PMP certification: The path to become a project management professional

05.04.2018

Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most important industry-recognized certification around the globe for project managers. Being certified ensures employers that you’re ready to perfom in the role of a PM: completing projects on budget, on time and meeting, if not exceeding, the goals set. But when is taking the PMP worth it, who can do it and what are the requirements? Fatima recently completed this certification, and tells us her experience.


I started working in 2003 when I was 22 years old and received my degree in accounting in Paraná, Entre Ríos, Argentina. I did a few internships while studying, and got my first full time job, where I worked for a year. Then I moved to Buenos Aires where I still live. At that moment, it was a big deal to leave everything I’d achieved - my job, my family, my friends, my city - to start again from scratch in  a completely new city, but a new world opened up for me there.

When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I joined Deloitte! For someone coming from a smaller city in  it was incredible to join one of the Big Four! It was definitely a great experience! 

After that Quilmes (AB-Inbev group) reached out to me with a great opportunity; there I stayed for 10 years working as an SAP consultant for different companies (Indra, Techint, Prokarma) and working with different modules (FI, FM, TM, EHS).

In 2014, I got two international SAP certifications: SAP FI – Finance and SAP BOSUP -  Incident Management with SAP Business Objects.

For me, it’s always interesting to be up-to-date, keep learning and validate my know-how by taking those kinds of exams.

 

From SAP Consultant to Project Manager


From that point on, I started leading implementation projects (ERP, BPM, BI), as well as exploring personal or independent projects and decided to go a step further. I started as postgraduate in project managemnet in the  Catholic University of Argentina in 2016. I knew then, that the next step would be to certify myself as PMP. 

In my experience, the PMP certification is simply to go deeper in what you already know, connect all process and areas of knowledge and the iteration between them. The key in achieving the ceritification – besides styding a lot - is to practice with as many exam simulations as you can. You must train your mind to solve 200 questions in the four hours you have for the exam. That means, you have 1 minute per question if you want to leave some time to review those question you were not sure about.

The first time I did a real simulation, it took me 4 hours to complete the 200 questions and I was completely exhausted, it was very difficult to focus and understand what the question was about when I reached the 100-question. That's why it's so important to train your mind – practically the same as going to the gym to train your muscles. With time, I improved my time and also the capacity to stay focused and reason through the questions.

 

PMP exam prep: Personal tips for the PMP certification exam


If you are thinking about becoming PMP cerified or you have already begun prepping for it, here are some personal tips that I think may help:

  • Plan for the exam:  Schedule the exam date based on the daily hours available for studying. I advise allowing 2 to 5 months to fully prepare.

  • Invest at least 150 hours : The minimum dedication should be 150 hours; I trained myself for 250 hours.

  • Schedule time and content simultaneously: Create a schedule including dates and content that you will focus on each day. Be sure to include dates to take practice tests, dates to review the results and dates to repat those tests. Don’t forget buffer time in case of unforseen circumstances!

  • Join a group or do a course: I did a course to prepare for the certification (www.activepmo.com), and I’d recommend everyone to prepare with an academy or experienced consultant who is already certified. Prepare with an academy or specialized consultant that provides simulators by process groups, simulators by areas of knowledge and simulators of 200 questions. For me, having the support of a coach was essential to perform well and get my certification on the first try.

  • Different simulators and styles: It is important to practice with simulators that present different styles of questions. I practiced with simulators of Iván Tejeda, Cecilia Boggi, Rita Mulcahy and Pablo Lledó.
 

PMP certification progress:  The day I took the PMP exam


The PMP certification exam is very demanding, long and complex, so I consider it essential to be fully rested to take the test. I took a few minutes to rest every 50 questions to clear my mind as I did during the PMP exam training. You can leave the room but you are required to leave all your belongings in a locker. Security checks to make sure you don’t have an option to cheat are at top levels. Pockets, sleeves and glasses are checked every time you leave the room and you are monitored on camera during the entire exam.

You are free to go out and grab some water or go to the bathroom, but the same check will be done on your return. To maximize the time you have for the exam, I would recommend taking breaks as you need them, but being aware of how long you’re away. (Here's a good way to practice that.)

I decided to take the exam in Spanish,  so I saw the screen split in two parts. At the top I saw the questions and answers in Spanish and below, the same content in English. No matter which language you get tested in, the answer is always selected in English.

Questions cover several concepts, processes and of course, different areas of knowledge. It’s extremely important to understand all the concepts, know all functions, tools, techniques, etc.

There are many questions regarding integrated change control and quality. Therefore, it’s a must to throroughly understand all planning, assurance and quality control tools that can be used.

For me, it was an incredible and unique experience. If you are wondering if it’s easy, it’s definitely not. When you finish and send your answers to the computer, it takes a few seconds to process them. The excitement of seeing the message “PASS, congratulations!” is indescribable!

I am very grateful for the path followed to achieve this certification. Now I’m just looking forward to continue pursuing new challenges and surpassing myself. If you’re passionate about what you do, nothing is impossible. 
 

“ If you’re passionate about what you do, nothing is impossible.  ”

 

Do I need a PMP certification?


The Project Management Institute (PMI®) is an expert institution with presence in more than 180 countries that promotes the certification of professionals in project management with globally-recognized standards. Thanks to it, the PMP certification has a high recognition everywhere in the world. The PMI Certification Program is also certified in ISO 9001, which demonstrates its commitment to excellence.

Having completed the PMP certification will help you to get more chances to get new and better job offers. Besides it will ensure that you constantly update your skills, since you need to obtain Professional Development Units (PDUs) to maintain your certification. This assures that you are aware of developments and changes withing project management.
 

What are the requirements to get PMP certified?


You must actually meet certain requirements to be able to take the examination:

  • A four-year degree (a university degree or its equivalent worldwide) and at least three years of experience in project management, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of education in project management.

  • A high school diploma (high school or its equivalent worldwide) with at least five years of experience in project management, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of education in project management.

Something important to note is that the independent projects, projects or ventures that one leads personally count as experience.

Beyond complying with the formal requirements, it is a very personal decision to go for the certification. In my experience, in addition to the professional benefits, it represented a very important personal challenge that I was incredibly proud to conquer.

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