Friday, June 12, 2015

Here is something I wrote 10 years back, about my PMP certification journey. Fun to read again.

PMP journey - experience sharing
When I look back at how I prepared for this exam , I see a logical sequence (life cycle) of how things happened during the whole exercise and it can be best explained like ;
1) The initial interest / curiosity 
I do not exactly recollect how this happened. It was easily almost one year back. I always had this feeling within me that , even if I am well experienced in project management , something was lacking in me , when it comes to practicing / preaching project management  with confidence. Since my project management knowledge was not based on any standards , there was no common baseline for me for decision making , resulting in inconsistent decisions at times.  This triggered me to become a PMI member and then to understand the PMBOK, PMCD, OPM3 etc. The PM journal and the PM magazines were great resources , with lots of  new concepts and analysis. During this phase , I got interested  in PMPs and wanted to become one.  
My expectations at this time by going in for PMP at this stage were ;
- An endorsement for my PM capabilities from a reputed institute with good value
- Better networking with other PMPs
- Become a trainer in project management
2) The commit phase
Since it was an important but not urgent goal , the learning was happening at a snails pace. Then one fine day , I decided to take a plunge into this initiative by deciding to go for the training to gain the required PDUs.  The training program  did not come in cheap. This was the point of no return and commitment.
3) Disillusionment phase
Since I had  so many years of project management experience ,  initially it was difficult to come to terms with the PMBOK, because I have been doing things differently , which was also giving me good results. This led to frustration and led to lack of interest in the whole exercise.  The funniest thing was , I started scoring lesser marks in the practice tests , after  starting the preparations , than when I answered the questions based on my own logic and experience. This was mainly due to trying to answer correctly , than basing my answers on my experience and the PMBOK way of seeing things. Adding to this , the questions I tried to answer were not of good quality and lacked semblance to the real PMP test questions. Most of the questions were like , what is the missing input / out put kind of , where as in real PMP test , almost all the questions were scenario based questions. This coupled with pressure from  my job took me to the verge of  giving up.  This cycles of  frustrations continued until I mastered the PMBOK way of seeing things.
4) Re commit phase
By this time I had invested lot of time and money on this. More than that , by this time most of my colleagues knew about this initiative of mine. People around me used to ask me the status very often. Another great influence was the growth of my yahoo group  Consult me from 1 to 500+ memberships. This group was primarily aimed at supporting the PM and SQA professionals. As part of my preparations , I started  posting questions here , which was a great way to learn. Some where from these discussion groups , I heard about Rita and her training programs.  I purchased  PMP preparation book of hers , which really helped me. It was just focusing on the PMP exam. From the exam point of view it was excellent but from the general project management perspective it was not  that great and it was not cheap. When I purchased it I had to pay $120 for that book and a CD which contained hardly 25 questions.  At this stage I was fortunate to get access to 15 video cassettes on project management by Harold Kerzner. Most of them were really helpful.
Still the frustration levels were at times high. For me it was easy to deal with procurement management , scope and time management. Even if others rated these as the most difficult , these were easy for them. If you can just understand the concepts and formulae , the answering was easy. But I found  risk management , human resource management and professional responsibility very difficult. One main reason for this was that , these were the last chapters in the books I referred and by the time you reach there , you are in a hurry to finish of the book , hence lacked concentration.
5) Mastering the art of answering
In most of the questions , there can be multiple answers , which will  seem to be almost correct.  In these scenarios , in order to zero in on the right answer ,  the thinking pattern given below helped me. No body proposed this pattern to me , but after answering lot of questions and reading the material several times ,  this thought pattern emerged  and found it very useful.
Once we get a question  pass it through the following filter questions :-
1) Which are the wrong answers ?  - eliminate them
2) Which is the first  next  thing I will do as a project manager? If 'yes' that can be the most probable answer
3) By implementing the answer selected , will I look biased in front of the  project stake holders?  if 'yes' that is not the right answer
4) If the question has anything to do with human resources - Will  the answer selected result in the improvement of the individual? If the answer is 'Yes' , that is the probable answer. If it is going to harm the team member in any way , that is not the probable answer.
5) If the question is pertaining to earned value ,  while computing the spi and cpi , EV is the numerator. while computing the schedule variance always  'EV' comes first; for spi and cpi a value < 1 is bad  and the selected answer should result in the improvement of the schedule or cost depending on the spi or cpi depending on whichever is lesser than zero.
if spi < 0 ,  the right choice should result in reducing the schedule slippage
if cpi <0 , the right choice should result in reducing the cost variance
6) Does the selected answer , in any way violate the ethics , integrity of the project manager ,  law of the country , favor any one in an unethical manner , against the interest of the organization for which you work , in any way detrimental to the project's success. then that is not the right answer.
7) If you are answering anything on 'audits' , please remember that the primary purpose of audits is to capture the best practices and to make it available to the future projects.
8) Anything pertaining to project charter either senior management or the project sponsor will be involved.
6) Questions distribution
Number of questions
Percent of questions
Initiating the project
Planning the project
Executing the project
Controlling the project
Closing the project
Professional responsibility

Do not under estimate professional responsibility. One's grasp of  this knowledge area has an impact on every other question to be answered.
7) Certification
It was an experience by itself. Four hours of answering objective type questions , in front of a flickering terminal. The test started at 12p.m , hence had to skip lunch ( I can focus better when I am hungry , and that need not be the case with all). By the time I completed 100 questions I was slightly tired and was unable to focus hard. I took a break then for 10 minutes. One good thing I did was to mark all the questions which needed some calculations , so that I could review them towards the end. This really helped me to complete all the questions and attack these with lesser anxiety. When I was half way into the test , I thought I am going to fail , but towards the end , the questions seemed to be  easier. When I completed all the 200 hundred questions ,  my confidence level was better. By the time the results flashed on the screen , I was not in a position to read it. The supervisor in the room read it out for me as 'PASS'.
8) Post certification
I felt good about passing the exam. But the fun was in the journey. I can see a small difference in how people talk to me , when it comes to project management after me becoming a PMP. They are more into a listening mode. When my colleagues in other geographies understand that I am a PMP , they give me a special consideration and most of them I have not even met directly. And last but not the least , I have also become more wiser  and matured in my project management.
9) Lessons
1) It is not easy , so be prepared for hard work
2) If you do not have experience in project management , it will be very difficult
3) Do not try to criticize PMBOK*. Start liking it , it is also evolving . By criticizing it , one will only develop aversion
4) By just reading PMBOK* , you cannot pass the test. It should be a combination of PMBOK* application knowledge and your own project management experiences.
5) Plan for at least three cycles of end to end reading of the materials
6) Ritas book on PMP* certification was very helpful  and Harold Kerzner's was more complete and authentic
7) Do not ignore topics like  risk , professional responsibility , human resource management etc. Even if they may seem to be simple , they can be quite confusing
8) While revising , take a forward pass of the materials and then a backward pass , so that all topics will get equal attention
9) One way to prepare is by framing questions
10) It is better if  you can read the material end to end , 3 to 4 times
11) Schedule the exam , so that you will have a target date to aim for
12) Make a list of all the points you find difficult to remember / answer  in the form of bits , which you can revise within 30 minutes , prior to the exam.
13) When you get the scribbling pad , write down the formulae / critical information , which you are likely to forget
14) Be focused while answering.
15) Prepare to pass and excel. The very thought of failure can make you fail.  Have the feeling of  ' I cannot fail'
 Best Wishes
Abrachan   Pudussery PMP

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