Thursday, February 15, 2018

PMP Success Story: A Hard-Earned Achievement

By Nidhin Sasi, PMP



Introduction
I had attained Accenture Internal certification on Program Project Service Management (PPSM) Specialist in June, 2017. It built basic foundation on Project and Service Management with stress on Accenture Standardized Methodologies. The idea of PMP® certification stemmed from this experience to explore and also attain a globally recognized certification.

The preparation for PMP certification itself enhances your existing level of practical Project Management knowledge and experience. The PMBOK® guide provides an excellent framework touching upon all aspects of Project Management. PMP certification validates the experience and competencies in leading a project with very scientific methodology and real-world situation assessment. 


PMP Coaching Experience
My PMP classroom coaching was done by a provider. Satya led the sessions. The classroom coaching laid the basic foundation for the PMP certification learning.


Satya has an interactive mode of engaging with live scenarios and questions which would make us think and understand the basic concepts. 

Key takeaways from the coaching include a foundational grip on all knowledge areas and key concepts especially – flow of the 47 processes, Earned Value Management (EVM), Critical Path Method (along with Forward Pass, Backward Pass), Risk Management/Register, Benefit Analysis, Strategic Management, Stakeholder Analysis etc.

Own Study
The classroom training was completed on 16th July’17. I started my preparation couple of weeks afterwards albeit at a snail’s pace due to hectic office and house responsibilities.
I tried to spend at-least an hour everyday including weekends, but could not stick to it. However, I ensured I that I didn’t keep a gap of more than a week. This way though I spent less study per day, I didn’t lose touch.

My preparation materials were classroom material, PMBOK Guide and “I WANT TO BE A PMP” book authored by Satya. 

My first target was to complete the course material along with chapter end questions. Next, I read end to end of “I WANT TO BE A PMP” and the PMBOK Guide. These were completed slowly, but I got a good grip. I WANT TO BE A PMP is a detailed version of Satya’s four-day coaching with very explanative videos and articles from this blog – ManagementYogi. The chapter end questions included some brain twisting ones that helped in bettering the understanding. PMBOK Guide meanwhile was little tough in the first read. 

Meanwhile I also completed my application during this period, for which I got help in having a sample spreadsheet to calculate the experience hours. Once the application was accepted, the seriousness of the exam preparation increased.

I made a full stretched study plan in a spreadsheet which I kept on revising till 2 weeks before the exam. I made 7 versions of the plan. This helped me to access how I was progressing and accordingly revise the plan and also put efforts to expedite the progress whenever it lagged. I attempted mock up exams after the complete the initial reading of these 3 materials. The initial scores were in the range of 65-75% with some questions which were very confusing. 

I reached out to Satya to clear most of my doubts in the concepts and mock exams. Satya amidst his busy schedule was kind enough to patiently respond to my numerous questions over phone and email. He has later said that it was my questions that he replied to the most.

After these many exercises, I got a good grip of the subject though there were still some confusions and doubts looming around. Then I re-read I WANT TO BE A PMP book and the PMBOK guide for the 2nd time followed by remaining mock exams of from I WANT TO BE A PMP book. This really increased my grip of the subject and cleared many confusions which previously I had. Then I took chapter end questions from PMP Preparation by Rita Mulcahy and mock exams from Oliver Lehman and the third mock exam from I WANT TO BE A PMP book. These mock exams exposed me to some really brain twisting and high-quality questions which prepared me well for the tough questions I was expecting in the exam.

Book Review - I WANT TO BE A PMP
The experience from Satya’s coaching and his blog made me to buy I WANT TO BE A PMP. 
The book has videos providing a detailed explanation on Earned Value Analysis, Critical Path Method, Critical Chain Method, Point of Total Assumption, Risk Response Strategies, Conflict Management, Soft Skills, among others. Key concepts are explained in a lucid manner with flow charts of the processes across Knowledge Areas.


The flow chart exercises will make you really understand the flow of processes.

The chapter end questions and the mock exams, especially the 3rd Mock exams, and the 75 questions based on Exam Content Outline (ECO) will not only equip you for the challenges of the exam but also of the actual challenges in real life project scenarios and good understanding of the subject.

PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled the PMP Exam for 17th January’18. This was scheduled before my actual plan which I was following because of office and house responsibilities. Due to this I had to slog the last 3 weeks including the New Year weekend.

Altogether I had attended 9 full mock exams of 200 questions previously due to which I had an idea of how to manage the time. My strategy was to take not more than a minute per question, i.e., first target was to complete more than 30 questions in first half an hour and 60 questions in the first hour and to ensure to maintain this pace or even increase the speed. At the same time, you should ensure you do not rush through the questions to achieve this pace because many times during mock exams in-order to achieve the pace, I had answered hastily which I realized when I read the question again, calmly. Hence, I ensured that pace is maintained but at the same time question is read thoroughly and each answer is gone through.

The actual PMP Exam was relatively very easy compared to some of the tough mock exams I attended and questions were relatively more straight forward. However, there were questions based on scenarios and where more than one answers seemed to be correct, for which you needed to spend more than a minute.

In questions where all 4 answers could be correct, I compared each question with every wording of the question. Also for some questions, you can start off by eliminating the wrong questions to zero down to two answers or one answer.

There were mathematical questions for Earned Value Analysis, Critical Path Method, and also question on Change Requests, Communications and Stakeholder Management.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
Dos 
  • Read the PMBOK guide end-to-end and whichever book you are planning to buy, at-least try practicing the chapter end questions.
  • Maintain an exam plan throughout – apply a combination of rough order of magnitude (ROM), analogous, parametric, bottom up estimation techniques to estimate the time and in tracking and revising the plan.
  • Try good quality mock exams and ensure you try at-least 5 full 200 questions mock exams.
  • Visit the Exam centre once before the exam to analyse the traffic and to avoid looking for the centre on the exam.
  • Have a good sleep the day before and avoid last minute study.
  • Reach the Exam centre half an hour before your notification time to reach the centre with a calm mind.

Don’ts
  • Do not by remember anything by heart. Rather, try to have your real-life project scenarios in mind and how you will be using the tools and techniques and processes in those scenarios.
  • Do not attempt mock exams based on previous versions of PMBOK guide.
  • Do not pile up questions, try to clarify with your study group or your coach.

Conclusion
I would try to implement the PMP learnings in my work and also try to undergo advanced level of trainings, understand new concepts and keep track of the latest trends in Project management.

Brief Profile
Nidhin Sasi, Team Lead with close to 13 years of IT experience in Accenture Services Pvt Ltd and a 6 months experience prior to that in a small vendor company for Telecommunications field.





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