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Taking the Plunge to CPSM

From Left to Right: PJ Roscoe, CPSM, Karyn Tirabassi, CPSM, and Suzanne King, CPSM

From Left to Right: PJ Roscoe, CPSM, Karyn Tirabassi, CPSM, and Suzanne King, CPSM

From Left to Right: Jamie Gannon, CPSM, Karyn Tirabassi, CPSM, Hilary Nieukirk, CPSM, Kirsten Papagni, CPSM, PJ Roscoe, CPS< and Kimberly Taylor, CPSM New to CPSM Committee and missing from photo: Laura Player, CPSM and Tracey O’Connor, CPSM

From Left to Right: Jamie Gannon, CPSM, Karyn Tirabassi, CPSM, Hilary Nieukirk, CPSM, Kirsten Papagni, CPSM, PJ Roscoe, CPSM and Kimberly Taylor, CPSM
New to CPSM Committee and missing from photo: Laura Player, CPSM and Tracey O’Connor, CPSM

Splash! I did it! Despite my beating heart and shaking legs, I dove from that 20-foot jagged rock in Bermuda. The crystal-clear waters felt so refreshing on my skin, just as I imagined. To top it all off, I conquered my fear!

Unfortunately, the story did not quite happen that way, but I did make it to the edge of that rock and I did ponder jumping…for a long time. What held me back? For one, my fear of heights and, for two, I was afraid of what may happen when I hit the water. Would my lungs collapse? Would my children see me die in front of them? So, I turned around and climbed back down that rock. Then, one by one, I watched my kids dive in as I watched nervously on the shore. On the flight home, I regretted not doing it. What held me back?

In life, we all have our reasons for choosing not to do something, but sometimes you need to just go for it, whatever it is. Your challenge does not necessarily have to be physical, like jumping off a cliff in Bermuda. It could be anything…learning a new language or instrument, achieving a black belt, or finally skiing that double black diamond… Let’s not forget professional challenges. When was the last time you stretched yourself professionally? Many of us participate in professional growth activities, but if you had the chance to earn a credential in your field of study, would you do it?

Five years ago, I did just this. I became a Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM). It was a bit serendipitous because before I began working at Capaccio Environmental Engineering, I had no idea what a CPSM was (or what SMPS was for that matter). In fact, at my first job as Director of Event Marketing at the Boston Garden, I was marketing Mickey Mouse, elephants, bagpipers, you name it.  This was my first “real job” of which I had no formal training. We did not have an organization dedicated to what we do, much less a credential we could obtain by learning best practices.

When I started at Capaccio ten years ago, I knew nothing about wastewater treatment systems, or Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) marketing. My boss told me I should check out SMPS, an organization dedicated to marketing and business development for the AEC industry. How great was that? We began going to events together and I started meeting people and learning more about the industry. One caveat: my boss was always by my side, which gave me a sense of security. One night at the last minute, she had to cancel on me, and I was left at the event by myself. I am outgoing by nature, but, even so, I began wandering around thinking “Ok, now what?” I saw some women chatting and coyly joined their group. From there, two women took me under their wing for the night. Since then, they have become two of my best friends in SMPS: PJ Roscoe (Chair of the SMPS Boston’s CPSM Committee) and Suzanne King (President Elect for SMPS Boston). But, back to the reason I became a CPSM…

My boss thought earning my CPSM credential should be a part of my professional growth plan and began asking me every year to add it to my list of goals. She would say, “How about trying for your CPSM this year?” It intrigued me, and I did consider it, but driving in and out of Boston to study groups and fitting in the required reading (much less studying for the exam itself) was overwhelming. With three young children at home, I did not see how I could possibly take it on. I barely had time to shower some days! So, for four years, she would continue to ask me, and for four years, I kept saying “No.”

The one year my boss did not approach me on the CPSM was ironically the year I decided to take the plunge. I saw the invite to the information session and thought it wouldn’t hurt to just check it out. I had been attending events by myself at this point, met many people, had a better grasp on the industry, and my kids had also gotten a little older. At the information session, I was surprised to see many familiar faces in the room, including my friend Suzanne, Kirsten Papagni (a member of the CPSM Committee), Hilary Nieukirk (previous CPSM Committee Director), Pia Cardinali (immediate SMPS Boston past President), and Valerie Puchades (SMPS Boston President). Although we never told each other, we were all interested in obtaining our CPSM credential and on that day, we all decided to go for it!

Flash forward, I, and all those previously mentioned, are CPSMs and thriving members of SMPS. This achievement was something I did for myself and on my own time table. And, to be honest, I did not pass the first time. I missed by two points but kept trudging on and passed the next year. My commitment was tremendous, but I was driven! Upon passing, I joined the CPSM committee to mentor others toward achieving their credential. This year, I became Director of the CPSM committee and am on the Board of Directors for SMPS. Being a part of SMPS and the committee has been so rewarding. I never would have known what was in store for me if I hadn’t taken the plunge. Getting my certification has given me a lot of professional confidence, more insight into best practices in this profession, and, let’s face it, cool initials after my name.

My story is only one of many. Our CPSMs all have a different story to tell, but one thing rings true. We all took that chance. We all made the commitment and somehow found the time in our schedules to do it.

In closing, I can check the CPSM plunge off my list. And it wasn’t a death-defying feat. It just took time, drive, and dedication. Now it’s time to get back to Bermuda and conquer that rock!

Stay tuned to the Friday Flyer for our bi-weekly blog series featuring stories from our SMPS Boston CPSMs. In two weeks, Chuck Raymond, CPSM, will share his CPSM story. Chuck was the Chair of the CPSM Committee when I was in the study group! See if any of the upcoming stories resonate with you. Could this be your year to take the plunge?


Karyn Tirabassi


Karyn Tirabassi is a Senior Marketing and Business Development Manager Capaccio Environmental Engineering, Inc.

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