West Corporation

West Corporation

In the winter of 2016, I applied for a Proposal Coordinator position at West Corporation, a leader in telecommunications and website design in America. Though my experience up to that point had been mostly writing, I proved to them that I was capable of leading projects and managing various teams towards a common goal. After a strenuous interview process, I started in January of 2017.

On my first day, I was introduced to the CivicLive team, the branch that was in charge of creating websites for municipalities all over Canada and the United States. On that team, I would be one of two Proposal Coordinators that would be creating proposals for the RFPs our company received. However, it became clear that I would need to settle into my new role quickly; the only person who was capable of training me was going on holiday a week after I started, giving me only a few days to learn how everything worked. After my colleague left for their vacation, I was left to head our department by myself. It was during this time that I won my first contract for the company, creating a proposal that was selected by a first-time customer.

As a member of the CivicLive Proposal Team, it didn’t take long for me to realize that writing was only one part of my job. In addition to creating the proposals themselves, I had to collaborate with other teams, coordinate the many moving parts of each project, and lead the initiative to make sure everything was done on time. I would also need to evaluate the scope of the project and price it accordingly, ranging anywhere from a thousand dollars to over a million. All the while, I would be managing anywhere from three to ten projects at any given time, many of which had a turnaround time of less than two weeks.

In such a fast-paced environment, efficiency and time management skills were a must. As such, I created my own workflow to make sure the RFPs were being reviewed as effectively as possible. What started off as the SNAIL Checklist (an acronym I created to review whether a proposal needed a company Seal, Notary, or Authorized signature, in addition to identifying any specific Insurance or Legal requirements) soon grew to a half page of preliminary checks that we as Proposal Coordinators had to make. I also took the initiative to create a database for our department which included template responses to many of the FAQs we received from the RFPs. Armed with these tools, I was able to streamline my workflow — and that of my colleagues — to maximize efficiency and productivity. With their implementation, my process looked like this:

As soon as I received an RFP, I would create a project on Basecamp, our online project management tool. There, I would include the heads of all the various departments that I would be collaborating with to make sure all the requirements were met. After the project had been created, I would read the RFP, following the checklist I created and noting any time-sensitive deliverables I would need to coordinate (such as obtaining an original copy of a form which had been signed by our President, who lived in California).

After the initial read-through had been completed, I would assign tasks to our various departments based on the RFPs requirements. Depending on the project, this could include negotiating insurance liability with our Insurance Team, specifying legal stipulations with our Legal Department, and discussing pricing options with our President. It also included asking our Design Team about specific functionality and checking up on the capabilities of our hosting environment. After assigning the tasks, I would set specific deadlines for each department, based on the complexity of my requests and the length of time it would take me to incorporate their responses into the proposal. From there, it was my responsibility to communicate with the other departments and stay on top of the deadlines for all the concurrent projects. All the while, I was also writing the proposals themselves, many of which were over a hundred pages.

Finally, once I had received all the deliverables from the other teams and completed the proposal, it was my job to print the required number of copies and make them into our company-branded booklets. I would then mail them, after having previously established how much of a grace period I would need to allow for shipping. From there, we would wait for any response from the potential customers, being sure to respond to any follow-up requirements.

As my experience and expertise continued to grow, I was given additional responsibilities. In addition to working for our CivicLive brand, I also started creating proposals for SchoolMessenger, our notification system for schools. I then became the Project Specialist for our LMS brand called Talentova. This meant I was leading even more projects and communicating with teams across our company. With these added responsibilities, I continued to hone my leadership and management skills, giving me the confidence to take on these new challenges. Where I once considered myself a writer, my time at West taught me to be a leader and an innovator. Someone capable of learning on the fly, willing to leave their comfort zone, and unafraid to take the initiative to change the company for the better.