Congratulations to Carmen Campos, one of the Parallel Project Training trainers, who recently became a Chartered Project Professional. The APM ChPP is a prestigious award, which requires hard work and commitment to achieve. There are only around 500 people worldwide who have earned this accreditation so Carmen truly deserves our congratulations.
I spoke to her recently about her experience gaining the APM ChPP…
What inspired you to embark on the process of gaining the ChPP chartered status?
I have worked for 14 years managing projects in different sectors so I felt the chartered standard would consolidate the evidence of my experience in projects with a high level of complexity or risk or uncertainty. It would also cement my industry experience in my career transition into coaching and training.
As part of my current role as a training consultant, I felt that my personal experience of gaining chartered status would enable me to help other people grow in their project management careers. Becoming a ChPP has given me the opportunity to make a difference and help people to progress professionally. It allows me to be part of their development journey through all the levels and qualifications from Project Fundamental (PFQ) and Project Management Qualification (PMQ) and up to ChPP level. Going through the process myself has also taught me the commitment and dedication required to successfully pass, which serves me well when trying to coach and support others to obtain ChPP in the future.
I can empathise better with candidates when guiding them through that journey, because I’ve been there myself. What better way to inspire and relate to applicants, than doing the journey yourself first?
I am an advocate of project management and I actively promote it as a career path, particularly amongst females.
The worldwide recognition of all the APM Chartered Project Professional status, provides the opportunity to boost your career no matter what industry you work for. The beauty of the project profession is that the skills and experience obtained are highly transferable. Therefore, this accreditation will add value to everyone’s career even if you change roles in the future, decided to manage projects in other sector, or even take a slightly different career path like I did.
To study and prepare for the ChPP did you follow Parallel’s own self-paced distance learning course?
Yes, the learning materials I used were exactly the same as any other candidate following Parallel’s learning courses.
This includes a comprehensive study guide, and e-learning platform including videos and podcasts. I made use of all those resources at different times. For example, I listened to podcast when going for a walk, read the guide when have quiet time at home, etc. All the learning materials are made available to candidates whether they are studying independently, or part of a tutor led corporate programme. The tutor led ChPP programmes for corporate groups include additional webinars.
How long does it take to prepare?
It depends. As the preparation for ChPP is very personal and self-paced, the time it takes to complete a written application may vary from candidate to candidate. Sometimes other work or life priorities gets on the way, and this may be a factor for needing longer timescales. For that reason, I strongly recommend planning some time aside before embarking this accreditation, and ensure you ring-fence that time to stick to your plan. The corporate programmes provide a more guided and focused approach. These webinars are typically spread over three months from kick off session to completion of written submission. So, although is perfectly feasible to complete successfully a ChPP application within three months while still working full time, some people take longer, and few others do it in less!
There are two main aspects in the Chartership process. The written application, which takes up to seven weeks from the submission date to get results. The second element in the interview, only offered to the successful applicants. Strictly speaking there may be up to a seven-week window between submission and the beginning of interview preparation, and that doesn’t really count as preparation time, because at that point you don’t even know the outcome of the written application. Also, it is important to point out that there are 3 different routes to achieve Chartership. Route 3 is the longest one, as it is experiential route for professionals who do not have a recognised assessment. The other 2 routes are for people with recognised assessment of technical knowledge (Route 1) and professional practice (Route 2) and therefore these routes are shorter – and quicker.
In my case, I followed Route 3 and took me slightly over 3 months. Once I was invited for the interview, I would say I spent another 3-4 weeks to prepare for that.
What was the main challenge you faced in completing the Chartered Project Professional?
One of the biggest challenges for me was to encapsulate all my experience managing complex projects into a single application while making sure that the most important and relevant information was clearly documented. All the ChPP applications are assessed by qualified and trained assessors, but at the end of the day, they are individuals who don’t know you and have never worked with you. For that reason, it is very important to remember that assessors will impartially be looking for evidence of competence against the specified criteria, so it is vital to do so clearly and demonstrably.
When I was writing my application, I had to ensure that my statements fully (and succinctly) demonstrated all evidence required in the criteria. That was a challenge for me, as I found tricky to fit all these situations and experiences from the projects I worked over the years within the maximum word count. A ChPP application requires you to write about your experience on the selected project(s) focusing on 12 competencies – 250 words maximum each competence. Therefore, you only have 250 words to demonstrate the assessors that you meet at least four of the criteria in each specific competency. For example, Leadership, Change control, or Conflict Management.
On the positive side, writing the application was a very useful reflection exercise. Having to think of all that evidence brought me back to memorable events during my career and key lessons learned in projects i.e. what went wrong, what went well, what did I learned, what was my contribution to that project?
To overcome that challenge, I spent a lot of time thinking about the criteria required first, so that I can carefully choose the right projects and target my statements at the right professional practice areas. That thought process helped me to be able to articulate what I actually did in a way that anyone unfamiliar with my projects, could easily ascertain that the evidence provided has demonstrated the competence. This challenge has now become my tip number 1 when supporting other applicants, which is to write very clearly in the application what YOU did.
What was the benefit of having coaching from Parallel Project Training?
Project managers seeking to gain chartered status have expertise and proven track record managing projects, so they know better than anyone what their personal contribution to those projects and their organisation is. Saying that, getting the coaching from Parallel is extremely useful to get applicants thinking in the right direction. Because every project is so different from another, the chartership is very personal journey. Conversely, that also mean a person writing an application on their own may get tunnel vision as they are too close to their projects, which may result in focusing on the wrong areas or write unnecessary detail. That could impede achieving the successful outcome they deserve in their submission for all the great project work they have done.
Using the Parallel eLearning site and listening to the podcasts was invaluable to me to be able to focus on the right areas. That guidance along with the comprehensive study guide allowed me to articulate my individual contributions to a project within the compulsory 250 word count limit the APM submission process.
Which elective competencies did you choose to demonstrate – and why?
The APM recognises that there are some elements that everyone with a chartered standard should be able to demonstrate, but there are others that may only be relevant to certain roles. For example, someone who is in project sponsor role might not be doing scheduling on a day to day basis, and may demonstrate more evidence in benefits management. A programme or portfolio manager will have more experience on financial planning and resource capacity planning, etc. This explains why some of the competences are elective. On the other hand, majority of project professional regardless their role profile will probably have been exposed to competences such as leadership, conflict management, risk and issue management to enough extent.
I chose the competences that I used more often and enjoyed the most. I love planning and scheduling so I selected Schedule Management as my first elective competency. Resource Management was my second elective competence simply because I did a lot of this in my last role before training consultancy. I recommend potential applicants to choose the areas they are more comfortable with or enjoy most, because if they get questioned at the ChPP interview, they will come to life and show their passion.
It’s worth mentioning that I did my application under the previous ChPP standard and the newly revised 2023 standard has different split of mandatory and elective competences – and new competences such as Sustainability and Diversity & Inclusion have been added too!
What are the advantages of achieving Chartered Project Professional status?
One of the advantages is recognition by the professional body for project management that you have the experience and competence to apply all your knowledge in the profession. It’s a way to demonstrate that you work to the standard that is required by the professional body, and to be actively involved in the project profession.
It’s also very rewarding from a personnal point because it’s a way to prove yourself, elevate your profile in the profession and potentially boost your career prospects. You’ve proven that your project(s) were complex and challenging enough, you’ve proven you’ve used right approaches and methods when managing them, and also that you have the technical knowledge to back that up. ChPP is not only about what you have done, but also about demonstrating your technical knowledge and skills, for instance if you have to manage another project in the future. Achieving ChPP accreditation does not require a former qualification as pre-requisite, but a having project management qualification really helps to get a good foundation of the technical knowledge.