SMPS OC Member Spotlight – Keelin Cox


Today we are shining the spotlight on SMPS OC Member Keelin Cox, CPSM, ENV SP. Keelin is a creative thinker and problem solver with a focus on thoughtful interactions throughout the AEC industry. As a senior proposal specialist at Stantec, she is invested in supporting the water sector to build winning proposals, create smart strategies, and help her teams serve their communities. Keelin has a longstanding history volunteering for SMPS Orange County as hospitality chair, treasurer, and ultimately President. She is also the host of the AEC Marketeer podcast that explores AEC marketing and beyond.

In April Keelin will be presenting on how to identify win themes for proposals. During this interactive session, you will learn how to ask the right questions to uncover key win themes for your proposals beginning at the go/no-go all the way through to submittal.

Register here:

  1. Tell me how you got started in your career.

I studied Environmental Studies at UCSB with the goal of becoming an environmental consultant. After 2 years working at AEC firms in Santiago, Chile, I moved back to California and my dad, a land surveyor, introduced me to his Marketing and BD manager, Sue Pender. Sue walked me through what a career in AEC marketing might look like and I fell in love with AEC marketing right on the spot. Sue then helped me get my first job in California at a small engineering firm in Mission Viejo. She also encouraged me to not only join SMPS OC, but to find a way to volunteer on the board in some capacity–which I did as hospitality chair.

  1. You launched your own podcast in 2020; what prompted you to start AEC Marketeer and can you share details on it?

There were a few disjointed thoughts that all culminated in this podcast. I was driving to work thinking that I would love to listen to something work-related that would give me a few new ideas and get my gears turning during my commute. Separately, I found myself thinking about the marketers who aren’t able to go to SMPS conferences or don’t have an SMPS chapter close-by and how many cool people I meet through these events. So I started thinking, what might be a way of introducing a marketer to these great thought leaders, no matter their location or ability to attend a conference. My answer to that was a podcast purely based on how accessible podcasts are. All that coupled with having just “retired” as the OC Chapter’s Past-President and then COVID-19 hitting, I figured if ever there was a time to start a podcast, it’s now!

  1. How did you first get involved in SMPS?

Sue Pender encouraged me to join and I think within a week of being a member I got a call from the Chapter’s incoming President at the time, Shannah Hayes, asking if I wanted to get coffee and talk about volunteer opportunities (well done Shannah). She was getting ready for her year as President and asked if I would consider the Hospitality Chair position. I took it and I think it was a decision that altered my entire career in the best way possible. I owe a lot of my current success to those two women.

  1. What makes you passionate about this work?

I genuinely feel that the work myself, my colleagues, and our companies do help our communities, in a way that few things can. When I started college, I entered as Pre-Med because I really wanted to help people every day and in a completely different context, I still get to do that as an AEC marketer. I love how complicated and dynamic our projects are. I love of all the fun, quirky, interesting, and sometimes challenging personalities I get to work with every day. I love learning about clients and how they want and need to help their communities. I find the scale of our projects fascinating. And of course, I love winning. I am a fairly competitive person and winning a major pursuit is probably one of my favorite feelings in the whole wide world.

  1. What publications and blogs do you read?

I read a lot of articles through Harvard Business Review, I subscribe to Matt Handal’s Help Everybody Everday newsletters, and I follow people on LinkedIn like Maisha Hagan that post great articles and resources. I also read SMPS’ Marketer magazine almost cover to cover and get excellent ideas from those articles as well. I also really enjoy reading articles/magazines from outside the AEC industry like Fast Company, AMA Marketing News, MarketingWeek, and CMO by Adobe to try and find ideas/designs that I could potentially adapt for the AEC space.

  1. What was the last book you read?

I recently finished a book called Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell that is just beautifully written. I also love the Upside of Stress Kelly Mcgonigal. That is a life-changing book that I wish I would have known about sooner and I highly recommend to literally anyone. On the professional development side, right now I’m reading Managing Up by Mary Abbajay. I heard her speak at Build Business and loved her session. This book is an extension of that session with lots of practical, relevant tips to identify and manage different personalities in the workplace.