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Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Episode 391: My Agile Exam Application Got Audited (Free)

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Jonathan Hebert
Jonathan Hebert, PMP, PMI-ACP

Are you by any chance thinking of getting your certification as a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®? Great. Because that certification is our topic.

Today you are going to meet Jonathan Hebert (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-hebert-pmp-csm-pmi-acp-0712471) who not only passed his PMI-ACP® Exam, but he also got audited in the process. So he has a story to tell!

As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss Jonathan's overall experience, how he got his PMI-ACP Exam Prep, his general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.

Full disclosure: Jonathan Hebert and Cornelius Fichtner both work for OSP International LLC, makers of The Agile PrepCast and The PMI-ACP Exam Simulator.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #391. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner.

Are you by any chance thinking of getting your certification as a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®? Great! Because today, that certification is our topic—which brings me to this: If you are a Project Manager who wants to become PMI-ACP® certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from www.AgilePrepCast.com.

Today you are going to meet Jonathan Hebert, who not only passed his PMI‑ACP® Exam but he also got audited in the process so he has quite a story to tell. As you know, the rules of all PMI exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss Jonathan’s overall experience, general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP® Exam. And now, remember, in Agile, we don’t call these lessons learned, it’s a retrospective. Enjoy the interview.

Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Jonathan Hebert, Senior Project Manager for OSP International and a very good friend of mine.   

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Jonathan. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Jonathan Hebert: Hello Cornelius, thanks for interviewing me.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hey, first of all, congratulations on passing the PMI-ACP® Exam.  

Jonathan Hebert: Thank you very much.

Cornelius Fichtner: When exactly did you pass? It was just a little while ago, right?

Jonathan Hebert: It was. It was on March 13th of this year.

Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent. Excellent. Before we move on, at this point we have to include a disclaimer and that disclaimer is all about the fact that both you and I, we work for OSP International and among other things, our company offers PMI‑ACP® Exam training and also a simulator and you’ve used both in your exam preparation and will probably mention these two products during the interview as well. We just wanted to make everybody aware of this situation that we are actually colleagues here. So first things first, if you have to do this again, what would you do differently?

Jonathan Hebert: I would set aside more time for preparation and I would probably time it or not so much was going on in my life. I was renovating our kitchen, I had plenty of work to do, there were many things that were in play and looking back, I probably could have scheduled things more beneficial for me. [laughs] 

Cornelius Fichtner: And when you said you would schedule more time, you mean longer duration or instead of an hour a day, two hours a day, how do you mean?

Jonathan Hebert: Instead of how I did it, I would actually choose a different time when I have less competing things going on in my life that didn’t allow me to focus as much as I feel is necessary to prepare and pass in the exam.  

Cornelius Fichtner: OK. The exam that you took is the current exam. Over the years exams change, right now PMI has the exam based on a recommended reading list of about 12 books and we expect this will change sometime in the future and they will move over to an Agile practice guide. However, do you feel that the way you studied is still valid? Even if those listening to this interview in the future, they maybe using different books and maybe even that PMI Agile Practice Guide, a completely different exam content outline, is it still valid in the future, what you’ve done?

Jonathan Hebert: I think it is. There are 12 references as you said and I read every one of them back to front. No, that’s ridiculous [laughs]. That’s 4000 pages of text that is over-preparing at the very least. What I did was I was able to find the PMP® Exam prep books that summarized well all 12 books and excerpted the topics from those books that are most important in the exam. So I do feel like the way that I prepared is very applicable in the future and I believe as you do, that there will be some sort of a reference that is very similar to the PMBOK® Guide for PMP for Agile because to read 12 books to cover that amount of material is a little bit much to ask.

Cornelius Fichtner: Why exactly did you choose to become PMI-ACP® certified? What was your driver other than me constantly saying, “Hey Jonathan, you’re going to get certified.” [laughs]

Jonathan Hebert: There were those reasons. Two reasons: because I needed to get certified in order to fully understand Agile Project Management, practices, as well as be qualified to author questions and review content and that’s from the job perspective but I personally believe and I think most people that do become Agile certified and do study the methodologies, they believe that this is the best approach for knowledge-based work, work that’s complex, it’s fast-moving, it’s volatile, and the kind of work that really dominates our age now which is the information age. I think Agile offers superior Project Management approaches to do that type of work.

Cornelius Fichtner: Of course because our work here at the company is Agile-focused for the Agile training, the Agile Simulator that was a clear reason why you did this but you’re also CSM certified, right?  

Jonathan Hebert: I am CSM certified.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, Certified Scrum Master, yup!

Jonathan Hebert: I suggest that for others as well. It does focusing on one of the methodologies, Scrum—and it’s probably one of the more popular methodologies that is used in Agile.

Cornelius Fichtner: Did you look at any of the other certifications that are out there—the IPMA offers something, universities…

Jonathan Hebert: I didn’t. Actually I pretty much knew that I needed to become Agile PMI-ACP® certified and that was my primary goal, I didn’t look at the other certifications.

Cornelius Fichtner: OK. How long did it take you from start to finish? So start being me going for the first time, “Hey Jonathan, you need the certification until you’ve actually passed”.

Jonathan Hebert: It took eight months which is relatively short compared to my PMP journey.

Cornelius Fichtner: OK. How long was the PMP journey then in comparison?

Jonathan Hebert: That was a couple of years actually from knowing I wanted to do it and committing to do it to actually putting the time off aside and accomplishing that goal.

Cornelius Fichtner: In other words, your PMI-ACP was a lot more Agile than the PMP?

Jonathan Hebert: It was definitely more Agile and in the spirit of Agile, I took a look and there was a retrospective and I improved my approach—one of the tenants of Agile Project Management.

Cornelius Fichtner: You started out as a traditional Project Manager and this is also how you and I got to know each other because my wife happened to work at the same company that you worked at and we’re on the same project so we got to know each other back then. How—because you came from the traditional side, how did you then determine that you were actually eligible to take this Agile certification—coming from the traditional side and doing multiple projects?

Jonathan Hebert: Fortunately, OSP primarily uses Agile methodologies to manage their projects. Being a Project Manager at OSP, I was using Agile methodologies. I was using the practices, the tools, the techniques and therefore I was qualified based on those Agile projects that I participated in and that I ran in various roles.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and that’s actually an important distinction here. This is the Agile certified practitioner, this is not a Project Management certification so you weren’t necessarily labeled as the Project Manager of the project you worked on for us, right?

Jonathan Hebert: That’s correct. I played I think three roles. Two primarily—Scrum master and Agile team member on Agile projects where someone else was a Scrum master or product owner and then I stepped in for a product owner occasionally when we didn’t have the product owner but I understood the product owner’s use and is –the acceptance and command of what the customer was looking for and so therefore I played two primary roles—Scrum master and Agile team member and product owner occasionally.

Cornelius Fichtner: What was the process like for your application for the ACP exam because I remember vividly when I applied for the PMP that was  a project on its own and the same probably for you, if you compare this to the PMI-ACP® application.

Jonathan Hebert: It’s very similar. So you have to establish a certain period of time managing Agile projects when you put together your application, you are asked to provide details about each project, what role you played, what activities were taken part, what activities were important and necessary for you to complete your Agile projects and therefore you should be using terminology that is of Agile Project Management. I see them as very similar. Of course it’s easier to do it the second time. So if you’ve done it for the PMP, you sort of know what to expect and I have a little bit of help because I have a couple of colleagues that already applied and shared their applications with me so I have pretty much a template.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and I’m actually going to interview both of those colleagues as well so the listeners can look forward to hearing Yasmin and Starz as well about what they have to say about this. Something absolutely fantastic for my perspective at least for this interview happened to you once you hit submit. You got audited.

Jonathan Hebert: Yes, I did. It’s funny. What is fantastic for someone else is not so fantastic for another person. So, like the PMP I thought I would say, I’ll ride through and the audits are a lottery and I didn’t think I’d win the lottery but I won the lottery.

Cornelius Fichtner: This time you did and it didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped actually, right? So, I was the contact person that you have put down on your projects because they were done within our company and so you sent me the package, I did what I had to. I printed everything out, I read it, I verified that all the information was correct then I signed where PMI had me sign and I put all these documents into a sealed envelope and then I mailed that sealed envelope to you overnight so that you could then create a complete package and send that to PMI. What did you do on your side after you gave me the documents that I had to sign for you?

Jonathan Hebert: So what I had to do was take the documents myself and actually send them to PMI to be evaluated and to go through the audit process and the audit process took about five days. I was of course expecting that I would pass the audit. Everything that I had put forward was factual and I had a verification from my employer and I provided them all the information that they asked for but what I got back was that my audit information was incomplete and that they needed, in addition to what I provided, they needed again, they needed proof of my education. Part of being able to apply for the exam is that you have obtained a Bachelor’s Degree and a certain number of hours and if you haven’t it’s more hours similar to the PMP and they needed that additional information but it wasn’t made very clear I found out in one of their FAQs. So they asked me for some additional information which I provided but I did not also provide a copy of my degree or a copy of my transcripts initially and that held up the process.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright. Did you have to submit that along with this? Is this normal that you have to send a copy of your degree or was it just in your case that they wanted to see this?

Jonathan Hebert: It is normal but isn’t as clear as it could be. In the information that they needed from me I provided all the information that was listed in that section out of the explanation for the audit but it was not obvious to me that I had to again show my degree and I had assumed I wouldn’t have to look in the FAQs to find that out and that they already have that proof since I was

Cornelius Fichtner: FTP-certified, right?

Jonathan Hebert: Yeah, exactly. So…

Cornelius Fichtner: It was the subject back then

Jonathan Hebert: Right. So this was a little bit of something that threw me off and then in getting in touch with PMI, there were a couple of hiccups where kind of one hand didn’t know what the other hand…

Cornelius Fichtner: On the PMI side?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

Tags: PMI-ACP, Agile Project Management, PDUs: Not Applicable

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