Happy International Project Management Day. I am going to celebrate the day by providing the answer to a question I received the other day from my friend Debbie.
Hi Vicki, so I am seriously evaluating my career. Based on my skills and what I excel at, I am very interested in getting into Project management. Can you offer any advice on how to start? My resume is mainly in sales so I am lost as to even get started. Let me know your thoughts.
It dawns on me that Debbie is likely just one of many wanting to transition into formal project management. Here is my quick start guide to beginning your career in project management.
- Go through your experience and resume highlighting the things that you have done that fall under the umbrella of project management. The best resource to know what this looks like is the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK© 5th Edition). This linked mapping of tasks to Knowledge Areas and Process Groups from PMBOK © 4th Edition provides an easy reference of what those “things” are. Most people have done activities that fall in this area, but articulating what these activities are and the projects supported will be a big help to taking the next step.
- Begin exploring entry-level project positions that may be a good fit. Some common titles you may find are Project Coordinator, Project Expeditor, Project Assistant, or Project Scheduler. Indeed.com is a great resource for exploring the types of jobs that are available in your area.
- Join the Project Management Institute® (PMI). Your membership and involvement shows commitment to the profession. Further, the network and education you can get through membership is extremely valuable in heading down this road.
With these steps, you will understand how your own experience fits into the project management field, know more about what jobs are out there, and begin building your knowledgebase and network for a smooth transition.
Project managers, what advice do you have to those wanting to explore a move to project management? Please share.
Strategies for Project Sponsorship is coming to New Orleans for the PMI Global Congress. Vicki will be presenting at 2:30p on Sunday. Workshop attendees will receive a copy of the Sponsorship Checklist and one lucky attendee will receive a signed copy of the book. Register for NA13ESM01 : Strategies for Project Sponsorship today!
On a different note, join Vicki for an unsponsored, informal night of local New Orleans food and blues on Saturday. Vicki’s classmate Eloise Davis is a member of Major Bacon, a local New Orleans blues band. Join Vicki for dinner before hand and the gig. More information on Vicki’s Facebook.
I recommend Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects for all seasoned and up and coming project managers. Michael Greer takes a different approach by focusing on the core best practices that are critical to project success, in some cases combining two or more PMBOK tasks into a cohesive step for managing the project. The PM Minimalist is a great reference for project managers that will specifically help in cases where…
- Someone assigned project manager who has not had significant experience and exposure to best practices. They will get great insight to some of the more critical project management best practices that will help make sure project success without having to become an expert on all PMBOK processes.
- The seasoned project manager who needs to streamline project management practices that are not adding value to the overall success of the project. This book will offer insights to help prioritize and effectively streamline these practices when appropriate.
Each steps includes an overview, expected results, process, and practical tools, guidelines, and examples. The one item I would add to the core list is some level of risk management. I do see an opportunity to apply the minimalist approach to this work, but do not recommend it be left out of the mix altogether. Risk management does land in the author’s previous top 20 of project activities, The Project Manager’s Partner, Second Edition so I know we are not far apart in our thinking.
Each project has its own personality and level of complexity. Project managers will need to use their expertise and common sense to decide where the minimalist approach is best for their project and where formal processes are required. Giving processes the “minimalist squeeze” will help project managers make sure they are spending the team’s time, as well as their own, in the most productive way.
The second part of this book is especially helpful to project managers and developing their own leadership abilities. These lessons really apply to all in many situations. I think of it as a mini self-help that all project managers will benefit from broken into two main sections; the people stuff (working with team), and taking care of yourself. Quotes, examples, and stories help project managers in the softer skills required by project managers. Additional references are provided for those who wish to explore further the idea.
More information on publication is available through the author’s website.
Vicki James, Peter Taylor, and Ron Rosenhead share their insights on the secrets to effective project sponsorship from their new book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship”
Research into the causes of project failure clearly shows there is a real problem around the Project Sponsor role. The Project sponsor is critical to project success, yet it is a role that is often assigned to a member of an organization with little knowledge or training in project management practices. In their new book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship”, authors Vicki James, Peter Taylor, and Ron Rosenhead address the challenge of project sponsorship from all three vantage points—that of the project manager, the project sponsor, and the organization. The book reveals the secrets to effective project sponsorship and how to help project managers and project sponsors work in concert and leverage their respective organizational roles and responsibilities.
Updated 7/27/2013 with a second student LL.
A student of mine just sat for the PMP exam and passed on his first try! Yay!! He took the extra step of writing up his lessons learned to share with his classmates. I am now sharing with the world (with permission).
Congratulations JC!!!! And thank you for sharing.
Although I passed the PMP exam, it was actually a pretty stressful experience for me and there were a few lessons learned for me that I think are worth sharing without getting into the actual questions.
First of all, I made the mistake of not skipping the hard questions. I’m stubborn, so I just didn’t want to move on to the next question until I could at least make an educated guess. I felt like I was doing pretty well on the first few questions, but then I ran into this one formula question, where I could not figure out how to arrive at any of the answers using the formulas. After spending way too much time thinking about it, I finally gave up and made an educated guess without using any formulas. Because of this, and the fact that I’m a slow reader, I ended up spending almost an hour on the first 25 questions or so… So of course, I panicked and had to really rush for the rest of the exam. And being in panic mode made it hard to concentrate on questions, especially long ones. I was finally able to get through all the questions with about 20 minutes to spare for reviewing, but I wasn’t able to review all of the questions I marked. So you might want to practice the technique of skipping the hard ones the first time through.
Another mistake I made was that I drank too much water leading up to the exam and I did not go to the bathroom just before the exam. So I ended up going to the bathroom twice during the exam. And because I was in a rush for most of the time, I answered many questions while wanting to go to the bathroom…
Also, taking a bathroom break may take an extra few minutes than you think. And if you’re in a rush, you might wanna try to take your break when other test takers are not at the testing room entrance. Every time you go out of the testing room you have to check out, the test administrator has to help you sign your name and time. And before you can go back in, you have to go through the strip search again and then sign your name and time. If there is anybody else that’s checking in or out at the same time, then you have to wait your turn.
Other notes about the security:
- The strip search involves rolling up your sleeves to show your wrists, turning all of your pockets inside out, pulling up the bottom of your pants to show the top of your socks, answering the question of where your cell phone is, and having them wave the metal detector on you front and back. So you might want to wear clothes that’s easy to show your wrist and socks and with fewer pockets.
- However, the testing room had the air conditioning blasted, so it was freezing cold in there! I had a long sleeve shirt and slacks with a jacket on, but I often had to rub my hands and thighs to warm them up. I had only brought my jacket because it was cold in the morning and I had planned to take it off inside, but I ended up zipping up my jacket in the testing roomJ
- Next to the locker, there was a rack to put your drink and snack outside of the exam room. You don’t want to put your drink and snack in the locker, because you CANNOT access your locker during the exam. They give you the key to your locker, but they put a plastic strip on your locker that prevents you from opening your locker until you are done with the exam. I think this is to prevent you from accessing your cell phone during your break. So I’m not sure, but I don’t think you are allowed go outside during your break either.
- I brought my ear plugs, but I had a plastic case for my ear plugs, which they told me I had to put in the locker. Only the ear plugs were allowed and not the plastic case. I’m glad to have had the ear plugs just to eliminate the loud noise of the air conditioner. There were headsets at every desk, but I didn’t try them.
- They also told me that I had to put my handkerchief in the locker… So I guess you have to take a break if you need to wipe your nose or hands (or use your sleevesJ)
- I walked in the testing center around 7:50, but since there were many people ahead of me, so I ended up starting my tutorial around 8:15. So you will wanna get there early if you want to start on schedule. If you’d like to know exactly what to expect when you walk into the testing center, here is what happens. When you walk in, they ask for your last name (no need for print out of reservation), they take your ID, stack them in a pile, give you a list of rules to read, and have you wait until it’s your turn. When you’re called, you get a numbered locker key, you put things in the numbered locker, place drink and snack on a rack, and then you get strip searched. Then they ask you for your email address that you applied with, check-in by using the same signature on your ID and they give you the time to write down. Then they hand you a stapled set of scratch paper and pencils (which you have to bring back out with you when you’re done with the exam and give it back). When they first escort you into the testing room, they ask you to wait by the door until they check your numbered seat and then give you the okay to go there.
Lessons Learned #2
I left 1.5 hours early after a good night’s sleep, a light breakfast, but didn’t overdue it on the coffee or water – based on JC’s recommendation.
I made the mistake of clicking on the END TUTORIAL at the end of the tutorial, which immediately started the exam. This means I forfeited the time to jot down my cheat sheet. Although I think this was mentioned in class, I still fully expected a START EXAM option.
Another odd thing was that time at the testing center is much faster than at home. I took a lot of practice exams, several with 100 questions and a full 200 question practice the day before my exam. At home I was never anywhere close to using up all the time, even including bathroom breaks etc. Similar to Jason’s report, I ended up being very rushed and paying close attention to the clock. Especially since at one point I’d fully convinced myself that since the was testing our project management skills, simply finishing within the allotted schedule might in itself affect the score.
I was very happy to have spent extra time practicing Earned Value. A few of the questions requiring formulas where however posed in such a convoluted manner that I ended up just giving it a best guess instead of figuring. I’d then note the question number on my scrap paper so that I could go back to it at the end of the test, if I had any extra time.
Understanding the differences between the various types of charts, diagrams, analyses, etc were not straightforward to me – so I refreshed my memory in this area the evening before the exam. I’m glad I did.
I didn’t spend additional time studying up on network diagramming, but only because I’ve had a lot of scheduling background, so this seemed fairly straightforward to me. I could likely have invested more time here, especially around calculating float.
I told myself I’d take a quick break at the 100th question. Of course someone walked into the ladies bathroom right as I headed there. I used the men’s room instead, and reported to the officials that they needed to restock the paper towels. I have no shame in this area.
I focused on remembering to take deep breaths at least three questions. Since it seemed that I wasn’t completely certain how to answer most of the questions, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to pass. I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could and failing wouldn’t be the end of the world. I reminded myself that the end of the world is the only end of the world. Everything else is an inconvenience.
I created the following study guide for students of my PMP prep courses. I post this now with thoughts of those sitting for the exam in the next six-weeks, before PMBOK 4th Edition testing ends July 31, 2013. Please comment with your own study suggestions for others.
- Create crib sheet
- Create your own. Doing it yourself will force you to write the solutions which will help with memory retention. It will also make more sense to you as you will document knowledge in the way that makes the most sense to you. Suggestions for crib sheet include (in priority order):
- Earned Value Formulas
- 3-point estimating formulas
- Communications Channels
- Present-Future Value Formulas
- Conflict Resolution Types
- Types of Power for the Project Manager
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
- Contract Types
- Organizational Structure Characteristics
- Sigma Percentages
- Cost Estimate Range Table
- Slack, Forward, and Backward Pass Formulas
- Risk Response Strategy (Positive Risks)
- Risk Response Strategy (Negative Risks)
- Communication Model
- PTA Variables
- Review PMBOK section 3 – Inputs, Tools & Techniques, & Outputs by Knowledge Area (also available in combined slideshow)
- Practice PDM
- Practice EMV
- Play Rita’s Process Game – Start Page 43
- Play Rita’s Numbers Game – Start Page 260
- Take sample test of at least 100 questions (http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/pmp_exam/v1/quiz.html)
- Review score and identify missed questions by knowledge area
- Review Rita’s Book*, the PM Answer Book*, and PMBOK*, for each the three weakest knowledge areas
- As needed, go to PMI 24/7 Books (eReads) – http://www.pmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Virtual-Library-eReads-and-Reference.aspx
- Search through library to find additional resources that will help increase knowledge of that area (many books have practice exams by knowledge area that will help you test your knowledge)
- Repeat steps 2 – 8 noting any changes in comprehension by knowledge area and adjusting as necessary
A note about practice test:
- DO – use test results to determine knowledge areas that you are weaker in
- DO – use test to get comfortable with format of questions and strategy for answering
- DON’T – use test results as a final indicator of the score you will get on the final test
- Recreate crib sheet from memory (cheat only if needed)
- Review PMBOK by knowledge area (inputs, tools and techniques, outputs)
- Review PMI-isms (Rita page 15-17)
- Review Chapter 14 – the PMP Exam (Rita’s book)
- Play Rita’s Process Game – Start Page 43
- Play Rita’s Numbers Game – Start Page 260
- Recreate matrix of Knowledge Area and Process groups from memory
- Take sample test of at least 100 questions (Transcender or http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/pmp_exam/v1/quiz.html)
Night Before / Day Of
- Determine any urgent study needs from test results and study
- Verify test location and time
- Find your exam schedule notice and set aside where you will NOT forget the next day
- Take a break – put it all aside, relax, and take care of your self
- Don’t over do
- Get a good night sleep
- Eat a healthy meal
- Review your crib sheet, matrix of Knowledge Area and Process Groups
- Remember your exam schedule notice
- Pack a healthy snack and water
- Get to test site early
- Review your crib sheet again paying special attention to difficult to remember formulas (don’t try to crash memorize more than 3 or you’ll fill up the brain)
- Go to exam room (they will likely let you sit for the exam early if you get there early provided they have a test station available)
- Store your personal items in locker provided
- Use the restroom
- Once you are at the test station
- Recreate your crib sheet on paper provided
- Use the time available to get comfortable with the computerized test (allowed 15 minutes)
- Start the clock when ready
Principles to Remember
- The Project Manager has authority within the parameters of the charter
- Stakeholders include everyone including the team and project manager
- For any decision or problem
- Identify the problem
- Analyze the Impact
- Evaluate Options
- Prepare a Recommendation
- Communication is candid yet empathic with problem solving in mind
- All project information is transparent unless confidential (for a reason)
- The Project Manager is always proactive toward the project and bettering project management practices within the organization
- Address problem and potential issues head on
- The Lazy PM
- Emphasizes planning
- Stakeholders are privy to plans for smooth transition to response eliminating “fire fighting mode”
- Read the entire question and possible answers before settling on an answer
- Dissect question – what is it actually asking
- Look for extraneous information
- Look for double-negatives – translate to positive question
- Look at the potential answers
- What is the sequence of events based on the PMBOK
- Sequence the possible answer to determine BEST NEXT
- Review the sequence with possible answers of lists to rule-out or identify the best answer
- Does a single answer have a mix of concepts that are not in context with the question – rule it out
- Does a single answer sound like a good practice, something you would do, BUT is not covered in your study or PMBOK – rule it out
- When comparing two answers – is one more formal then the other? The more formal answer may be the correct one with the informal answer being the “good idea” that is not the official answer
- What is the sequence of events based on the PMBOK
In Reviewing Questions During the Test
- Run through the test once answering the easy questions and flagging the not-easy questions.
- Run through the test a second time to answer the flagged questions. Unmark those you are relatively comfortable with, keep marked the ones you want to come back to
- Take a break!!!!
- Run through the test again for only the marked items, verify your answers – have a darn good reason for changing if you had answered. Your first instinct may very well be the right one.
- In your final run through look for
- Questions that may have been tricks
- Wordy questions
- Answers include similar lists of items
- Seemed too good to be true
- The first 20-50 questions that you answered as your frame of mind may not have been ready for a trick
- Take a break!!!!
- Last run through as you determine necessary – look for potentially obvious mistakes you may have made. Again, if you are waffling between two answer, your first instinct may be correct – consider leaving the original response
- Know that is normal to stop breathing the second you hit “done”
- There may be a slight delay and a survey on the test experience will be presented (SERIOUSLY!?!?)
- There may be a slight delay and then a message on the overall test results “Congratulations, you have passed.”
- The test proctor staff will provide you with proof.
- Email Vicki@project-pro.us (I want to hear!)
- PMI will mail you certificate and other goodies to accompany your PMP.
A failing test score is not a failure!! You only truly fail when you give up. Remember, the test was designed to only achieve a certain level of passing attempts. Also remember, it was designed expecting test takers to already be experienced expert level project managers. You should take the opportunity to take the exam again. See http://pmstudent.com/4-steps-to-recover-from-a-pmp-exam-fail/.
The books listed here were used for classes relating to the 4th Edition of the PMBOK. Look for the most current editions if planning to sit for the exam after 7/31/2013. See The Project Pro’s Bookstore, PMP Prep shelf for these and other titles.
- Rita’s Book – Or ther study book such as the Andy Crowe version
- Mulcahy, R. (2011). Pmp exam prep, seventh edition. RMC Publications
- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (4th Edition)
- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (4th Edition)
- PM Answer Book
- Furman, J. (2012). The Project Management Answer Book. Management Concepts Press.
This is the third and final installment of the So You Want to be a Business Analyst…Or Perhaps You Already Are series. Part One discusses the role of a business analyst with Part Two focusing on a better understanding of when you play both roles and determining where you may lean given your capacity and skills. In this third part will explore how to pursue your career as a business analyst.
Step 1 – Call yourself a business analyst
You are what you do and not your job title. If you do business analysis then you are a business analyst. Maybe your job title is project manager, technical writer, program manager, product consultant. It does not matter. My first six-years in the project world I held the working title of “product manager” and job classification of “state financial consultant”. You will find this work listed as “business analyst/product manager” on my résumé and LinkedIn profile. “Business analyst” is industry standard for the work done and provides a commonality across organizations.
Repeat after me. “I am a business analyst, I am a business analyst…”
Step 2 – Update your résumé
What does your résumé say about you and the jobs you have held? Give your résumé a hard look and find those tasks and deliverables that you have listed that fit under the category of ‘analysis’. Try this – type the word “analysis” in Word and then right-click to view synonyms. Let me help you out with a picture of the results I get. Use these words as a guide in reviewing your résumé.
Take this a step further. What missing from your résumé? Think about the work you have done and what you can add that lends weight to this aspect of your experience. I have provided further guidance on documenting your experience in my article, Document Your Project History.
Remember to update your LinkedIn profile as well. Use the Skills section of the profile to highlight this experience and ask connections to “endorse” these skills.
Step 3 – Get involved in the International Association of Business Analyst (IIBA®)
Nothing speaks more to your professional aspirations and commitment then involvement in a professional organization. Not only does it look good for you, but you gain the benefit of a network of peers in comparable roles to learn from and share experiences with. There are varying levels of involvement and added benefits come from each.
Level 1 – Join the IIBA® and your local chapter
At this level you will have access to an electronic copy of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®), a subscription to The Connection newsletter, and a wealth of resources online including articles, discussion groups, webinars, and tools.
Level 2 – Attend meetings and workshops
Meetings and workshop will increase your exposure to best practices and make sure continued education in business analysis topics. This further demonstrates your commitment to the profession as well as your own professional development. You will also build your local network of business analysts that can help you through struggles you have on the job in your next career move.
Level 3 – Volunteer
Volunteering is hugely fulfilling and beneficial to your career. It takes you from to the next level as far as demonstrating your passion for business analysis as a profession. It provides opportunity to show your work to other business analysts and build a reputation as a professional. Those who volunteer for my Chapter will find a ready referral and reference from me as they pursue future opportunities. This may be volunteering on a committee, with a specific task, for a project, or as a board member. Volunteer positions tend to be what you make of them and a lot can be accomplished in a few short hours a month.
Don’t forget to put your volunteer activities on your résumé and LinkedIn profile.
Step 4 – Get certified!
The time, effort, and money you put into the certification process exhibits your commitment to being a business analyst professional. You must prove earlier experience to sit for the exams. You must learn, keep, and prove you have a significant amount of knowledge on business analysis best practices from Enterprise Analysis to Solution Verification to pass the exam. Apply what you know in the real world and this step will take you far.
I hope this series has provided some helpful information as you pursue your career in business analysis. Please feel free to contact me (email@example.com) for more information or guidance. Follow this blog to get receive alerts of future posts that will be of interest to you.
So You Want to be a Business Analyst…Or Perhaps You Already Are
Last week I posted Part 1 with discussion on what a business analyst is. You may be more confused than before on what it is you are. I will quickly clarify a few points by addressing a couple of common questions.
Question 1: I am a project manager that is responsible for business analysis on my project. Is this wrong?
Answer: It depends on the project and the situation. If it is a small project with a small team and you are familiar with the business then it may make sense. The test is if you are effectively and efficiently juggling managing the project (planning, tracking, risks, stakeholder management, etc.) with the business analysis tasks (eliciting requirements, creating models and documentation, working with stakeholder to prioritize, translating for the technical team, etc.). However, if you are not able to manage both roles effectively within a normal workweek it means you are working two full-times jobs, rather than two half-time jobs. Getting a BA on your project will allow you to focus on one job and lead the project, project team, and influence stakeholders much more easily.
Question 2: I have worn many hats on my projects. How do I know if I am a business analyst?
Answer: The answer lies in where you natural aptitude and desire are. Answer the three following three questions to help you find the answer. (Disclaimer: this is not a scientific aptitude/skills test)
1) When it comes to solving a problem, I tend to want…
- To lead a team discussion to find potential solutions
- Research what other companies have done and see if any of those solutions would work in our situation
- Put a likely solution into action
2) When I waiting for service in a long, slow line I tend to…
- Think, “Where is the manager?” These people need to be motivated to work faster.
- Watch the processes to see if I can identify a change in process or a tool that would speed up the service.
- Look for the manager so that I can tell him to bring more people on to serve
3) When told to do something that I do not quite understand I respond by…
- Clarify what is needed and begin a plan of action
- Question who, what, why, where until I understand the value or negotiate for a task that does make sense to me
- Do what I am told. I can make anything work and it’s not my job to question the reason
Here are the results to this three-question assessment. If you scored mostly
- You have an aptitude for project management. You prefer to lead others through proactive planning and motivation to allow a team to accomplish great things.
- You have an aptitude as a business analyst. You like to solve puzzles by taking the time to get a thorough understanding the core of the puzzle and analyze many solutions to know your recommendation is indeed the best.
- You are a doer. “Get ‘er done” is your motto. Time spent planning and analyzing is time that you could have been actively doing something to make the situation better. You recognize there may be a different or even better way, but getting something is place is the contribution that makes you feel valuable. You would be a great technical lead.
You may truly have a mix of aptitude and preference of these roles. That is okay. However, you need to define your role for each project and stick to it. This allows you to focus on your responsibility and give the autonomy to others on the team that they have earned and deserve.
Continue to Part 3 for steps on making the shift from someone who does business analysis tasks to a business analysis professional.
Image courtesy of chanpipat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net