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Failing The Exam

Here comes the rant

One of the things people know about me is I’m always willing to help them out.  I’ve been in the business of Project Management for 15 years.  I’ve lived the life as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and as a Certified Scrum Master (CSM).  These days, either certification will get you either praise or disdain. It just depends on the company you keep.  Some out there have heard me rant about people who I don’t believe deserve to say they have a certification, based on their motivations.  You should get a CSM or a PMP as proof of a minimum level of competency; that you support what they represent.  I see them as mere indicators of where you are on the path of mastering your craft.  Some have also heard me rant about certification boot camps that will guarantee a certification or your money back.  Ask yourself, why do/did you want that certification?  My holier-than-though attitude kicks in when the response is/was “because it looks good on a resume“.

Where am I going with this

I was approached a while back by someone looking for assistance in prepping for his PMP.  He is not a project manager (never was; never will be) and does not want to be.  But, his company told him to get the certification.  He got his membership with PMI, which his company paid for.  He then hit a wall when completing his exam application.  He didn’t have the experience.  There are ways around that, right?  Just get someone to agree with your stories or pray like hell that you don’t get audited (or both).  When he approached me, the first thing I asked was “what’s your goal?”  His response was “to not get audited“.  Um, ok.  Let’s try this again.  “What’s your long term goal?”  His response was ” to get Corporate off my back.”  I felt betrayed by PMI, the day I found out he registered for the exam and was not going to be audited.

The update

After attending a week-long (he needed the 35 hours of project management education) money-back-guaranteed PMP bootcamp last week, he sat for the exam.  He failed.  He failed badly.  Now, I’m not going to be mean.  I feel bad for the guy.  He now has to explain this to those who were paying him to take the exam.  I am relieved, however, that there is one less unquantified PMP out there.  But, when I asked him if he thought the exam was hard he gave me a very good answer.  He admitted he didn’t even understand half of the terminology or formulas, let alone when and why he would use them.

And that is the broader lesson I want people to understand.

You need to understand when and why you do things.

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About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

8 Responses to “Failing The Exam”

  1. November 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I had a similar experience, in my case it was a manufacturing guy, he again had never been a PM nor ever aspired to be one, but had to give the PMI certification before his annual performance appraisal – again funded by our company.He too never got audited, but as the hard worker he was know to be, he cleared the exam. He still works as an architect in manufacturing with no intentions of being a PM. On the positive side he has ‘learnt’ something about Project Management.

    • Anonymous
      November 5, 2010 at 1:35 am

      I know that PMI can’t be everywhere and they can’t constantly police applications.
      I really wish there was a “certification” (not the PMP) that offered an entry-entry level for people to start at.
      I’m thinking of the Dreyfus model.

      • Lance
        December 3, 2010 at 3:16 pm
        • Anonymous
          December 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

          Lance, I agree that CAPM could be an option, if people would consider it. Unfortunately, do a search on a job board and see how many times PMP comes up and how many times CAPM comes up. Additionally, look at the rate of certification of PMPs and the rate of CAPMs. PMP has the lion share (based on PMI Today data). People go for the PMP because hiring managers are asking for them. The hiring managers may not know the difference between a CAPM and a PMP but I would argue they probably don’t care either.

        • Lance
          December 3, 2010 at 6:02 pm

          I agree with you when it comes to hiring managers and what they are asking for. The PMP gets your resume looked at. But companies that are requiring their unqualified employees to go off and get a PMP should consider CAPM first until the experience is there. I think that not enough are familiar with it.

          I feel disturbed that there are those with a “PMP” supposedly adhering to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct all the while having obtained their credential while flat out lying on their application.

        • Anonymous
          December 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm

          Ironic, isn’t it? When I contacted PMI about this situation, they said I have to be very careful if I report a person or company. It could be considered defamation. The best I can do is say this really does happen and it really is a problem. It’s a shame, none the less.

  2. Anonymous
    November 4, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    The attitude of the company in pushing this person into getting his certification puzzles me. Does having a certain amount of PMP’s boost a company’s stock price or something? If the company was smart enough to hire project managers who actually wanted to be project managers and had some experience under their belts, then telling them to get the certification would make a lot more sense!I hope my organization doesn’t ask me to obtain a registered nurse certification. The interest, desire, and end result would be the same as the guy in your story!Otherwise, yes, I agree with your point 100%.

    • Anonymous
      November 4, 2010 at 10:25 pm

      I can’t speak for the organization but it appears they believe the more PMPs they have on staff, the more marketable they are. Who cares if the PMPs are not even Project Managers? I can see wanting to say N% of their Project Managers are PMPs. But, N% of their employees?

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