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Duveen Penner

Inside Voices: A Perceptyx Employee Spotlight Series

I knew I was going to like Duveen the moment I read her LinkedIn profile and saw her list of “Things I Like:" “…beautiful documents, the Oxford comma, coffee, dogs.” Our conversation did not disappoint, and I even walked away with a few new books to add to my holiday shopping list! Read the full interview with Duveen below to learn more about her career path from the classroom to the corporate world, and the critical role that M&Ms play in her work process. 

How long have you been with Perceptyx, and what initially drew you to the company?

I joined in late December 2017, so I’ve been at Perceptyx for almost four years. And it was definitely the people who drew me to the company. When I first joined, everyone in the Lincoln, NE office could sit around the ping pong table in the lobby for noon lunches. There were familiar faces and new faces around that table, and it really did feel like I was joining a family. The energy and excitement were palpable. As I got to know people in Lincoln and Temecula, it quickly became apparent that I’d landed at a really special company. And I still feel that way.   

As a marketer and long-time content creator, I feel a real kinship with you and your role! We both have a mandate to support the sales team and translate the value of our products, services, and people to the outside audiences we serve — or hope to serve in the case of prospective customers! And we must do it in a way that’s not only educational but also persuasive. How would you describe the mission of the very specific content you and your team are creating?

The goal of the RFP team is to create content that is accurate, clear, and concise. We are fans of plain English, something that helps readers understand documents more quickly. We avoid jargon and buzz words, and our goal is to use the simplest, most straightforward way of expressing an idea. Document design is also important, and we use features such as headers, bulleted lists, short sections, and ample white space to help guide the reader through the proposal.

You’ve been in the HR Technology arena, and specifically the employee engagement space for a number of years with both Perceptyx, and before that Kenexa, which was later acquired by IBM. From your vantage point, how has the market demand and buying approach for these solutions changed over that time? Any big trends that stick out for you?

I’ve been working with employee engagement RFPs for 12 years, and one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is the ever-shrinking project timeline. When I first started as a proposal manager, it was not unusual to have three to four weeks to complete an RFP. Today, two weeks seems to be the norm – and sometimes the runway is even shorter. 

Another important trend is an increasing focus on data security. Many RFPs include complex infosec questionnaires that must be completed as part of the proposal. Our RFP team is fortunate to include a proposal analyst who specializes in Technology & Security. Having a specialist as part of our team ensures accuracy and speeds up our response time overall. 

In looking at your background, I also noted that you spent many years as a teacher, specifically a German language instructor. How has your time in the classroom translated into the corporate world?

There are so many aspects of teaching that are directly transferrable to working with RFPs. Teachers juggle myriad decisions, distractions, and questions every day. I taught five different levels of German every day at a small rural high school, so planning, organization, and a dose of creativity were key. You had to be ready to be completely 'on' every time the bell rang – in a way, it was like meeting a deadline every 53 minutes. If you didn’t have a plan, you were sunk. Sometimes, the plan worked as expected. Sometimes, it led to an unexpected success that took the lesson in a new direction. And sometimes, the plan didn’t work – what you thought would connect with the kids didn’t, so you always had to have Plan B ready.  

At Perceptyx, we’re all about helping organizations capture and respond to the voices of their employees. How has working here changed your own thinking about what it means to be an engaged, fulfilled employee?

I’ve been fortunate to have loved everything I’ve done career-wise: teaching, working as an educational technology specialist, and now working with proposals and content management. There’s an inherent satisfaction in doing something you enjoy and find interesting. But even when you love your job, there can still be things that cause headaches. These are the 'barriers' to engagement that we talk about when we explain the Perceptyx approach. Before making the move to the corporate world, I had never taken an employee engagement survey. I know now, from experience, that when leaders listen to what employees say and work to remove identified barriers, it really does make the overall employee experience better. When you feel 'heard' as an employee, you feel more invested in what you do and how you can contribute. 

What voices have been most meaningful in influencing your own life and career?

First and foremost: my parents. I always knew I had my parents’ love and support as I grew up and figured out what I wanted to do. (This was true even when I changed my major in the middle of my second senior year!) From as early as I can remember, they encouraged my brothers and me to be curious, to learn, and to do the best we could. It was just a natural part of how we grew up – there were books, community concerts (which we didn’t always enjoy as kids), a family crossword puzzle that lived on the dining room table for a week at a time, chores, church, school activities, projects, and even the Cyclo-Teacher! (You should look that up on Wikipedia if you’ve never heard of it.) My parents set a wonderful example that I tried to follow with my own family.

Secondly: Mike, my first boss in the RFP world. I was looking to start a second career at age 50+, and I had applied for a position as a proposal writer. Although I didn’t have a very clear understanding of what an RFP was, I told him I could organize things and I could write. He nodded and asked me what my approach to handling stress was, and I answered 'M&Ms.' (Still true, still effective, still a bad idea.) He took a chance on me, and I’ve been working with RFPs ever since. 

As a writer and language lover, I’m going to guess that you are also a reader. Do you have a favorite genre or a favorite book to recommend?

Yes, definitely! I come from a whole family of readers. When my brothers and I were little and my mom took us to the public library, we had a 'limit' of 15 books apiece! Today, I am an eclectic reader, although my favorite genre is historical fiction. Currently, I have three books on the coffee table: West with Giraffes, The Education of an Idealist, and Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms. It’s difficult to pick a favorite book overall, but Cutting for Stone is definitely one of them.  

What’s your favorite thing about working at Perceptyx?

My favorite thing about working here is definitely the people I get to work with. First, of course, is the RFP team itself, an amazingly talented group of writers. We are all active Slack chatters, whether it’s helping each other decipher a confusing question or searching for that one elusive answer – or chatting about food, kids, dogs, etc. Although we are a completely remote team, we’re a cohesive group that really enjoys working together. 

Of course, the RFP team wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the sales executives. I’ve worked with some of them since 2007, and others I’m just getting to know as they join the company. I enjoy working with them all. 

An advantage of being a proposal writer is that you get to interact with people from many departments as you work to create content and answer RFP questions: professional services, consulting, marketing, revenue operations, and others. Completing RFPs is a team effort, and our SMEs provide an excellent example of how 'We Succeed Together.'


Interested in joining our team and working with colleagues like Duveen? Check out our open positions and apply today! 

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