STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SOFTWARE PROJECT DELIVERY

 

Having worked a range of high technology Irish pharmaceutical and Government customers, we know that flexible engagement models, and a wide range of skills and expertise are required for successful software project delivery. Head of Software Development Jim Blair has put together his top tips for your software project success.

INCREMENTAL DELIVERY IN SOFTWARE ENGINEERING

There are almost unlimited ways to build a customer software solution which means that Software projects in particular, can be very complex to deliver. It is for this reason that builders lean towards incremental value delivery. Using Customer Development suggests that software teams should plan incremental deliveries to the customer. Teams can use feedback from the deployments to tailor subsequent deliveries, with short turn-around time periods. This approach ensures that the subsequent solutions are built on top of software that has been tailored for customer value.

AGILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

Incremental value deliveries are ideal for getting feedback that can tune the solution value. The Agile software development process is specifically geared to supporting incremental customer deliveries. Scrum, which is one of the most popular Agile frameworks (there are over 40 different Agile frameworks!), defines an iteration as a “Sprint”. Common Sprint iteration cycles are two to three weeks. Scrum also defines an explicit process for planning each Sprint and planning the higher-level scope for a chain of Sprints. The success of each Sprint is proportional to the planning effort put into each Sprint plan. So, although the Agile principle of “Working software over comprehensive documentation” puts emphasis on getting working software, the principle doesn’t imply that planning can be omitted.

From Database architecture, through to complex business application infrastructure, to the world’s most advanced client applications developed for popular phone and tablet platforms, to web agnostic and Microsoft specific technology solutions, Aspira offers full-stack development experience that matches most needs enterprise development teams reach out for. Our development team size supports most enterprise-class development and we have a proven development track record. We also work to deliver small projects or can provide your company with onsite contract development staff to help you deliver your software projects successfully. Contact our Head of Software Development, Jim Blair, about your upcoming project, email: jim.blair@www.aspira.ie

Author: Jim Blair, Head of Software Development, Aspira.

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!

 

In the past two weeks, during three independent discussions, I heard people recall some advice they received from their teachers.

My sister recalled how she was once told by her career guidance teacher that she would never achieve her own goal of becoming a teacher. The spurious reason given was that she didn’t ‘fit the mould’. It’s ironic that those very words just motivated my sister to prove her teacher wrong, to go on to have a distinguished career as an educator and is now Principal of a College. Lucky she didn’t let herself be limited by her teachers lack of vision.

A friend of mine recalled his teacher using a colorful metaphor to explain how an expert differs from a practitioner. The explanation was that an expert is someone who knows everything in the Kama Sutra but who never gets to go out on a date. That memorable quote has helped my client chart his own career path and give guidance to his team on the importance of honing their practical skills.

A colleague of mine commented on how she never had any ambition to go to college until a teacher saw something in her – the potential to achieve – that nobody else saw, even herself. But this teacher volunteered extra time and effort to help that young girl develop her confidence and is credited by my colleague for inspiring her to embark on what has been a very successful career.

Those three discussions got me thinking – once we leave school, who takes over the role of teacher? At that age we tend to blank out any advice from parents, and I don’t recall any college lecturer imparting wisdom to me in the way some teachers did. The closest I can think of is what I’ve learned from my bosses and mentors at work.

In exactly the same way as teachers, some bosses are memorable for good reasons, and some for not-so-good reasons. I remember some great advice I got from different bosses, including the advice to treat people well while I was ‘climbing the ladder’ because they were the same people I’d meet on my way back down the ladder.

That advice came true when I was made redundant from a multinational after 17 years – it was the people I had worked with for years who then became my network. Luckily many of them were happy to give me introductions and contacts to find work for Aspira – karma for treating people well.

Each of us needs to realize that in our jobs – whether as a people manager, project manager, or as mentor to junior staff- we can have a real impact on our colleagues, for better or for worse.

We can provide encouragement, career advice, and words of wisdom. Or we could choose to offer discouragement, cynicism, and negativity. Let’s make sure that each of us chooses to be the inspiring teacher who helps people to realize their potential and to Seize the Day!

Check us out at www.aspira.ie

 

From Russia to Ireland with Love

 

 

Diversity in Dublin

At Aspira, we have a very diverse international team, which we believe is key to our ability to innovate and deliver the best possible solutions for our clients. We work with global companies and work alongside colleagues of many different nationalities.

Tanya Gainutdinova is from Russia and is a technical resource specialist who started working in our Dublin office this year. Tanya shares her some insights into life at Aspira, and compares and contrasts Dublin with her hometown of Kazan, Russia.

If you’re considering a career with us, see all available positions on our https://www.aspira.ie/work-with-aspira/

I am living in my new home in Dublin for one year now, working for Aspira, and because I enjoy sharing new perspectives and learning new ways of working myself, I thought it might be interesting to share my perspective of living and working in Dublin compared to my home town of Kazan.

Old and New

Dublin has a similar feel to my hometown in Russia – both were founded over one thousand years ago and have many historical buildings to be admired. But there are also lots of new high-tech locations such as Aspira’s Dublin office, which is in a great location in the Silicon Docklands.

Working at Aspira:

It’s been interesting to learn how business processes in Irish companies differs to Russia. My experience is that the atmosphere in Irish companies is very positive, with colleagues always willing and ready to give a helping hand. Our management team are always open to new ideas and encourage us to make suggestions.

One thing I see that the Irish and Russians have in common is the sense of humour, and wiliness not to take ourselves too seriously – having fun and a laugh with the ‘boss’ in is welcomed and typical for both countries (as long as you are getting your work done!).

Universal Interests – Food and Football

In Russia, my region is famous for its Tatar Cuisine – hearty pies, delicious baked goods and very sweet desserts are very popular.

I’ve enjoyed trying some Irish favourites and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of lamb compared to the mutton we have at home. I have now learned what ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ means! The variety of cheeses is astonishing in Ireland – Dairy products and seafood are really standout here.

Kazan hosted some matches during the recent World Cup and we all like keeping up to date with the football results. My team in Russia is Rubin Kazan although my Cork-based Aspira colleagues tell me there’s only one football team to follow:

It is great working and living in an international environment. Kazan and Dublin are very different, but we have much in common. Diversity and collaboration in the workplace helps to achieve synergy and I’m delighted to be part of the team at Aspira.

Author: Tanya Gainutdinova, Technical Resource Specialist, Aspira

 

Aspira Internship

 

Tadhg had heard great things about Aspira before starting his internship, but never could have imagined just how nurturing an environment it would prove to be.

 

What are you studying in college?
I’m studying Computer Science in University College Cork. It’s a four year course, with work placement taking place in third year.

What drew you to Aspira when you were seeking an internship?
I had heard of Aspira through the UCC careers service, and after researching about them online I thought it would be a fantastic place to work. They have a history of hiring UCC students for graduate and intern positions, and I saw that they had some really interesting clients, so it was a no brainer really!

What expectations did you have before you began your internship?
I had heard from past Interns that at Aspira, you’re given a lot of responsibilities right from the beginning of your placement. A lot is expected from you, in terms of being an active employee and engaging with your co-workers. Aspira has a friendly and social environment that I was really excited to be a part of. I was also excited to put my skills to the test and see how well equipped I was to work in the industry.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?
I was given immense responsibility right off the bat, which I thought was fantastic. I was given charge of a project which involved finishing the development of a Web Application by myself. At first, it seemed like an incredibly daunting task, but my Manager Mary and all of my co-workers were always there in support if I ever had a question. The project involved eliciting requirements from the Client, and working with a programming language I had never used before. However, I never felt like I was in over my head with such a supportive group behind me!

Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?
As my internship went on, I had the opportunity to work on several other development projects, along with other areas of Aspira also. I got to work in teams with many different employees, attending meetings and tackling problems in a fast paced environment. I also got to work off site, working directly with clients in a business analysis role for a time!

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

Typically, the day would begin by emptying the dishwasher if it was your turn and putting on a pot of coffee! After greeting everyone in the office, I would settle down to work on whatever project I was currently tasked with. During the first few weeks while working on the Web Application, I would have daily meetings with my Manager, discussing what I had completed, what I was currently working on, and whatever issues I was encountering or foresaw. I would also be in contact with the Client, tailoring the application to their needs and working on any issues or bugs that had arisen.

What key things have you learned during this internship?
Good communication skills from speaking with clients and managers, along with enhancing my development skills, and realising that there is something new to be learned every day.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?
Certainly! I found the work incredibly fulfilling. Finishing a project always brought immense pride and camaraderie. At times during my studies, I had doubts if I was pursuing the right career, but after working at Aspira I’m positive I chose the right path.

Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?
Absolutely. From knowing what will be expected of me, to knowing simple skills like teamwork and communication, and even having a proper work-life balance. I feel like I now have my head screwed on and I’m going into Industry prepared next year.

Why should someone take up an internship at this company?
Aspira is a fantastic place to intern at because you’ll learn an immense amount, all the while being in a friendly and social environment. They give you plenty of responsibilities, and match it with great support. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend 6 months there and to have learned so much.

4 Reasons to consider a Career at Aspira

 

1. You’ll never stop learning
At Aspira, training and development provision is one of our key services. We are renowned globally for excellence in Project Management and Business Analysis Training. We constantly reiterate the need for companies to train up their staff, develop new skillsets amongst their teams and empower their employees through learning. We are no exception to that rule. At Aspira, we have a company-wide focus on personal development and career enhancement through on site, internal and formal training programmes. All Aspira staff benefit from this approach.

2. Work with a connected community
will benefit from the support of your colleagues – a team of experts across a range of areas such as Development, Cloud Deployment, Senior Project Management and Business Analysis. Our collaborative approach to work is further bolstered by the opportunity to work in multi-experienced teams to help deliver exceptional projects for our clients.

We have a very present management team who are always nearby to point you in the right direction and offer their advice and support. Aspira staff also have a hands-on approach to companywide matters, having their say in a number of broader business aspects. The only limits at Aspira are the ones you set for yourself!

3. Flexibility and rewards
Our diversity means that we work with a new way of thinking. Our teams enjoy flexible working to allow for personal circumstances and family. Working for aspira also means flexibility in the clients you work with. We work with some of the best organisations in the country across both the private and public sector, in the country. The work is always exciting and never boring!

Our staff are also offered a number of other benefits such as pension, healthcare, training allowance, and paid holidays. Not to mention that our team is considered by many to be a family of sorts.

4. Diversity
Aspira is a diverse, international company. We have people from over 15 different nationalities building their careers with Aspira and we work with global leaders around the world. We offer opportunities to work globally and work on international assignments, so if you’re looking for a new challenge, Aspira might just be the place for you.

Want to work with us? See all current career opportunities on our website here https://www.aspira.ie/work-with-aspira/

Author:  Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira

‘Are we there yet? Secrets to sustainable business success’

Aspira teach people the importance of carrying out a Lessons Learned exercise at the end of each project, to make sure you learn from your lessons when starting the next project. Tune into talk radio on any given day and you’ll hear the Irish economy is bouncing back into full on recovery. We’re on the up and up again, but how exactly has that recovery come about… and have we really learned any lessons from the recent past?

The construction sector is visibly improving with planning permission notices for new housing littering the countryside. New road development projects and the rejuvenation of our city docklands area is on the horizon – multiple cranes can once again be seen on our skyline and ‘breakfast roll man’ is making a comeback, albeit with muesli and a skinny Latte instead of the full Irish breakfast.

Can we have any confidence that things will be different this time?

We hope that part of our recovery is based upon more mindful spending on the part of the consumer, more reasonable pay on the part of the employers and more prudent savings on everyone’s part.

But it’s not enough to expect consumers to self-regulate. We also need stronger banking regulations and enforcement of compliance. Recent headlines and court cases have exposed some nefarious practices in the world of high finance. We need a change of mind-set so that ‘wheeling and dealing’ practices are not seen as clever or admirable – instead we need to return to valuing good old fashioned principles such as honesty and integrity.

There are some warning signs that the recovery of the economy may soon start simmering over. We see that the property bubble is expanding again as demand far exceeds supply, with house prices back up to pre-crash levels. It makes alarm bells ring out when we hear mortgage providers advertising their “cash back” options – the kind of options guaranteed to encourage reckless borrowing.

The other major source of uncertainty is Brexit. What exactly will it mean for the economies of Europe? I don’t know. Perhaps I should refer to the architects of the Brexit deal – but it turns out that they have no clue either how it will affect either the UK economy or the wider EU economy. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be harmful, and that uncertainty will continue. And it is uncertainty that makes markets jittery and could precipitate another crash.

But rather than focus on the negative, let’s remind ourselves that current economic indicators say that the economy is right back where we were in 2008, we are back to effectively full employment and we anticipate unprecedented levels of employment growth, with jobs in the technology sector leading the way. Aspira has been named as one of Europe’s Fastest Growing Technology companies by the Financial Times for the second year in a row, so there is every reason to be hopeful for continued success. Remember – a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Check us out at www.aspira.ie

Author: Paula Good, Accounts Dept., Aspira

 

Aspira appoints new Director of Software Development

 

Aspira, the specialist Project Management and Enterprise IT Solutions services organisation, has appointed Jim Blair as Director of Software Development. The appointment follows recent growth at the company and a number of significant client wins.

Jim brings over 30 years’ experience in product and software development to the company. From designing core elements of Mac OS at Apple to leading new product development at multiple Irish start-up companies, Jim has led the engineering of many world-class solutions. Jim will contribute to the growth of the software development teams at Aspira, working closely with clients to achieve seamless design, creation and implementation of software products that contribute to these organisations’ digital transformation.

Speaking on his new role at Aspira, Jim Blair said: “I’m delighted to take on this new role as Director of Software Development. We have a vastly experienced software development function at Aspira, and I look forward to working with my software developers and the complementary groups within Aspira to enhance the bespoke customer software service we provide to our clients.”

Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey, commented on the announcement: “We’re delighted to appoint Jim as Director of Software Development. Jim brings a wealth of experience that is critical for the development of world-class devices and software. Jim will be a fantastic asset to the team, contributing his strategic vision for the growth of the software development teams to the benefit of our valued clients.”

Aspira is a specialist consultancy, focusing on Enterprise IT Solutions, with offices in Dublin and Cork. Offering Project Management and Business Analyst Training services internationally, Aspira is approved by the Project Management Institute®, the International Institute of Business Analysis® and Scrum.org.

Please visit us at: www.aspira.ie or contact us on 021-2352550 or 01-5175777.

 

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 2 of 2)

 

In Part 1 of my blog,  I spoke about the importance of Empathy – and making the effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.  Today I want to share two other ways I have learned to improve my level of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence:

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

To have self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions, recognize the effect that emotions have on you physiologically, and recognize the effects they have both on your behaviours and how others will behave towards you.

Socrates (the philosopher, not the footballer) said “Know thyself” in order to understand the workings of the world. When dealing with people you have to be aware of how your own reactions and emotions can affect others and their view of us.

You need to be aware of our emotions in real time – as they happen. You will often have little control over when you experience emotions, especially negative ones such as nervousness, loss of motivation or anger.  However, you can regulate how you process the emotion and for how long you will feel that emotion.

I genuinely can feel a lot of anger very quickly, which has not always worked well for me at times in the past. Unless you’ve just won an Oscar, it is generally not advisable to communicate when in an overly-emotional state.  Whether you feel angry, upset or fearful, you can do lasting damage to relationships if you communicate when you’re not in control.

So when you feel a negative emotion kicking in, recognise it and know it will pass. Don’t let the emotion control your behaviour – instead you manage the emotion.  Consider what the behaviour was that triggered the issue, then identify what impact that behaviour has had on you to give rise to how you feel.  Armed with these three pieces of knowledge – Behaviour, Impact, Feeling, also known as BIF – you now have the tools to give constructive and effective feedback.  Give a BIF.

By communicating to the other person what their behaviour was, how it had an impact, and how that has made you feel; you have proactively managed the situation. Rather than sitting there seething in anger, or wallowing in self-pity, you have analysed the situation and have channelled your emotions to provide constructive feedback to tackle the problem at source.  As as a result, you have self-regulated your emotions and are in control of the situation.

In my role as a Senior Project Consultant with Aspira, I am sometimes required to take on Recovery Projects – projects that have gone wrong, and where I come in as a Recovery PM to get things back on track. In this scenario, relationships can be fraught as people will feel nervous and vulnerable.  This makes it absolutely critical that I maintain self-control and give calm, objective feedback to the project team members throughout.  By acting in a firm yet professional manner, the team can see that there’s a ‘new sheriff in town’ and will raise their own level of performance.

To conclude, one of the key strengths I look for in a great Project Manager is emotional intelligence, and the ability to see there can be 50 shades of black and white…

Author: Damien Kearns, Aspira.

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 1 of 2)

It can be tempting to interpret things as simply black or white, good or bad, wrong or right. But the reality is that there are always different degrees of black or white, and while it can be difficult to discern them, it is important to tune your mindset to figure out how to identify which of the many shades of grey may be in front of you.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been looking to improve and develop, both in my personal and professional life. One area I have found where I can always improve is the area of EQ – Emotional Quotient -, which is based on the idea of IQ but looks at emotional maturity rather than raw brainpower.

Generally, I like to dissect where I can do better and one area I have found for improvement is how I relate to people and deal with situations. Sometimes it’s easy to react too quickly to a situation, only to overreact and regret that response later.

So, with that in mind, I’ve highlighted three areas of Emotional Intelligence where I try to put extra focus when dealing with difficult situations or people:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation

Empathy

In truth, we experience life and work from our own frame of reference, and if a view is expressed which conflicts with our picture of the world, we can treat that view as simply wrong.   This is a mistake, as by treating it as wrong, we make no effort to understand another’s person reasoning for disagreeing with us and we do not try to tune into their frame of reference.

Empathy is being able to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In other words, it’s the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position and look at the issue from their point of view.

It’s about trying to look at a situation using their perspective with a view to understanding their reasoning. I now try to take some time to understand the why of a person’s stance and try to place myself in their shoes.   I find that 99% of the time they have valid reasoning for their stance and it just takes some time and effort for me to understand it.  Sometimes that understanding helps me to change my opinion.  There are also times when understanding their viewpoint helps me to change their mind by explaining my argument in a way that will resonate with them.

Tune in to Part 2 of my blog next week when I share what I’ve learned about self-awareness and self-regulation, and how you can channel negative emotions into a constructive force.

www.aspira.ie

Author: Damien Kearns, Senior Consultant, Aspira.

The People in Your Neighbourhood

Do you remember Sesame Street and the song ‘Who are the people in your neighbourhood’? Have you ever stopped to consider just how many different people we meet each day – from family and friends, to complete strangers, including some people we might prefer to avoid!  Have you considered how much we rely on them, without even realising it?

Firstly, there’s friends and family; we look out for each other, rejoice in each other’s success as if it were our own, and we support each other in times of need. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends – these are the people we grow up with and, in the words from the Friends theme song “I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too”.

We regularly meet the friendly postman who hands over bills with a smile on his face, or the local shopkeeper, who knows you by name and is always ready to discuss today’s weather. We are slightly obsessed by the weather; it’s always too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy – but it’s never boring, and a great topic of conversation!  We have a mutual interest when we meet our children’s teacher, so here the weather topic is dropped, and we discuss the current school extension funding efforts, or the approaching school holidays.  The periodic visit to the hairdresser or barber is always accompanied by a discussion on vacation plans, or reviews of a recent holiday trip.

We also rely heavily on those people we meet in times of mini crisis. It might be when an electrical fault causes you to stumble through the house in the dark, searching for your phone to speed dial your trusty electrician.  Or it might be when that dripping tap in your bathroom turns into Niagara Falls, and you need your plumber to appear and save the day (and your house).  It might be when your car splutters to a halt with a very strange noise coming from the engine, and you rely on your long-suffering mechanic’s magic touch to resuscitate the vehicle, so you can ignore all rattles for another twelve months!

Five days each week we meet work colleagues; catch up on the evening before, figure out how to share the workload for the day ahead, and make plans for the upcoming weekend. In many ways, companies are much like families.  Sometimes a ‘family member’ needs a little extra help to get that project completed by the due date, maybe the project has gone completely off track and needs some expert help in Disaster Recovery.

Sometimes the company may need to take on a completely new project, but simply not have the manpower. This is where you reach out to the ‘extended family’.  Aspira work closely with many companies to provide that helping hand when needed, asking our Project Managers, Business Analysts or IT Support consultants to fit right in with their ‘long-lost cousins’.  They help out by hitting the ground running and providing support throughout the whole project and beyond.

As with all families, if you need that extra helping hand, pick up the phone. We’ll be there for you.  www.aspira.ie

Author: Noreen Quinn, HR Partner, Aspira.

Do you need to be a Mentalist to be a Project Manager?

Last night I went to see the English hypnotist and mentalist Derren Brown perform an amazing show, where he performed uncanny acts of mind-reading and influencing through the power of suggestion.

As Derren asked his audience to promise not to reveal the contents of the show, I will stick with that promise – no spoilers – but I did think afterwards about the importance of influencing skills for Project Managers.

I don’t think Project Managers will ever need to be able to influence people to choose a particular card from a pack, but they will need to get people to select their project when making a priority call, or get people to put in some extra work over the weekend, or encourage people to get their action items closed out in time.

So what tips can we learn from Mr Brown? I learned three tips last night:

  1. The power of story telling. While delivering his show, Derren doesn’t say “and for my next trick…”, instead he tells us a story about himself, his childhood, his personal experience. He then draws from that experience an underlying lesson – a deeper truth.

It’s a compelling performance. His story captivates us, we are drawn in and we engage with what he is telling us.  A Project Manager could benefit so much by using that technique to influence stakeholders.  You win hearts and minds not by saying “this project will reduce the cost of goods sold for this medicine by 2%” but instead by showing how the efficiencies that can be delivered by this project will reduce the cost of medicine, making it accessible to thousands of more people in the world whose lives will be transformed.  A very different message.

  1. Use of metaphor and analogy. Derren uses language very effectively to tie together concepts and generate emotional responses from us. By deeply connecting emotions and anchoring those emotions with his influencing messages, he is able to effectively connect with people’s emotions.

This approach is exactly how advertising companies operate, and it can be just as effective too for you dealing with your project stakeholders. If you need to win the minds of your management team to invest in new technology or processes, get them to recall how it felt last year when the technology let them down, and they had to work long hours and miss vacation just to compensate.  Then show how this new technology will solve the problem.  I feel supportive already!

  1. The importance of body language. He reads people like a book. A very open book.  Not many of us can do it to his level of skill, but if you do take the time to focus on people’s body language, you will often become aware of how they really feel.

You will sense when they don’t agree, giving you an opportunity to re-phrase your argument. You will sense when they don’t understand, letting you try to approach it from a new angle.  Or you might sense that you have had enough and simply want to walk away, in which case you should simply stop, regroup and ask for a follow up meeting.

Aspira Project Management training courses will help you identify and engage your project stakeholders – check us out at www.aspira.ie

You don’t need to be a mentalist to be a Project Manager – but it sure can help.

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira

Never work a day in your life… (part 2)

The story so far… I decided to change my career to become a Professional PM and to seek PM certification… (read last week’s blog for full details)…now read on…

I attended a 3 day Project Management Practical training course with Aspira. It was an excellent, highly participative course which left lasting memories. I was actually surprised at just how much I learned about project management in 3 days and wished that I had attended the course years earlier as some of the projects I had worked on would have benefited greatly.

After a few months, I also attended a PMP® Exam Bootcamp course with Aspira. I learned during the training that in order to be eligible for the PMP® Exam, I needed a minimum of 3 years project management experience, as well as 35 project management training hours.  I met both requirements, and I left the course determined to attain my certification.

I applied for my exam – the application form in itself is a lengthy process but thankfully the Aspira Exam Prep training helped me to complete this and my application was accepted a week later. I signed up to sit my exam in a Prometric centre in Dublin in Feb (there are Prometric centres available in Cork and Belfast also).

The next step was to plan my study.  A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 5th edition is a 589 page book which contains a lot, but not all, the theory you need to know to pass the exam. My plan was to study the PMBOK® manual, study some supplementary research papers and complete lots of practical exams.

I made good use of my commute by train to and from Dublin – scrolling through Facebook and Snapchat was abandoned in favor of reading my study materials. With one week to go, I concentrated mostly on practice exams. There are free exam simulators available in the App Store, and whilst some were better than others, overall they were great for highlighting specific areas I needed to focus on, and preparing me for the real exam.

The exam itself is made up of 200 multiple choice questions which need to be answered in 4 hours. Don’t let the multiple choice element of the exam fool you into thinking this will make it easy. In my experience, there were very few questions where I could instantly say at least two of those answers are obviously wrong. In many questions, each answer seemed correct and you really needed to know your stuff to know the most correct answer.

When a particularly difficult question arose in the exam, I marked it for later review. You can revisit the marked questions at any stage, but I felt it was best to go through all questions first, answering where I could, before re-visiting the more difficult ones. Time management is important – too much time spent on a difficult question could result in running out of time to answer easier questions.

Another obvious tip is to read the questions carefully. With 200 questions x 4 options to read, it is important to remember this and maintain concentration throughout the exam.  I have a tendency to cram a lot of study in the night before exams, but for this exam, I took the recommendation of others on board and I ensured I got a good night sleep the night before. I was so glad I did this, as concentration is key in reading and understanding all 200 questions.

Finally, yes the exam is tough, but there are some high points, the first one being your results are instantaneous! OK – there is a 30 second delay while your results are computed, which feels a whole lot longer as you watch a blank screen. The biggest highlight of course is in seeing the “Congratulations, You Passed” message appear on screen! I felt on top of the world as I left the Test Center and felt I was capable of taking on any project in any industry.

Because the beauty of gaining industry certification is not that it suddenly makes you a great Project Manager – it’s that it validates your knowledge and experience and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges. I can heartily recommend it!

Author: Gillian Whelan, Project Manager, Aspira.

The Project Management Professional (PMP®) and PMBOK®, are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.