Saturday, December 30, 2017

PMP Success Story: PMP - My Grad School Credential From The School of Project Management

By Ayan Mitra, PMP




Introduction
I’ve been practising project management for about 5 years now and have always felt the need of a structured learning. Also, while working with experienced project managers in my firm, I come to know of terms such as parametric estimate, quantitative risk analysis, cost of quality, net present value, free float, cost-reimbursable contract etc. I’ve used them, but didn’t know of such terms.  

I had not heard about the PMP® certification or other project management methodologies then. But, as I grew in my firm, I started strongly appreciating the fact that having a credential is not only important for me to do my job better but also for my future career aspirations. It is when I decided that I have to earn the PMP credential, and I set a goal for myself which is the end of the year 2017. 


PMP Coaching Experience
From my initial research, I knew that PMP certification requires serious studies. You cannot simply walk-in to the exam center and gain the certification.  I was back in India in July, 2017 after spending 4 years in the US and first I checked with talent team of my organization. The scheduling was in 2018. However, they suggested to go with Satya’s classes at KnowledgeHut to gain the required 35 contact hours.

I had never met Satya, had no idea who he is, how he conducts the classes, how intense or thoughtful they are, or whether it will fulfill my learning aspirations. I did some basic readings of process groups, and knowledge areas over the web so I simply don’t appear naïve in the classroom. 

I attended the first class in August, 2017 and was simply awestruck with the way Satya delivered it. All I can say that you may have heard about “chartered accountants”; you can consider him as a “chartered PMP”. 

The 4-day session was eventful, enterprising and full of learning. Most importantly, the learning on flow of the processes through each process group and knowledge areas were really thought-provoking. I think there is no better way to learn them. I learned many concepts such as EVM, CPM, DTA, and many others. The way I've been explained the core concepts, they were ingrained in my brain and it became hard to forget. 

We also had many tips, Q/A sessions at the end of every chapter. Above all, relating core project management concepts with real-life examples was the key differentiating factor. In the end I had a recommend list of readings, Satya’s blog, and suggested books.

Own Study
Immediately after the classroom session, I prepared and submitted my application and schedule my exam on December 14, 2017. One thing to note – be very honest in filling up your application form. I used a spreadsheet, a sample of which is shown below.



In retrospect, registering, submitting my application and scheduling for the exam, had been the keys and helped in two ways:
  • a) Gaining access to several resources in PMI site (including but not limited to the electronic copy of the PMBOK guide).
  • b) Tracking my learning plan towards a fixed goal. I am sure if I hadn’t had scheduled a date for the exam, even today I would not have done it!

I used one book for my exam prep – Headfirst PMP, as I’ve used that series earlier. If I have to give one honest suggestion to any PMP exam aspirant, it will be “don’t read the PMPBOK guide as the first thing towards your learning goals”. It will confuse you more than anything else. I felt it is a like a giant encyclopedia. Do read the guide, but do it later. 

The next thing I did is to prepare a timeline for myself. I had about a 115 days in hand. I could spend about 2 hours during weekdays (due to hectic work schedule),  and 5 to 6 hours during weekends. 
This is how I proceeded.
  1. For the first 60 days, I assigned a target number of hours to study each knowledge area based on descriptiveness and complexityc. I did not refer the PMBOK® guide, but start with one book. I referred Satya’s blogs/articles at https://managementyogi.blogspot.com  and https://www.mpug.com/ which helped me understand several key concepts. 
  2. On a lighter note, daily commuting in cities like Bangalore or Mumbai takes around 2 hours. I spent that time in listening to videos and podcasts such as http://www.project-management-podcast.comhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA05u1fpX2k
  3. For the next 25 days, I started reading the PMBOK guide. One important thing about Inputs, Tools and Techniques (ITTOs) is this - you can’t remember them all. It’s simply not possible. Rather understand why they are acting as input or outputs. 
  4. Also during these 25 days, I started preparing flow charts (and practice them almost every day) for a few key items such as “Change Request”, “Activity List”, “WBS”, “Risk Register” etc. if you can identify such 5-6 key flows and then understand them in depth, I guess many of the ITTOs will be on your finger-tips. 
  5. I also started noting down all vital project/business documents as well as plans used throughout the all 47 processes and understand their purposes, e.g., “Business Case”, “Statement of Work”, “Configuration Management Plan”, “Requirement Management Plan”, “Forecast documents”, “Issue Log” et. al. 
  6. For the next 15-20 days, I started solving the mathematical problems – CPM, EVM, number of communication channels etc. The reason was they will be in my memory fresh. 
  7. Finally, for the last 10-15 days before my exam, I invested all my energy on solving as many practice questions as I can. I refered questions from the book, 6 questions from KnowledgeHut and the below ones.
    https://edward-designer.com/web/list-of-free-pmp-exam-questions/
    https://sites.google.com/site/pmpbank/pmpquestionbank

    Do note that these sites have some very simple questions, whereas others to pretty standard/hard questions.  
  8. I also used an app called “PMP Smart Practice Test” which I found very useful, because of the reasoning behind each correct answer.  

PMP Exam Experience
One of the great things that I had in Satya’s class was a simulation of the exam experience. He almost made us live the moment from getting into the exam hall, sitting in front of the computer to write the exam, and finally getting out with your results. I’ve schedule my exam 4 months before and used few exam prep guides where they had suggested serveral best practices to deal with the questions. I’m trying to enumerate my experience as precisely as possible.
  1. I personally don’t believe in any last moment preparations. Kept my occupied in other activities (not at all related to the exam) one day before the exam. 
  2. D Day:
    Don’t carry any pencil/pen, paper, notes, books, etc. with you. Only carry your valid photo identification proof… and that’s it.
    Don’t do any writing at all before the exam commences. It will be considered as a misconduct at the Prometric center.
    I mentally visualized all the process flows I practiced, and the key formulas that can help me crack the mathematical questions. Also, it is pretty obvious you will have more than one question from the same topics like from EVM, CPM, questions on ITTOs, and others. Take a couple of minutes at that moment, to dump your thought in the paper if you really want to refer back. 
  3. Cracking 200 questions in 4 hours:
    I didn’t have any specific strategy in my mind. For me I didn’t look at the clock often while answering each question, I just let it go and tried being natural. I found the highlighter and the strikeout to be the great features for visual cues. I finished answering all the questions in about 3 hrs. 40 min. I took the remaining 20 minutes to revisit the marked questions (around 15 to 20)
  4. Types of questions faced:I didn’t face too many mathematical questions and also there were very few direct questions. Questions were on S-to-F dependency, SPI and CPI, e.g. given an SPI-CPI graph for X periods you need to determine how the project has performed on period Y and Z.
    Also, I had several risk-related questions around risk planning, response, and analysis strategies. 
I submitted 30 seconds remaining. My heartbeat was really running faster. I took the survery question. Post that, the result flashed on my screen. Hurray!! Yes, I made it!!!! I passed the PMP exam on Dec 14th, 2017 with Above Target on all process groups except Planning, where it was on Target. 

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
- Dos
  • Do read only one good book. There are so many of them in the market, choose the one that best matches your taste.
  • Do practice as many exam questions as you can. No question is good or bad. Even the simplest question can help you remember topics.
  • Do prepare the process flowcharts yourself. Just try it out... even if it is wrong. Start with as basic as the Project Charter and take it through all the way till the end (Closing). 

- Don’ts
  • Don’t read the PMPBOK guide as the first thing in your learning plan. You must read it, but do it after you have some ground on core concepts. Otherwise, very soon you will lose interest and get demotivated.
  • Do memorize the 5 process groups, 10 knowledge areas, and the 47 processes; but don’t even attempt to memorize the ITTOs. They are not meant to be memorized.
  • Don’t attempt to brain-dump your thoughts before the exam begins at the Prometric center. It is considered as a misconduct.  

Conclusion
I often hear people telling this: PMP will retire soon; it is not according to the modern project management philosophies like Agile, Iterative development etc. 

I’ve a different point of view though. 

Have you seen anyone being specialized in science, arts or commerce without being graduated from their schools? We have to set that foundation first, get our basics clear so we can apply our knowledge towards further specialization. I see the PMP credential as the foundation for project management learnings - really as my project management grad school credential. I can apply these learning just anywhere, be it at my work or organizing my daughter’s birthday party. 

Let’s get it straight. There are no projects in the world which have been ever executed or will be executed without the scope, cost, schedule, resources, and quality being the competing constraints. We have to plan for them even if things are progressively elaborated. We have to estimate the cost of the project, determine the best possible schedule of delivery, analyze risks, manage procurements, and engage stakeholders. Also, for the folks from the IT world, I don’t see the guidance given by PMI® is synonymous with any specific software development methodology. We can fit these learnings just in any approach. Also, I’m coming to know that in the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, Agile development methods/approaches are documented quite in detail. 

For me gaining the PMP credentials is a big accomplishment. I’m looking forward to practising these learning in the real word and reap the benefits. 

Brief Profile
Ayan Mitra has about 13 years of work experience in Information Technology sector. He has been practising project management for about 5 years. He lives with his family in Bangalore. During spare time, Ayan plays his keyboard and listens to instrumental music.  




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