Wednesday, August 30, 2017

PMP Success Story: What Does It Take To Be A PMP?

By Chaitanya Rao Araveti, PMP

Curiosity can open doors to much relishing opportunities. It was a year back where I got this chance to go through the topics in PMP® that eventually made me take the much-coveted certification.

I thought I couldn’t do it with the kind of schedule we live in and the very thought of spending time on learning something for an exam was a no-no. However, as the saying goes, if you have the will and the grit, nothing is impossible.

Why PMP? 
It makes you stand apart from the crowd! The benefit of doing this certification is both tangible and intangible. You immediately fall in the zone of sure pay rise and the long-term value of being recognized worldwide in this global workspace.

PMP Coaching Experience
I did my thorough research, called a dozen of institutions. Went through the profiles of instructors from different training centers!  Out of all, Satya’s profile snapshot was the one that caught my attention. It was a perfect balance of both knowledge and industry experience. Other’s might have had knowledge but lacked credible industry experience.

The 35 hours of Satya’s class was like a treasure trove of knowledge. It was intense in experience and rich in knowledge. Sometimes, things did go above my absorption bandwidth, but he does take questions irrespective of the time and makes sure the concept is clearly understood by everyone.

The training was concise and precise and to the point. The approach is mainly exam oriented and in line with the PMBOK® guide, so sometimes you had to go against your known understanding of project management. For me, I understood the concepts very well and the training became a base for me to start my preparation for the exam. 

You should watch out for his “Tips” as they come in very handy while studying. Make a note of it. With this training, I had a structured view of PMP and could connect the dots between processes with less effort. 

My advice to fellow applicants is to pay attention to Satya’s class. Each word and sentence what he says carry value. I understood this when I was doing a self-study, where I recollected a lot what Satya taught us in the 4-day training program.

Own Study
Every hour spent is accounted and valuable. So, I started keeping time for the study.

For the return on investment, you should know the effort that you have spent, so I kept a tab on the time I spent in hours. I started with Head First PMP’s book, and skimmed through Rita’s book, especially questions at the end of chapters and read the PMBOK Guide thoroughly. 

Why PMBOK is a Must Read?
Some of the questions were a direct reference to PMBOK, including the verbiage used. Most of the question refer the PMBOK and you can easily relate to the question if you have read the PMBOK. 

Do not miss the ‘Glossary’ in PMBOK guide. It is like a refresher of the terms and definitions that you have learned in PMBOK. (MUST). Read through each chapter in the PMBOK guide, in detail and take notes with the information and understanding.

As a reference and guide, ManagementYogi blog came in very handy as the most difficult topics are explained in a structured and convenient way for us to understand. 

Time Spent
Overall, I spent around 140 hours reading the PMBOK Guide and reference books. My duration was around 3 months.

What can you do extra?
  1. Took printout and pasted all the processes, formulas and process relations on the wall of my room. It’s like a visual sub-conscious study. 
  2. To be in the zone all the time of your study is quite daunting unless you have something to consider – Apps is the answer. (IOS). Few apps are PMP Smart Prep – Practice Test, PMP Exam Prep2017 Edition and PMPro – Free PMPExam Prep
There are lot more, beware of the quality though. Formulas were never a problem for me, so I didn’t take any extra measures to learn.

Exams/Mock Questions Used 
Practice is quite a game changer. But make sure you don’t overdo it. There is a very thin line of thinking, where you start making mistakes as you start to overthink even for a simple question. This happened to me.

You should know, when to stop taking questions and relax, too ;-)

I started my practice questions with  
  1. Satya’s 3 sets of 200 questions and 4th set of 75 questions, from the book – I Want To Be A PMP. (Very close to the exam type)
  2. Oliver Lehmann’s 75 questions and 175 questions.
And I did many more, however, the above two were the best I enjoyed and were close to the PMP style of questionnaire.

PMP Exam Experience
All that matters are 4 hours at the end. Once I consistently started getting 78 to 85% in my practice mock exams, I scheduled my exam.

Register yourself in and start the registration process. Be a PMI member!

I strongly suggest to download and read the ‘Project Management Professional Handbook’ which clearly describes about certification program, how to apply, how to record your experience and education in the application and much more. Most of them are self-explanatory!  

I scheduled my exam on 21st August, 2017, 8 AM. Be ready for a long 4 hours test – a test of your stamina as well as your concentration. 

Satya’s question papers are a real chance to mock the PMP exam! The closest you can get to the real one. I did four consecutive 200 set questions in 4 days just before exam at the same time in the morning at 8:00 AM. This gave me an understanding of how I should orient myself in allocating my brain bandwidth consistently for the entire 4 hours.

In the initial hour my concentration was high, but it dropped substantially afterwards. To counter I practised taking a time out for 3 minutes and taking deep breaths that kept my system in control. 

Out of 200 questions, around 185 questions were situational and it demanded a thorough understanding of the concepts. It took an average of 25 to 40 seconds to read the question itself and the rest to comprehend and find the best answer.

PMI had introduced two new features in the exam:
  • Strike out option – which could visually help you in narrowing down on the answers.
  • Highlight option - you can highlight sentences so that you can only concentrate on the part of the question that makes sense rather than reading the question again.

These two options come in handy when you are reviewing the questions as you would be running short of time in the end, so make use of them diligently.
Reading of the glossary came in handy for me as few questions came from the most unexpected quarters of PMBOK, like a few for instance:
  • About the types of activities – Discrete, Apportioned, LOE
  • Activity ID and Activity Code differences.
  • FMEA (Analysis techniques) 
  • Standard vs policy

Mathematical Questions
  • Surprisingly the mathematical questions were direct and simple. EVM questions were straight forward.
  • Had couple of questions from EMV which were again direct, asking to calculate the total EMV.
  • Questions from the Time Management were little time consuming as I had to create the network diagram from the scratch as they just provided the dependent activity and the duration and asked me to derive the free and total float of activities.

Situational and Tricky Questions
I felt most of the questions were heavy worded where the intention was to divert your focus from the actual question.

The simple trick is to understand what they want rather than why they want! 

I have noticed that the last two sentences carry the actual question of “what” and you just need to concentrate on that part. The rest of the paragraph is just a story and a buildup. However, having said that you should read the entire question once clearly.

It is also a test of your English comprehension and grammar.  A simple difference of “is” or a “was” can change the process or the process group completely while answering.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants

  • PAY and register first or you shall never write the exam.
  • The PMBOK guide is a must read. Read at least twice and skim through once just before the exam.
  • Practise good quality questions and keep evaluating where you are weak.
  • Always keep yourself in constant touch with the subject. A gap of a week or two can disrupt your focus. There are situations where you might have to tend to other work, in that situations mobile apps come in handy. Keep doing practise questions so that you won’t lose the focus.
  • Make notes. Refer Satya’s tips - they are very handy.
  • Read the Management Yogi blog for more insights and better inputs. (e.g., PMP Protein
  • Practise mathematical questions a lot so your response time improves.
  • Join PMP groups in Linkedin – there are a lot of discussions that happen and participate in them.
  • If you are stuck some place, call Satya.

  • Do not refer many books, you lose sight of the actual concept.
  • Don’t believe the internet.
  • Validate your references well. Seek Satya’s advice.
  • Do not panic in the exam, stop and take deep breaths and come back to your zone.
  • Don’t overthink, draw line when to and when not to.
  • Don’t take long gaps(days) in between the study time. Stay focused and determined.
  • If you are sick or ill, do not study at that time as you shall recover slow. This happened to me, as I feel sick two weeks prior and still kept studying and it took a toll on me both mentally and physically. Take complete rest for a day or two until you are recovered. I even did a mock exam and failed miserably as my concentration levels were hit bad. It can hit your confidence. So, health comes first then you can think of wealth!

Unlike other certifications I have seen, PMP make sure you are always in constant touch with subject by means of earning PDU’s. This is a smart way of keeping yourselves updated as well, so that we all can remain competitive in this ever-changing dynamic of technology and process.

I would love to contribute back to the project world with the insights and knowledge gained from this course. If you give back, you get more in return is what I have learned.

It’s just not professionally, but I am able to apply the concepts in my day to day life starting right from the kitchen to planning trips! 

It has been a wonderful journey for the past 3 months where I have learned a lot about myself, my capabilities and my hidden skills. I wish all of you enjoy the same and get yourself a PMP credential. Cheers!

Name: Chaitanya Rao Araveti
Company: Shell Oil and Gas
Role: Project Application Lead
Other Companies I worked with: Robert Bosch, CenturyLinks, Ciber.

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