Friday, June 02, 2017

PMP Success Story: Dream Big, Work Hard, Trust the Process, Achieve and Share Lessons Learned

By Sahana Mukund, PMP

I’m a very thrilled project management professional now and am glad I could clear it in the first attempt with proficient grades. Now it is my turn to give it back and I think there is no better way than sharing my experience with this aspiring community. 

I am a project manager by profession and wanted to gain this certification in order to appreciate the nuances of the trade and better my skills and knowledge. 

The world leading reputation of PMP® in the realm of project management, an unquestionable endorsement and the credibility was what motivated me to take up this feat.

PMP Coaching Experience
My first step was to gain 35 hours of learning. After a lot of research, I zeroed in on one for the training. 

Little did I know at this point that I was about to meet a great mentor. I’m talking about none other than Satya sir. He made the class room training on weekends very interactive and an easy to learn and grasp experience. His tips and tricks rivetted the concepts into my brain. The way he got the 47 processes in our brains by the end of the class was commendable. He patiently answered all the questions and gave real life examples for every key area. Trust me this is so important and I realised it more than ever when I was giving the exam. 

The centre staff were equally courteous and made sure we all had a smooth ride. I also made some great friends and it is always good to have people who share the same spirit and enthusiasm as yours. 

The classroom coaching covered pretty much everything we needed to know with detailed directions on how to proceed with further preparation.

My small bit of advice is to take the training and the instructions seriously to gain fruitfully. It is very rare to find someone so keen on your success as much as Satya sir. So, make the best use of his valuable suggestions.

My Own Study
The next stage was long and gruelling. The application submission and the self-study phase. I started with the application process almost immediately after the training session because I did not want the motivation to fizz out. It went through smoothly without any audit. I then made a study plan and pretty much followed it to the tee. 
  • I studied about 3-4 hours on an average every day for about 2 months.   
  • I had purchased Satya sir’s book “I Want To Be A PMP” during the course and it was one of the best decisions I made in this entire journey. I gave one reading of this book and everything was so crisp and got back all the concepts from the class room back to my mind again. 
  • Next, I started reading the PMBOK® guide, which is not at all an easy guide to read. I initially struggled to stay focussed with this book but pushed myself to get going. I used to read a chapter from Satya sir’s book and then go to PMBOK or may be watch a video and then read the same chapter from PMBOK. This made it much easier for me and I finally got a hang of it.
  • I also made it a point to intersperse the study with questions everyday.
  • Other than Satya sir’s book, I had referenced couple of other books to see explanation on some chapters and to know why it is liked by others. But, you have to read PMBOK. No exceptions. 
  • The last 15-20 days of my study was only PMBOK, Satya sir’s book “I Want To Be A PMP". It is fully aligned with the PMBOK guide 5th edition and the best way to remember key ideas with examples and video explanations and questions. Nothing else. 
I did about 4000 questions overall from different sources. Read the PMBOK thrice. Although the last read was a flip through in 2 days. I started with around 70-75% accuracy and towards the end I managed to get to about 85 to 90% in the questions. 

I also went through the Exam Content Outline, Glossary in PMBOK and Lexicons from PMI site.

Finally, I was in touch with my guide Satya sir in every phase and he did not hesitate at all to assist in answering any question or doubt and responded very promptly.

The study phase can be excruciating, but hold on and develop an interest in what you are reading. Wake up everyday with a motivation to finish what you have chalked out for that day. 

My PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled for my exam on 31st May, 2017 at Bangalore’s Prometric centre. I was halfway through with my preparation and had a fair sense of confidence. However, I got more serious after scheduling. So, take a date early so that you will be more focused. 

My strategy for handing the questions in the exam was to take every 75 questions or so and proceed calmly. Also, another strategy was to mark as few questions for review and give it my best shot in the first pass. 

On the D day, I left early at 5:30 AM to beat the traffic. Now question for you! Is this a risk avoidance or risk mitigation – as PMP exam asks in some of its questions?  

As I reached early, it was possible to take the exam early, too. I was given the instructions, a notepad, 2 sharpened pencils and a calculator. You can request a manual calculator if you are not too comfortable with the online one.

The PMP Exam
My questions were weird and tricky. You have to understand the nitty gritty of every concept. They were a mix of long and short but nothing was direct. It was all situational and warranted a decision at every step. Here are the kind of questions faced. Your experience would be of course unique. 
  • A lot of critical path questions. 
  • A lot of questions on which document needs to be updated. 
  • EVM analysis questions and calculations. These are simple if you have understood the concept. 
  • One question on EMV decision tree
  • Quite a few questions on crashing and fast tracking but they were all disguised.
  • Change request sequence is important. Got many questions on that one. 
  • Got loads of questions on the quality tools. Know them in detail. 
  • Know the differences between stakeholder and communication management. Risk response strategies, procurement types, resource calendars, requirements, team building techniques in HR management. 
  • Also learn the closing processes well. 
I was reading fast, analysing quickly and marking with confidence. But time was running was fast. I finally completed 200 questions and was left with only a minute to review. 

My heart was pounding and the survey screen appeared. I skipped it and clicked next awaiting with bated breath. My heart swelled with happiness seeing the word “CONGRATULATIONS”. I was extremely overwhelmed. I then clicked next and saw that I had got 3P’s and 2 MP’s. Moderately Proficient in Initiating and Planning and Proficient in the rest. I knew it was not easy and felt a sense of pride. I gathered my emotions and collected my printout. It was finally time to celebrate ;-)

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Make a study plan and stick to it. No exceptions to this point.
  • Understand the concepts in every chapter.
  • Don’t ignore PMBOK. Go through at least twice.
  • Satya sir’s book “I Want To Be A PMP” is very good. Do read it at least twice.
  • Memorizing will not help. Only memorize the formulae and the 47 processes. Understand everything else.
  • Understand the flow of processes. How everything links with the other.
  • Know initiation and closing processes well. Initiation can be tricky.
  • Know every detail about quality tools.
  • Communication and stakeholder management can get tricky. Understand the small differences well.
  • Know the strategic alignment of projects.
  • Numerical questions tend to be easy but know the concept well. What the formulae mean. How can you interpret anything from that etc.
  • Solve a lot of questions to gain confidence and do include critical path questions as part of your final practice to get a gauge of time. Add about 5-6 questions of this type and check for time.
  • Do not take the exam lightly. Be cautious of time and keep a track while solving questions.
  • Finally, stay confident and smile often and say to yourself that you can do it.
  • Don’t go through too many study materials. Focus on few. From experience, they are pretty much the same information presented differently. See what works best for you to understand what’s going on. That’s most important.
  • Don’t delay taking the exam.
  • Don’t panic when you get tricky questions. Solve through them calmly and trust your preparation.
  • Don’t ever get demotivated. Don’t listen to naysayers and stay positive.


“Don’t downgrade your dreams just to fit your reality. Upgrade your conviction to match your destiny”.  

Learning is life long and PMP is indeed one of my dreams come true. The study cycle has undoubtedly enhanced my understanding to a great extent and made me realize that project management is a life skill. I am looking to leverage this knowledge with my experience and lead big projects successfully.

Final thoughts: Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. So, stay focussed and never give up.

You can reach out to me for any queries at Happy to assist. Good luck and God Bless.

Brief Profile: I am Sahana Mukund with 10+ years of work experience and I was last designated as a Project Manager primarily in the travel, healthcare and retail portfolio. I am currently on a work hiatus and will be moving to New York for my MBA in August 2017.

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