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On this 17th episode of the Construction Industry Podcast I’ll introduce to you the Project Management Institute and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
As you may know, I’m a member of the PMI and also have the PMP certification. I’m a fan of the PMI and their standard and framework for project management.
For this episode, I had a great conversation with my friend Cornelius Fichtner, PMP. Cornelius is the go-to guy for people seeking the PMP certification. He gave me a fantastic overview of the Project Management Institute and the PMP certification. It was using Cornelius’ training materials (affiliate link) that I prepared for the PMP exam, and since then I’ve been a fan of his work. He also is the host of the Project Management Podcast.
Besides the interview, I also announced the winners of the two Amazon gift cards that I gave away since the last episode.
I’m very excited as we move forward creating a community around the Construction Industry Podcast.
Thank you for listening! You can now leave me a voice message by clicking the “Send Voicemail” tab on the right edge of this page. I would love to hear from you.
Take a listen by clicking the orange “play” button above.
- The Podcast Mastermind
- Pro Schedules
- C&C Construction Management
- The Project Magament Institute
- PMI Construction Community of Practice
- Cornelius Fichtner’s PMP preparation material (affiliate link)
Listen to the entire episode by clicking the orange “play” button above. Or you can check out the entire text transcription of the discussion by clicking here: [spoiler]Cesar: Hello, Cornelius. How are you?
Cornelius: I’m very well. Hello, Cesar. Thank you very much.
Cesar: Thank you so much for being on this podcast and I have to say it’s an honor to have you on the show.
Cornelius: Thank you. You’re making me blush.
Cesar: No. Just so the audience knows, it was because of you and your product that I have my PMP certification and ever since I took your preparation material, just became a fan of you and what you do and I’ve been following you around; and when you said you would be on the show, I was just thrilled so thank you.
Cornelius: Thank you for having me.
Cesar: All right. So a lot of the people in our audience are in construction management as we were just talking about this before we started the recording. And they probably have heard of the PMI but that’s about it. So could you give us just a little background on the Project Management Institute, the reach, the mission statement, things like that so the audience can learn more about it?
Cornelius: Absolutely, yes. So PMI is the Project Management Institute. They were founded in 1969 so it’s quite some time ago and they are located in the United States in Pennsylvania but they are really a global organization. The Global Operations Center as they call it the GOC is in Pennsylvania but PMI really lives because we have local chapters all over the world and no matter – pretty much from where you listen to this podcast, there will be very likely a local chapter in your state, in your country, in your region that has project managers coming together and meeting all the time. Now let me see if I can get the mission statement from PMI again.
Let’s see. Oh, I remembered it before we started the interview because I was thinking about it and now of course I’m blanking here. Making project management indispensable for business results. That’s it. I believe, right? With the idea being that what businesses usually do is operations so day to day work, repetitive things like building bicycles or, I don’t know, selling ice cream but if you want to turn your business around, if you’re trying to get into some new area, then you have to start up a project and you have to make a change in your business. But of course everybody who works in construction knows that everything that we construct is a project in itself. A house that we build is a project. A bridge that we build is a project. The pipeline we build is a project.
Even though we build houses every single day of the week, the houses are different. They’re in different locations. They have different specifications and requirements. So that’s what PMI is trying to show. In order to have good business results, you need to have project management.
Now PMI is very strong in two areas mainly and that is in the area of certification and I believe we’re getting into that more in detail later on but they also have a lot of standards and they have standards for project management in all kinds of areas.
And I believe there is even a – yes, what they have, I’m checking this here on their website. Their primary standard is called the PMBOK Guide, the Project Management Body of Knowledge, sort of the big bible of project management; and for that, they also have a construction extension to the PMBOK Guide. So specifically, a project management framework that is focused at the construction industry and that was published in its second edition in 2007. So pretty up-to-date but I believe it’s probably going to be updated relatively soon because the new version of the PMBOK Guide is out at the end of this year so everything will probably be updated to that new version there.
Cesar: OK. Great. And the PMIs, also there’s some subdivisions I guess you could call them as they’re called the communities of practice. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Cornelius: Yes. Now the difference between the communities of practice and the local chapters is the local chapters are local. They are in your backyard and you can go and meet people in person and they have dinner meetings and usually at the dinner meeting, they serve chicken for some reason. It’s called the PMI chicken and so it’s a local organization that is led and managed by people local to your area and the communities of practice, those are – that’s really PMI’s way of bringing in everybody from around the world. So this is a virtual community of practice and these communities of practice, they are – they don’t have a set meeting, agenda or things like that. They are really here to promote a specific practice.
Like I believe there is a construction community of practice. There’s an IT community of practice. There is a pharmaceuticals community of practice. So here we’re not talking about regions. Here we’re talking about verticals. Here we’re talking about pharmaceuticals, construction. We’re talking about industry specifics, community of practices.
Cesar: OK. Great. And for you to participate in the local chapters and in the communities of practice, you need to be a member.
Cornelius: Yes, yes. You first of all have to be a member of the global organization so you have to join PMI itself, the global organization; and then based on that, you can join a local chapter and communities of practice. I believe – don’t quote me on this. The original idea was that once you are a member of PMI, you can join any community of practice at no additional charge. However, the local chapters, they are local organizations in your area so you’re going to have to pay an additional fee, membership fee to be a member of that local organization.
Cesar: Yes, I think that’s right because I’m a member here at the Southwestern Ontario chapter and as far as communities of practice, I’m a member of the construction community of practice and also the marketing community of practice. Very good discussions there on the forums. I recommend people check it out.
Now the other thing that PMI is big on is on the certifications. So what are the certifications that they offer?
Cornelius: Right. That’s a confusing subject. OK. Let me just read them to you, right?
Cornelius: You will see what’s confusing. Certified Associate in Project Management, Project Management Professional, Program Management Professional, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner, PMI Risk Management Professional and the PMI Scheduling Professional.
So they have six different types of certification and most people look at this and they go, “What?” and frankly yes, it is confusing. The really big one that they have is the Project Management Professional. That is their number one certification and the new one that they have just recently launched is the PMI Agile Certified Professional. Sort of in terms of numbers, right? The PMP which is the big one is they have 471,000 certified PMPs around the world.
Now here’s the interesting thing. PMI membership right now is at 377,000 so almost 100,000 people more are PMP-certified than are members. OK?
Cesar: That’s interesting.
Cornelius: And then – yes. And then the numbers drop drastically, right? The second number is 16,000. That is for the CAPM and then that’s the certified associate. Then we have the PGMP and the Scheduling Professional and the Risk Management Professional. These – they don’t even reach 2000. OK? But the interesting thing, the new one, the Agile Certified Practitioner, only a few months old and already 570 people certified.
Cornelius: OK? So doing a big catch-up there. So from my perspective right now, PMP is the primary certification and the Agile Certified Practitioner because Agile Project Management is really hot at the moment. That’s the second one and very soon I would say within a year or two, PMI ACP will have caught up – will have overtaken all the other five certifications. It won’t come up to the 470,000 but it will be up in the 20,000.
Cesar: Amazing. Amazing. Yes, I listen to your podcast by the way and you had an interview there on this topic of the Agile when you were rolling it out and people seemed to be very excited about it. It doesn’t really apply to what I do but I can see how the IT community and the software development community would be very excited about this.
Cornelius: Exactly. Doing Agile in the traditional way on a construction project, I don’t think it would really work all that well. Yes. Yes, sort of, “Oh, we’ve just built the third floor. But you know what? We can build three more. Changed our mind.” I don’t think that’s going to work all that well.
Cesar: Yes, yes. Scope is really well-defined from the beginning …
Cesar: And contracts are given based on that and it’s written in stone literally.
Cesar: OK. So it seems like the PMP is the – it’s the flagship certification, I guess you can call it. So what are some of the benefits of having it? And you have it. I have it. So how has it helped you?
Cornelius: OK. Today, the PMP certification, to have it is really a right of passage and if you look into Monster.com and all the other online job portals, what you used to see maybe about four years ago, they said PMP certification preferred. You wanted to get that project management job and if you have the PMP, well, that helped you a bit.
Today PMP certification is required. If you apply for a job and you are not PMP-certified, if you apply for a project management job and you are not PMP-certified, don’t even bother because so many other people are and employers do much rather hire somebody who has the certification, who has shown that they have the experience in managing projects, that they have the theoretical understanding, that they were able to pass this certification test, that it’s simply a must to have these days.
So to me, that really is the primary benefit of having your PMP. Without it, you will not be able to get a new project management job in this day and age.
Cesar: Now I have to say this might not be the case for construction project managers because one of the reasons why I’m doing this episode is to spread the word a little bit about the PMI within the construction sector. But it certainly would help you if you had it. It would put you above your average construction manager if you have that certification because as you said, Cornelius, it shows that you have the experience. You have the knowledge. You passed that very hard exam that you and I had to take and it just shows people that you’re serious about your career. Don’t you think?
Cornelius: Right. Yes, absolutely. Yes. And having the PMP exam shows that you know more about project management than somebody who doesn’t because the PMP certification isn’t for life. PMI requires that you continue your education. If you don’t, you will lose your certification status, right?
So you have to earn what is known as professional development units which is basically just a measure of how you progress in your education over time. So you have to continue to educate yourself. You have to continue to study. You have to continue to learn and just by doing that, you will remain at the top of your game constantly. Right. And I agree with you with what you said that probably in construction industry, having the PMP certification may not be necessary but does put you above the average of the other candidates that are out there.
The oldest question in project management is this. What’s more important than a project manager? Is it industry expertise or is it project management expertise? OK? If you ask a hundred project managers this question, you will get a hundred different answers and I’ve pretty much done that. I’ve asked about a hundred of them and in the end, what I have come to understand is they’re both important.
You have to have project management know-how. You have to know how to manage a project and on the other hand, you also have to have at least some industry expertise. Now in construction, I can very well see that there is a higher requirement for you as a construction project manager to have industry expertise in whatever your team is constructing because there are so many pitfalls and things that can go wrong in construction.
But let’s take the example of the project manager of the 2012 Olympics in London, right? This project manager probably has no experience in the Olympics. Maybe he or she was an athlete at one point, right? But as a project manager, probably no experience in managing other Olympics before that because it’s not really necessary to have that. This person has to be charismatic, has to know how to manage projects, has to know how to manage people, totally different requirement; whereas on a construction site, you better know what you’re doing.
Cesar: Absolutely. Yes, it makes sense and I’m sure you agree with me there. Some individuals, they’re excellent practitioners of their trade but have no interest in managing projects or managing people and that’s fine. And on the other hand, you will have people that excel in project management even though they might not be the best at their trade, the best scientist or the best concrete mixer, let’s say. But they – as you say …
Cornelius: They know how to motivate the people. They know how to show them where they’re going. They can translate a vision of where this project is going and get everybody excited and make them walk in the same direction and turn the project into a success, yes.
Cesar: So I guess what – if you have both, if you’re a good professional and then you work on your project management skills, you become a very valuable professional.
Cesar: Because you will be able to do both and that’s one benefit I see of getting your certification. At least for me, it was because you end up having to study things that – some aspects of project management that you may not have had to deal with in your career. It was the case for me for sure. Like some of the risk management things that we had to study for the test, I had to actually study because we worked for a small business and we didn’t have to have some of those things in place to manage our projects. And so the way I see it too, besides showing that you know project management, it actually helps you get more knowledge about project management as you practice for the exam.
Cornelius: Oh, absolutely.
Cornelius: Yes, absolutely. I would definitely agree with that. When I first started my journey into PMP, I was a sort of fly by the seat of my pants type of a project manager. I knew what I was doing. I was good at it but I really didn’t have the theoretical know-how to back me up and then understanding of what comes next. How should I do this? What are some of the best practices out there? What are some of the best approaches to manage a project? And once you take your exam, you’re suddenly going to go, “How could I ever have managed a project without a work breakdown structure?”
Cesar: Oh my goodness. I can so relate to that.
Cornelius: Yes. So these are the kinds of things that you suddenly – your eyes grow wide and you go, “Oh my god. Why am I fighting for my life with every project if it’s this easy and I could have used this tool and made my life so much simpler?”
Cesar: And it translates to your personal life too. I can’t do anything without doing at least a mind map for something.
Cesar: And it just helps you think about projects in that way so you can break things down so things are manageable and it’s easier to delegate and measure progress and it just makes sense.
Cornelius: I agree.
Cesar: OK. Now, what does it take to get PMP-certified?
Cornelius: How much time do you have?
Cesar: As much time as you would want, Cornelius.
Cornelius: The easiest way to answer this question really is – I have had this question asked of me so many times that I went ahead and I created seven or eight videos and these are available publicly on YouTube. And these are really broken down into eight steps. Wait a second. Let me quickly go over to the website where I have these eight steps. We can quickly go over these eight steps together here but then I would say let’s put the link to this video into the show notes so that people can find it there because YouTube links are like YouTube.com slash and then an impossible number.
Cornelius: OK. So here are the eight steps. First thing you want to do, you want to assess you eligibility. Figure out, “Can I actually take the exam?” OK?
Then you want to build a study plan. If you’re a project manager, you know how important a plan is and an approach so you want to make sure that you know how am I actually going to do this, right?
And you will need to understand more about the study tips and the techniques that you have behind all of this. How do I approach this exam? So this is kind of all the basics. Before you can get started with the exam, you have to know the exam. Then you have to fill out your application, right? Obviously.
You have to find your study materials. That’s a big portion of this then of course you have to study and part of that studying and this is really – I can’t really tell you how to study other than open your books and study them. But the biggest part of this really is you have to take sample exams. PMP exam is four hours long, 200 questions, multiple choice in front of the computer. It takes some practice to be able to do that. So you really want to have sample tests, sample simulators and do that.
Then there are a whole slew of activities you have to do in order to get exam day ready. Like three weeks before the exam, do this. Two weeks before the exam, do that, et cetera. So I have a checklist available for that and then, well, you go and take the exam. And like I said earlier, that’s not it. Now you need to actually continue your education and every three years, you have to get recertified. The only good news is you don’t have to take the test again so once you’ve taken the test, you can just recertify by just doing continuing education.
So that’s sort of it on a high level and the videos of that, that I have about this – one video on each of these topics. They go more into detail and in total, I think it’s about an hour long, this whole process, this whole video.
Cesar: And they’re on YouTube so they’re free.
Cornelius: They are on YouTube. Yes, they’re freely available.
Cesar: So I guess those videos would cover what my next question was going to be which is, “What’s the best way to prepare?”
Cornelius: Yes, the best way – I can give you a quick overview of that.
Cornelius: And that’s – it’s not really all that difficult. It just takes a lot of dedication and focus, right? And this is all the part – step number two that I talked about. Build a PMP exam study plan, right? This is really part of that. So you have to make a goal that is achievable. In most cases, I suggest 10 to 12 weeks of study. OK?
And that means you study Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Saturday and Sunday a little bit. You have to pick a day of the week and say I’m not studying on Thursdays, period, right? Take a day off occasionally. Everyday, you want to study about one to two hours and that means reading books, watching webinars, working with flash cards, whatever it takes, right? There are many materials that you can use in order to prepare.
The PMBOK Guide, that is the bible that I mentioned earlier on, is really the basic study – well, not guide but the PMP exam is based largely on this book, on this standard. So what most people do is they say, “OK, the PMBOK Guide has nine main chapters. So every week, I’m studying one chapter out of the PMBOK Guide.”
And that’s really the approach that I also recommend. So in the first week, you begin by assembling everything that you have and then in the second or third week, you start really getting into the PMBOK Guide and chapter by chapter, you move forward through the material and you have auxiliary material, additional materials, study materials that you buy, study guides, study books, maybe a video, a course along the way. And you go through the same material, right?
So this week, we’re talking about time or we’re studying time management and we’re studying only time management and I’m studying it in the PMBOK Guide. I’m watching the videos about it. I’m reading my book about it. I’m just learning everything there is to learn about time management then next week, we’re moving on to cost management and to risk management, et cetera.
So to me, that has always been proven a very good way of studying for the exam because it does more than just prepare you for the exam. It also helps you to understand all these techniques, these best practices and in the end, that’s my goal. I want you to pass the exam but my goal is also to help you to get a better understanding of the project management as a discipline so that you can become a better project manager.
Cesar: Right. Yes. That’s a great answer and I think maybe we should explain to people how you Cornelius help people get their certification because …
Cornelius: Oh, OK.
Cesar: We mentioned this at the beginning and we just kind of let it at that. So how do you help people pass the exam?
Cornelius: In 2005, my wife made a mistake and she gave me an iPod for my birthday and shortly after that, I realized there is no project management podcast out there. So just like you have a podcast for the construction industry, in 2005, I started the podcast for project managers and that’s also when I joined PMI. I got PMP-certified. I began teaching a little bit on the side and then I decided, “Why don’t I take my experience of PMP preparation, my experience of doing a podcast and why don’t I combine the two?” Why don’t I create a podcast for people who want to prepare for the PMP exam? And this is how it all grew. Today, it’s no longer just an audio podcast. It’s a video podcast and people – let’s see. Eighteen thousand students have used it so far to prepare for their PMP certification. Yes, it makes me kind of proud looking at …
Cornelius: … quite nice. So let’s see. Let’s go back to the credential statistics here. So 471,000 have passed the exam and 18,000 of those are thanks to me.
Cesar: That’s amazing. That’s …
Cesar: You should be proud of yourself.
Cornelius: Yes, let’s see. That’s roughly – what? Five percent? No. Yes, about four percent, something like that. OK. Not a large number if you look at that.
Cesar: No, no. It is large and I am one of those 18,000 and I’m – usually I do not promote things on this podcast. I can mention a product but this is one that I have no problem promoting because there are so many ways that people can prepare for this exam and they pay for boot camps and they spend a lot of money to get coaching and to get boot camps. And what you provide is – the value is just unbelievable.
I think it’s over 40 hours of video training and you take that PMBOK Guide which is very dry and you just kind of bring it to life. So actually it makes it interesting to read it because the way I did it, I would listen to one of the episodes or watch one of the episodes and then I would read the PMBOK Guide on the topic and it would just make sense. Do you understand?
Cesar: So if you’re listening and you’re thinking about getting this PMP certification, this is the tool and the study material that I would recommend you get. It worked for me. I passed it on the first try and ever since, I’m just telling people whenever I can, to use Cornelius’ material for this. And thank you for doing it and it really, really helped me.
Cornelius: Right. Thank you. You’re very welcome. And if people are interested to learn more about that and we have to do full disclosure here because next to being a student of mine, you also chose to join our affiliate program.
Cornelius: So you not only recommend it to people because you like it so much, you also earned a commission. They can go to LearnPMNow.com. That’s LearnPMNow.com, all in one word.
Cesar: Thank you for that. Yes, I was recommending to people before I knew I could be an affiliate. So why not? It’s a fantastic product. Now before we go, just so people have an idea of how these questions are on the exam, can you give us some tips on how to select the correct answer on PMP questions?
Cornelius: Yes. Well, like I mentioned earlier, it’s a four-hour long exam and in this time, you have to answer 200 questions. So purely from a time perspective, you have 1.2 minutes to read the question, read the four answers, A, B, C, D and make your selection. So it’s really multiple choice.
So multiple choice techniques is really what you want to apply here and of course next to that, you also have to have project management theory know-how and applied experience know-how. And the number one thing that I always tell people is practice, practice, practice. So get a simulator somewhere and do a few simulated exams before you – but in order to select these, there are a few interesting techniques.
The first one is of course the most obvious one. Read the question, right? And read the question completely and right and make sure you understand what they are asking in the question. Don’t read any of the answers. Just read the question and then think to yourself, “OK. What should the answer be?” Then once you have decided, “OK, the answer has to be,” whatever, look through A, B, C and D. And most of the time, the answer that you have in your head has actually shown up. It’s right there.
Cornelius: Second option is do it the other way around. Read the answers first. Sometimes the answers are very short. They’re just one word so that makes it easy for you to quickly scan the four answers, A, B, C, D. Now you know what the possible answers are. Now you can read through the question and you will instantly usually come up with the correct answer.
The PMP exam however is such that project management is not always black and white. It’s not always right or wrong. You could do things this way or do things that way and both are right. But the PMBOK Guide, this bible has specific ways of approaching things and the PMP exam is based on the approach of the PMBOK Guide.
So you have to follow PMBOK Guide processes. Still there are grey areas. So you might end up with going, “B and C are right. What do I do now?” Right? It’s really thinking about, “OK. What does the PMBOK Guide say? What is there? What have I learned in my studies and which one of these two answers is more PMBOK Guide-aligned?” And that’s the one that you need to choose. The most important tip however is don’t leave any questions unanswered. So it’s 200 questions. If you don’t answer one, it’s wrong, period. So if you don’t select an answer for a question, you have – it’s definitely wrong.
If you don’t know, it could be A, it could be B. Well, make a selection. Guess, toss a coin, do whatever it takes. Select one but don’t leave it unanswered because there is no penalty for getting it wrong.
Cesar: I see. Perfect. And yes, those are great tips and again, if you’re thinking of taking this PMP exam, I recommend that you can get in touch with me using my email address feedback at Construction Industry Podcast or you can go to the link that Cornelius mentioned, LearnPMNow.com and you will find everything you need to know there and more.
Cornelius, thank you so much for your time. I know you’re a busy guy.
Cornelius: You’re welcome.
Cesar: And as I told you earlier, it’s a pleasure and honor talking to you and I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
Cornelius: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed myself.
Cesar: All right, Cornelius. Thank you again. [/spoiler]