable to sit for the exam in August 2001. USKH sent me to my first SMPS national conference at Disney World to take the exam. In September 2001, I learned that I had passed. I was the second person in Alaska to achieve this professional certification – just a few months behind Andrea Story!

    This certification was pivotal for several reasons. It opened my eyes to the various areas of marketing that my current position did not expose me to. Proposals are only one of the six domains – the other five include Marketing Research, Planning, Client and Business Development, Promotional Activity, and Management. I learned the concepts of these new domains and the language. I gained self-confidence and the respect of others. I applied what I learned, was a sponge and learned more. I worked hard. I climbed the ladder slowly but surely.

    In 2017 I was in a good place as the Marketing Director of PDC Engineers. I had a good understanding of the work and the company, a great staff, and been selected as an Associate owner of the firm (the first non-technical person ever accepted).  I was comfortable. Then an ex-teaming partner who I respected had taken the Business Development Manager position at Ahtna Environmental, a subsidiary of Ahtna Inc (an Alaska Native Regional Corporation). She had a Proposal Manager position open and I decided to challenge my status quo and apply. Ahtna hired me in April 2017. This was my Second pivotal point. Even though the new title was less prestigious than my previous title, I wanted to learn more, and boy have I! To my surprise, after four months, my boss took another position outside of the AEC industry and I became the manager and hired my own staff. 

    My group of Ahtna companies has allowed me to continue to grow. I now work many new markets, (i.e., construction, engineering, environmental, geospatial, and professional services of all kinds).  Since 2017, we have expanded the group of subsidiaries my staff supports from two to five. We expanded our geographic reach now with 11 offices nationwide. We have exceeded revenue projections year after year. I learn something new every day with our department’s staff of nine.

    We are planning to post new positions within our department, so if you want to work with a dynamic group, give me a call to discuss.

    What advice would you give to someone who is about to enter the marketing or business development field?

    Work hard and challenge yourself daily. Be a sponge and listen and learn from those around you. Never say “that’s not my job”. Be the solution, not the problem, and management will recognize your value.

    What are other challenges have you taken on? 
    1. In 2019 I sat for and earned my Foundation Level certification from the Association of Proposal Management Professional (APMP).

    2. I have served on the boards for the Society of American Engineers (SAME) Alaska Chapter and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), for more than five years. Both are great networking opportunities and give back to the industry and community. If you are interested in membership or just attending a program, let me know. I would be happy to host you or give you more information.

    3. I was just accepted into the competitive 2021 class of Leadership Development Program (LDP) offered through SAME national. Only 18 people are selected worldwide (one from each SAME region) to participate each year. The program is a yearlong commitment beginning at the SAME Joint Education and Training Conference (JETC) 2021 and ends with graduation at JETC 2022.

    What is on your bucket list?

    Travel, and more travel. This Thanksgiving my husband, Ken, and I are taking our three boys and their wives to Cancun for a family vacation. I have plans to go to Europe next. I also plan to spend more time in our Arizona home and taking trips around the Southwest.

    If you could be a superhero, who would you choose to be?

    The Green Chile Goddess – my Pork Chile Verde has won every chile contest ever entered (totaling eight First Place or People’s Choice awards). In 2019, I won both 1st Place for People’s Choice, and 2nd Place for Chef’s Choice at AGC’s annual chile contest (see photo).