As a program coordinator, analyst and subject matter expert, I’ve worked for over ten years assisting hospitals and large health systems develop, implement and optimize Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and other strategic organizational applications. From the business stakeholders to the clinicians who provide frontline care, the mission to improve these systems and integrate them into workflows requires input and cooperation from everyone involved. This can be an incredibly complex task, and I recently felt the need to embark on a journey of professional development to better serve our clients.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is one of the leading professional organizations when it comes to project management, and attaining their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is often viewed as a major success for an advanced-level project manager. Therefore, attaining the PMP certification became my top goal in my journey of professional development.

Knowing that this certification had a reputation for being quite challenging, my goal was to attain the PMP certification on my first try.  In the end, I achieved my goal, and I want to share my experience to encourage others to do the same.

Background requirements

To give the PMP certification weight as a meaningful accreditation, the PMI requires a number of preliminary benchmarks to be met before you can sit for the PMP exam. These background requirements include the following:

  • Those, like myself, that hold a college degree must have three years of project management experience, 4,500 hours of validated project experience, and 35 hours of project management education.
  • If someone does not have a college degree, they must have a high school diploma or the global equivalent, five years of project management experience, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education.

The application for the PMP in and of itself was a strenuous process, which gave some insight into how the test would be. The experience requirements must come from each of the project phases (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring/controlling, closing), and you must take special care to properly document all of the project work you have completed. Additionally, you must complete contact hours to accompany the project work and obtain the certification. All hours must be carefully documented.

Three insights to know before going in

Once I had completed the application and all the preliminary documentation, it was time to prepare for and take the exam. Here are some pointers from my experience with the test:

  • This is not an experience-based test. Instead, the test is very specific to the PMI methodologies, so you must put aside what you think you know and truly learn the fundamentals of the methodologies they teach.
  • This also is not a science of memorization. Simply memorizing terms will do no good if you can’t practically apply the concepts on the exam.
  • There is no room for distraction. You must be fully focused and engaged in learning and applying the principles you learn.

Following these principles to pass the test, I had to dedicate a serious amount of time to learning the specific PMI concepts and how they apply in the workplace.

The principles I learned from T2 Tech

Passing the test required many of the principles I practice with my team at T2 Tech Group. The test required me to learn new concepts and adapt them practically for the scenarios in the exam. When we meet a client, we bring an open and objective mind. While we all bring expertise to the table, we often must put aside our experiences to truly learn the fundamentals of our clients and their strategic objectives. Then, we use this knowledge to apply our hybrid-agile project management methodologies. This is a combination of truly understanding the methodology and listening.

Just like plain memorization would not have helped me pass the test, coming to a client with a catalog of fancy words or rote processes would not be enough for success. There is no cookie cutter client; they are all unique, and all face their own challenges. Therefore, there is no memorization of a skill set that will assist us in surpassing our clients’ needs. Instead, we must assess each situation independently and apply our hybrid project management methodologies to each client as it best suits their needs.

Passing the test required a great deal of focus and resolve, and helping clients requires the same type of determination but on an even greater level. There is never room for distraction when we are engaged with our clients. We strive to be fully focused on immersing ourselves in their cultures and workflows. This is necessary for us to thoroughly understand the goals and objectives of projects and provide services that surpass their expectations.