Sunday, November 12, 2017

ACP Success Story: Learn Agile Concepts in Greater Depth To Earn This Credential

By Umasankar Lakshmana Dass, PMI-ACP




Introduction
I’ve been working as a team lead in Scrum projects for the past 6 years but I didn’t have any certifications on it. Hence, I decided to study agile in greater depth. 

First in April 2017, I completed my Scrum master certification. Later, I decided to achieve Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) before the end of 2017.

ACP Coaching Experience
I nominated myself for the PMI ACP training in July 2017. I completed by training end of July from KnowledgeHut. The classes were conducted over weekends (22nd, 23rd and 29th July 2017) so there was no impact to the work. Of course, it was challenging to compromise the weekends. All logistics were well taken care of and absolutely no hiccups on all three days. 

We had very interactive sessions and wonderful batch-mates. And we had one of the best coaches - Mr Satya Narayana Dash. Since he has hands-on experience with agile coaching, the practical examples he gave us was very useful in addition to the classroom exercise. 


What I liked the most in the sessions is that the focus was not limited to passing exam but to gain the knowledge on agile values, principles, practices and methodologies.

Good thing with ACP is that you just need to understand the concepts behind values. That’s it. No need to memorize anything. It is important to read out the Agile manifesto, its 4 values and the 12 principles. Also, more than reading, it is also about applying the thoughts behind it.

The preparation starts from being attentive in the class. From the questions I received during exam, I felt that at least 60% – 65% could be easily answered if we just go with the training flow. There were many key takeaways from the training -  the key concepts, shortcuts, discussions on different scenarios, exercises, etc. 

Own Study
After the coaching completed, I have revised all the seven domains in the first week. This helped me to remember many of the concepts and it helped me to face the exam with confidence. Later I spent 1 hour every day for two months. Also, in parallel I submitted my online application.

I ordered Andy Crowes book. After reading the book twice in a month, I took up mock tests from the book. Apart from this book, it is the training material and the class notes I have gone through for my preparation.

I wrote all the key points in a notepad while learning. This will help you to remember and recollect. I kept my learning notepad handy and referred to it whenever possible. 
It was tough to allocate one hour every day for two months but I kept myself committed to it. It is all about being agile with yourself.

ACP Exam Experience
Once I was confident after finishing my daily study for 2 months, I scheduled my examination for 2nd November (4 weeks after preparation). I choose the morning 8 am batch so that I have a fresh mind. 

To crack the exam, I had only one strategy to “Give my best” and answer all the 120 questions on time. I also read few experiences of other successful candidates on how they took the exam.  

I had most of the questions from Scrum and Kanban methodologies and questions related roles in those. It is important to understand all methodologies, principles, values, roles, artefacts and practices. As long as we believe in agile values, understand the fundamentals behind each of the framework/methodology, it is simple to pass the exam. I read all the tasks in all domains.

The primary advice is “Do not panic”. There will be lot of twisted situational questions that you have not seen in your mock ups. Keep yourself calm and focus on the options. You will be able to figure out the answer easily. Also, take one or two breaks to relax and focus more during the exam. 

Suggestions for ACP Aspirants
Dos
  • Revise regularly.
  • Buy a book a for preparation and also for your reference.
  • Write and learn during preparation.
  • Keep calm, never panic. 
Don’ts
  • Never procrastinate your preparation after classroom training.

Conclusion
First, I’ll be very happy to update my linked in profile and my signature with PMI ACP ;-). My primary aim is to learn and explore other methodologies in addition to Scrum and Kanban. In addition, I’m aiming to train other colleagues in implementing the right agile practices.  

After passing the exam, I’m feeling on the top of this world. My sincere thanks to my coach, my batch mates, my colleagues and my family for supporting to achieve this certification. 

Brief Profile 
L Umasankar
Team Lead 
Having 12+ years of IT experience in Mainframe application programming with expertise in banking domain in areas of maintenance activities and project management.




Footnote: This is a new initiative taken to share the experiences in ACP exam by fellow professionals and to inspire others in learning and applying Agile values, principles and practices. ACP exam from PMI takes time to prepare, a deeper understanding on Agile values and principles and also ability to learn and apply a number of Agile methodologies/frameworks in Lean-Agile spectrum. I am thankful to Umasankar for sharing his experience, which I believe will enrich and guide others in their journey for PMI-ACP credential.



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Monday, November 06, 2017

PMP Success Story: Understand the Concepts, Have Courage to Reach The Exam Centre and Do It With Confidence

By Shikhar Vaid, PMP




Introduction
Over a period, the importance of Project Management has been increasing and evolving at the same time. The constraints in project management are no longer only scope, time and cost. Other constraints like quality, resources and risk have gained equal importance. Additionally, none of the above stated is enough for an appropriate project management in modern world. 

It must also be in sync with Organization Strategy. Being a Strategy professional, it did excite and push me towards getting PMP certification. 

Few of the PMP benefits, which augmented my decision, are as below: 
  • Worldwide-recognised certification, provided by world's leading project management organization.
  • Applicable and holds equal credentials across all industries.
  • Ranked 4th worldwide after security certifications.
  • Wide range of Job Opportunities for PMP certified professionals.

PMP Coaching Experience
While shortlisting the institute for my PMP training, I narrowed down my search to two providers. Knowledge Hut was not a part of that list. However, one of my friends who was trained under Satya sir referred me. I therefore enrolled myself for PMP training there.


First day I entered the class with the mind-set that PMP training would be boring and more theoretical. However, I must say, if the trainer is passionate and understands the subject; he will make the subject interesting for aspirants to help them to gain most out of it. Best part of Satya sir's class is that they are interactive and the subject taught with real life examples. In my PMP journey, Satya sir's training has played a vital role. I must say there are two ways to take advantage of Satya Sir's training classes.

  • Attend training merely to get 35 contact hours only.
                                                  - OR - 
  • Attend training to understand the concept by being more participative and interactive. Earn the needed contact hours and then practice for few weeks and complete the certification.

Choice is all yours

I grant 50% credit of my PMP certification preparation to the training I received from Satya sir.

Own Study
My study preparation started with high hope and confidence with a plan to finish “I Want To Be A PMP” followed by PMBOK. This to be followed by mock tests and go through “I Want To Be A PMP” once again before appearing for the D day (26th July’17). I planned to spend 2-3 hours a day and 4-6 hours on weekends to stay aligned with my plan. Nothing worked out. I followed the schedule for 10 days. I had completed my studies until Project Scope Management before a medical emergency came my way. I cancelled my D date (26th July) and could not start my preparation again until mid-September. 
Post this, the first step I took was to book an exam date on 26th October’17 and then start my preparation from scratch. Now at this point, I had 45 days to equip myself with the sufficient knowledge and confidence to appear for the exam. I made my study plans as below:
  • Understand the flow of all 47 processes within 10 knowledge areas (KA) and 5 process group (PGs)
  • Understand the reasoning behind the existence of all processes
  • Visit and understand the Inputs and Outputs of all processes
  • Clear understanding of Input, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTOs) within all processes, their existence and importance
  • My focus was to master and aim at Exceed Targets for Initiating (2), Executing (8), Monitoring & Controlling (11) and Closing (2). However, I aimed for getting Target in Planning (24)

After carefully understanding and completing “I Want To Be A PMP”, I started taking mock tests. I was hitting the accuracy of 68%-70% in all Mocks. After writing the Mock test, I used to visit the question where I had gone wrong followed by reading and understanding the concept once again in same book as mentioned above. My aim was not to answer these questions wrong ever again. Also, if one knows the concept it will be easy to answer the questions in less than 1 min. You will be having 1.2 min for every question.

In addition, I frequently visited and read all the pages Satya Sir had asked to bookmark in the classes to further hone my skills and concepts on important topics.

A thought of postponing the exam did cross my mind many a times but I kept going forward with a confidence of clearing it in first attempt with a thought “It’s now or never”.
At last, I did achieve my aim of exceed Targets in Initiating, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing. However, I had to manage with Target in Executing.


Book Review - I Want To Be A PMP
As said earlier, 50% of the credit goes to the training, the rest goes to “I Want To Be A PMP” book. When the book was mentioned in one of the classes, I took the discussion lightly thinking that it is a marketing technique for an author to push for his books for more sales. However, I did purchase the book after thinking about it for few days. 

THIS WAS THE BEST DECISION I TOOK THAT SHAPED MY CERTIFICATION JOURNEY. 


This is the ONLY book I read, this is the ONLY book I referred to for my Mock tests. I found that this book is very interactive. The flow of information, highlight areas and Yogic Tips are so well designed for easy understanding of each concept for any PMP aspirant. For me it is a PMP Bible, as you get a lifetime access to this book and it is being updated on regular basis as and when there is a change from PMI towards PMP exams and course materials. 

One of the greatest aspects of this book is that the important topics all have videos explained by Satya sir himself. You have the content, tips, videos and blogs all and everything needed to equip yourself available at one place. 

The book is divided into logical order of knowledge areas with chapter end questions, full-length questions, and Exam Content Outline (ECO).


IF YOU ASK ME, THIS BOOK IS A MUST FOR ANY PMP ASPIRANT.

PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled my exam in Prometric centre, Whitefield Bangalore. This is the first time I was visiting the centre and was careful about the traffic during peak hours on outer ring road. I had my exam scheduled for 8:30AM. However, I had light breakfast and left early from my home and reached the exam centre by 7:15AM. I appeared before the reception and completed the formalities by 7:45 AM, before I was allowed to take my seat and start the exam. You cannot carry anything inside the examination hall other than your identity proof. You will be provided a notepad and pencils, which you would be returning to the concerned coordinator upon completion of exam. If you want to use calculator during the exam, do ask. However, there will be a digital calculator on the computer screen itself. I opted for physical calculator. 

The strategy that I used to crack 200 questions in 4 hours was to spend and understand question in 15 min and answer the same within 1 min. If doubtful about the answer, mark the question to visit them again at last before being confident on marked choices. I completed all 200 questions in 3.5 hours. Now, I had 30 min to revisit the questions which I had marked earlier and then hit the final answers to all such question. Wherever I was not confident about the answer, I started striking off the options, which were least possible for being an answer to arrive at correct one.

The questions were mostly on the below subjects:
  • Stakeholders Management.
  • Creating WBS.
  • Risk Response strategies
  • Change Request (Very Important)
  • Quality Assurance
  • Close procurements
  • EV, PV, AC, ETC, BAC
  • Critical Path as well as Critical Chain Method (Very Important)
  • Crashing and Fast tracking (Very Important)

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
Dos:
  • Do understand the concept and reasoning behind existence of every process.
  • Do understand the Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTOs) of every process.
  • Understand the flow of processes within KAs and PGs.
  • While attempting to answer the questions in exam, do understand what process group the question falls under. Understanding this itself will make you look for the right option within the answers given.
  • Do read PMBOK, if reading multiple sources helps in understanding the concept better My situation of reading “I Want To Be A PMP” was best suited for me.
  • Do have a copy of “I Want To Be A PMP” as it can be accessed anywhere, if you have internet connection.
  • Try to think of real life examples and align the concepts for better understanding.
  • Do have a courage to reach the exam centre and appear for it.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.

Don’ts
  • Do not mug up anything.
  • Do not underestimate the exam questions. The questions are not direct but situation based.
  • Do not take the preparation lightly. PMP certification is one of the best investment you will make for yourself.
  • Do not panic when you get tricky questions. Trust your preparation.
  • Do not ever get demotivated. Believe in yourself.

Conclusion
I look forward to leveraging these skills and knowledge, coupled with my experience and lead projects within consulting industry successfully.

Brief Profile: 
Shikhar Vaid, 8+ Years of experience in Strategy & Operations across multinational companies catering to financial services, healthcare, retail & manufacturing industries.



Monday, October 23, 2017

PMP Success Story: Preparing For PMP Exam Makes A PM Much Better At It and Getting The Certification Is Icing On The Cake

By Satyajit Jena, PMP



I seem to have stumbled into the project management. Once in here, I wanted to get better at it. I used to admire fellow management professionals, who are PMP® certified. Since I came to know about PMP Certification, I always wanted to get certified. Better late than never. Earlier this year, finally made up my mind to go for this coveted certification. 

Irrespective of the end result in the exam, the rigor of going through PMP exam preparation only makes you a better management professional. I learned and understood many subtle things about project management along the way. This course also ensured I understood certain concepts correctly. It brought in lot of self-confidence and self-respect. It’s a special journey and my long-term aspiration has finally been met.

Coaching Experience
I've been wanting to go through PMP certification for long time and was doing some self-study. But it was never enough or consistent. Hence, I decided to get enrolled for a classroom training and get the required 35 contact hours of project management education.


After going through the process with Satya as the coach, it made me think that I should have gone for it few years ago. The structured and highly interactive style of coaching helped getting the best of PMP practices and tricks quickly. The way Satya explained the 47 processes, and how they are intertwined with the 10 knowledge areas and 5 process groups - is even difficult to forget. The best thing is the way he explained how processes with its inputs and outputs flow within the process groups and across knowledge areas.  

Own Preparation
After the classroom coaching, I started going through Satya’s book (I Want To Be A PMP) followed by one full reading of PMBOK® guide. Unfortunately, I had a break in my preparation and it was hard for me to come back to full speed.

When I re-started, I went through the same process of starting from class room notes. After one round of read, I started taking practise tests. That helped me identify areas I need to revisit. The more test you take, the better it is. With time, as my scores started improving, I started feeling confident. 

Book - I Want To Be A PMP
I decided to buy Satya’s book after attending his sessions. After going through some other such books, I must say this is one of the best books out there. This is the perfect bridge between the classroom coaching and the very detailed PMBOK guide. As one goes through the book, it calls out reference to previous chapters/processes, so one is always connected throughout the chapters/processes.


The flow diagrams are the best. It helps one connect how processes flow within and across knowledge areas. The tips shared at every other place bring out the subtle factors that help you remember the concepts.

The full-length tests have a special role to play in my PMP success story. In the exam, I had only got situational and lengthy questions. They are different from many practise test that I had taken from other sources. This book had such set of questions, which are very similar to the type of questions I had faced in the exam.

The Exam Day
I had visited the exam centre few days before and on the exam day reached well before time. With anxiety running high, this was helpful to calm things down. There was initial nervousness when I started off. But it slowly faded away as I went through few questions and took a few deep breaths. 

There were only situational questions of which many were lengthy and tricky. I had marked many questions for review to apply eliminations method while revisiting. I barely managed to answer all the questions in 4 hours. It’s important not to stick with any one question. Time management is very important. 

That day, there were many test takers other than PMP. The place was somewhat noisy. But you can use headphones provided, which definitely helps.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
Taking the PMP exam is not the end of it. Your quest for being a better management professional starts when you decide to go for it. The rigor of going through the process had already helped me a lot professionally. Getting the PMP Certification was icing on the cake. It is important that you spread the knowledge and apply the practices learned. 

In terms of preparation, it’s important to continue the pace and be persistent. I almost burnt my finger, as I had a break. And to restart again wasn’t easy. It won’t be easy to be persistent for a long period of time given other personal and professional commitment. And getting PMP® certified isn’t easy, either. Put an exam milestone date - not too far away after your classroom coaching and prepare accordingly. It's advisable that you don’t stretch it far. 

Brief Profile
Satyajit Jena works as a Program Manager at Sapient Corporation.