When you need a writer who understands what you're talking about.


Frequently Asked Questions (or questions you should be asking)

Proposal Authoring & Review

  1. Do you guarantee winning the contract?

Nobody can guarantee winning a contract. Anyone offering such a guarantee is most likely dishonest.

  1. What advantages does your experience offer in writing technical proposals?

Over 22 years’ experience in scientific research and writing papers and proposals and more than a decade as an instrument manager and systems engineer make me extremely effective in quickly reading and understanding RFP technical sections, and communicating with scientists, discipline engineers, and other technical subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop valid and compelling technical approaches. My experience in writing representative task order (RTO) responses for a variety of clients in response to an array of contract RFPs allows me to rapidly develop a skeleton of the initial draft, create a set of “interview” questions for your SMEs, and get their inputs with minimal imposition on their often busy schedules.

  1. Can you help with other proposal sections and activities?

Yes. With your team’s support (pricing, past performance, risk management plans, etc.) I can author your Basis of Estimate (BOE) and risk management sections. Based on my extensive experience in technical work and proposal writing I’m also very effective as a review panel member. As a panel member I offer constructive suggestions on fixing any deficiencies I identify, and where desired, can work (with your authors or independently) on recovery.

  1. What process do you follow in writing RTO responses?

I tailor my process to your specific requirements. However, in general the steps are as follows:

  • Read relevant RFP sections, especially the RTO and Statement of Work (SOW)
  • Discuss with your proposal manager the response outline, agreeing on section headings and initial page allocations
  • Develop RTO response “skeleton”
  • Identify areas in which SMEs are needed and request that you provide them
  • Interview your SMEs to get their technical inputs, and your team for examples of past successes
  • Create first draft RTO responses for Pink Team Review (which should include the SMEs)
  • Participate in Pink Team Review debrief to best understand reviewer feedback
  • Implement Pink Team and SME comments and suggestions, creating draft for Red Team Review (again, including SMEs)
  • Participate in Red Team Review debrief to best understand reviewer feedback
  • Implement Red Team and SME comments and suggestions, creating Gold Team Review draft
  • Participate in Gold Team Review debrief to best understand reviewer feedback
  • Implement Gold Team comments and suggestions, creating final draft

By Red Team, my drafts are usually already edited for clarity, brevity and compliance with any required formatting your team communicates to me (font type and size, margins, columns, etc.) significantly reducing final editing time and effort.

  1. Why shouldn’t I just use technical writers to write my RTO responses?

Most technical writers don’t have technical experience and expertise. As a result, they’re not suited to proactively interviewing technical SMEs and distilling the SMEs’ encyclopedic knowledge to the few pages allocated for a specific section. Technical writers can generate text that’s compliant with formatting requirements and that flows well, but they cannot ensure your RTO responses are technically valid, let alone compelling.

  1. Why shouldn’t I just use SMEs to write the RTO responses?

I address this more fully in several articles, but the short answer is that most SMEs are too busy with their “day job”, are usually not adept at the very specialized type of writing required, and have a deeply embedded tendency to offer their best solutions to problems, rather than describing the processes your company follows in crafting technical approaches. This last means most SMEs have a hard time avoiding “point solutions” to the hypothetical problems posed in RTOs, which is not what selection boards are looking for.

  1. Does your PhD offer advantages outside particle physics?

Yes. As anyone who ever pursued a graduate degree in physics can attest, a physics PhD requires several attributes critical for success in many technical areas. These include analytical thinking, the ability to quickly master a large amount of technical material, attention to detail, willingness to work hard, and an ability to effectively communicate highly technical material both verbally and in writing (e.g. writing a 150 page PhD thesis draft in 2 weeks).

  1. Does your PhD mean you’re expert in all technical fields?

Not at all. It means I’m expert in my thesis field (experimental high energy particle physics), and as my CV shows, I have a great deal of experience in other fields too. However, there are obviously many more technical fields I’m not expert in than those I know well. Having said that, I can communicate with SMEs in almost any technical field, understand them well enough to ask the right questions, and craft their responses into compelling proposal text.

Systems Engineering Support

  1. What do you offer that’s unique compared to other systems engineers?

My experience, working both as a scientist and engineer, gives me unique understanding and credibility with both science and engineering teams. Talking with a science team, I can understand their desire for the greatest possible science return achievable, and can translate that to specific, measurable, verifiable requirements for the engineers. Speaking with discipline engineers, I understand their desire to have concrete targets rather than e.g. “give me the biggest aperture you can fit” or “make sure it works over the widest temperature range you can.” Talking with discipline engineers, I ask questions that encourage innovative implementation of proven technologies and techniques, interpret science impacts for the scientists, and recommend an optimal path forward.

  1. Does a physics Ph.D. offer any advantages as a systems engineer?

As mentioned in my answer to Question 7 above, a physics PhD requires analytical thinking, the ability to quickly master a large amount of technical material, attention to detail, willingness to work hard, and an ability to effectively communicate highly technical material both verbally and in writing. Having worked as a research physicist for more than 20 years, I can absorb new science material, interview the science team to clarify field- and technique-specific details, and develop concrete requirements and metrics needed by the engineering team in developing system and subsystem designs. I’ve often been able to suggest unorthodox approaches and/or descope options with minimal science impact that offered significant reductions in risk, cost, schedule, and/or technical resource requirements. Finally, the credibility of a PhD allows me to effectively interact even with those scientists who may dismiss concerns and requests from “mere” engineers.

  1. What’s your philosophy as a technical leader?

Primarily, I’m committed to the success of the project and the team. It’s always nice to get personal compliments, but I prefer compliments on my team’s performance than my own. When someone on my team performs well, I praise them in public. When their work is sub-par, I raise my concerns one-on-one with them, and identify how I can help them improve. I only escalate when they refuse to make needed corrections. I’ve found this approach almost always elicits the best from all involved, especially when dealing with professionals.

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