Thursday, December 21, 2017

PMP Success Story: Grit and Determination, A Supporting Family and A Wonderful Coach Led To Success

By Priyadarshi Samal, PMP

As I’ve seen, the importance of Project Management has been increasing. At the same time, it is getting more complex and more demanding job with multitudes of constrains – time, scope, cost, quality, risk, resources and also constraints related to market and environment factors. You need to have a sound understanding on them to be successful in your job as a Project Manager. 

In addition, there are a few of the PMP® benefits, which augmented my decision. They are: 
  • A worldwide recognized certification, provided by world's leading project management organization.
  • Number 1 Project Management certification, worldwide. 
  • Applicable across various industry industries.
  • A number of job opportunities for PMP certified professionals and recognition in your current company and across other organizations.
  • Well administered, tested professionally and also has Audit.

Also, when I joined IBM, India in year 2012, one of my 5-year goals were to improve my knowledge and skills in Project Management field. I knew that this could not only be achieved by having real life work experience but also being competent enough to crack the PMP exam. After completing my training, which was led by Mr Satya Narayan Dash - our wonderful mentor, I was able to put a dedicated effort to prepare for the exam. But, due to work and other commitment, I had to defer my preparation. 

Finally, in the beginning of October 2017, I took it as a firm personal goal to be a PMP certified before I complete 5 years at IBM. I committed myself to the plan of cracking the exams and scheduled the date of exam as 27th November, 2017 and not delay it any further. 

PMP Coaching Experience
Having Satya Narayan Dash as a visionary coach helped me a lot. His approach to get anyone prepared for the PMP exam is very systematic, up to the point. His explanations are quite practical and very easy to understand. 

He gets into the basics in the best way possible. I was thankful to have him as my coach for PMP exam. I believe you are more than prepared for the exam after having gone through 35 hours of training with Satya. Rest, of course, will be your own effort. 

The exam is definitely not a cake-walk and I had put in a lot of effort to prepare myself. It requires a lot of patience and consistency in your own thought process. This was aptly supported by Satya who is a great mentor and coach and guides us in the right direction.

The PMP classroom training is essential in addition to your own preparation for the exam. For me, the key takeaways are:
  • You will get an environment to be prepared for the exam effectively and efficiently.
  • This class room training helps in having the concepts clear in a short period of time.
  • Prepares you with a systematic and precise way to approach the exam.
  • The tips covered in this class are truly helpful in passing the PMP exam.

Own Study
It took me around 8-9 months of dedicated preparation which included study of around 3-4 hours daily on week days and around 6-8 hours over the weekends. I read the following books:
  • The PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition by Project Management Institute (PMI®): This is the best source of study material available. Please do not get bogged down by the pressure of having to read multiple books. Because this is inarguably the best source of information to clear the PMP exams. Though the 6th Edition will be enforced in March end 2018, but those who are planning to give the exam, before that, can still rely on the PMBOK Guide, 5th edition.
  • I Want To Be A PMP” book by Satya Narayan Dash is a great source of knowledge and exam prep. It has study material and questions which are of outstanding standard and quality.
  • “PMP exam prep Questions & Answers by Christopher Scordo”, which has great practise exams and one needs to complete before appearing for the PMP exam. 

My extensive study plans included stressing on the following:
  • Understand the flow of all 47 processes within 10 knowledge areas (KAs) 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.

Book Review - I Want to Be A PMP
I bought the e-book: “I Want To Be A PMP” as I got to know from the class room training. While enquiring – if Satya had any particular material which is exactly in line with his style of explanation, I came to know about the book. The way it’s written is very easy to understand and all needed concepts are explained in a precise manner. 

It also has many tips and tricks that really helps. It is a very interactive e-book which makes you feel as if you are interacting with Satya. As the book is an online version, it’s always kept up-to-date and latest. Hence, it will reflect the best and latest available content.

The book has many videos to explain the important topics of the exam and are explained in the easiest possible way! This book comes with 3 question sets with increasing level of difficulty. These help you to prepare well for the exam. The sets are very much closer to the real exam in look and feel. 

This book and question sets holistically equip you to be ready the PMP exam. This book improves your confidence to write the PMP exam.

PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled my PMP exam more than a month before the exam date. Before going for the exam even, my strategy was to complete 50 questions in every 1 Hour to meet the target of 200 questions in 4 Hours. While taking the exam, this approach worked best for me. Also, this strategy helped me completing the exam in around 20 mins left! 

The best part about going through the tutorial is that it guides you on how to approach the exam. I followed the same, and understood that you can highlight the part of the question which you feel will help you relate to the intent of the question. This helped me a lot! As well you can strike out an option, which you feel is not relevant. 

There were a lot of situational questions that were tricky that will really test your thorough understanding of the concepts. There were questions like - “As a Project manager, what you should be doing FIRST”, from among an option of 4 choices. All four choices are correct, but you have to pick the right one. There were few mathematical questions mostly around 15-20 cost management and schedule management areas which one should be able to answer if you practiced a lot of similar questions and also are clear on the fundamentals. 
  • To be precise the actual PMP exam questions were mostly on the below subjects:
  • Stakeholders Management
  • Procurement Management
  • Risk Response strategies
  • Risk Management
  • Change Request (Important)
  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control - differences
  • Mathematical questions (primarily on Time and Cost Management KAs)

I’ve a few suggestions for aspiring PMPs:
  • Do not sit for the PMP exams if you are not scoring in excess of 85-90% consistently across all the KA’s (Knowledge Areas) and across all the PG’s (Process Groups) in the mock exams (e.g., exams in Satya’s e-Book).
  • Maintain your pace during the exam. Don’t keep on trying a question for longer duration. This will a penalty on your time. Mark the question, move on and come back if you have time. 
  • If you have long questions, take them at the end. This will save you a lot of time.
  • Use the facilities provided the Prometric center, e.g. handsets to offset the noise, calculators, scratch papers and pencils. These will come in handy when needed.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Do have your concepts very clear and have a thorough understanding of the PMBOK before you appear for the exam.
  • Do study for at least 3-4 hours daily to prepare for the exam. 
  • Do have the right coach to guide you. It is really important and follow his guidance which ensures you are on the right track.
  • 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.
  • Do understand what process group the question falls under, while attempting to answer the questions in exam. Understanding this itself will make you look for the right option within the answers given.
  • Do try to think of real life examples and align the concepts for better understanding.
  • Practice, practice and practice.

  • Don’t mug up anything at all. That will not help you but rather make things difficult for you on the exam day.
  • Don’t underestimate the exam questions. The questions are not direct but situation based. Hence, try to answer the questions on their merit.
  • Don’t ever get demotivated. Believe in yourself and move forward.
  • Don’t allow any confusion to be there in your mind on the concepts. If you have doubt, immediately clarify with your coach or from the PMBOK guide.
  • Don’t allow the rhythm of your preparation to break as it can slow down your preparation or you may need to start again.
  • Don’t delay in submitting the application and scheduling your exam. If you are not serious about the exam, chances are that you will not clear it.
  • Don’t take the preparation lightly. PMP certification is one of the best investment you will make for yourself. So, invest wisely, both your time and yourself.
  • Don’t panic when you get tricky questions. Trust your preparation and act accordingly.

The whole process of getting PMP certified is an enriching experience and being a PMP, is definitely a great accomplishment. Simultaneously, passing PMP does not mean that you know everything about Project management.  It just ensures that you are being certified for being able to address the real-life scenarios of project management and make you better prepared to handle such scenarios in future. 

PMP certification is a remarkable achievement and it is one of the success in your life, which you will definitely cherish for your lifetime. It brings along with it the credibility to your existence in the current organization as a Project Manager as well as socially presenting yourself in the capacity of a PMP Certified.

You would definitely require your family to be by your side, when you have preparation of this magnitude. In want to thank my wife for her long-standing support throughout my journey. 

I look forward to leverage these skills and knowledge, coupled with my experience, educate others around me of the PMP methods, processes, and lead projects within IT and if given a chance, in other industries too. 

Brief Profile
Priyadarshi Samal, currently Project Manager in IBM India Pvt Ltd working for a leading US Liability Insurance client. With more than 9 Years of experience in Information Technology across multinational companies catering to financial services, healthcare, retail and manufacturing industries.

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