Crash Course on the PMP Application

The PMI-MN dinner this month offered a PMP Application Writing workshop. Excellent timing since I just signed up for an exam prep course. This my take on the evening.

PMP Application Writing

I’ve been told that the PMP application process is difficult. This workshop was helpful because the presentation was short and practical which left plenty of time for questions and specific scenarios. These were my key takeaways:

  • “There is no cum laude on the PMP exam”
  • Professional Development Units (PDUs) and PM Education are not always the same thing
  • Only enter the number of hours they request under experience, there is no extra credit for more experience
  • List projects in order of size, not by date
  • The more detail you provide on your application the better and you’ll be less likely to get audited
  • Study to get 80% on the exam

Three Critical Success Factors for Project Managers

The main presentation wasn’t bad, but I was not a huge fan of Bill Johnson’s style. He told us early on that he ascribes to the “Socratean style of teaching”, and I should have left then. I spent most of my time taking notes on his style and the other people in the room than I did on his content. It was fun to practice Gutkind’s immersion technique.

His presentation revolved around the idea that if we took the time to align our projects to the company/leadership’s strategic vision; understood our own leadership style better; and increased our knowledge in the project management methodology we would have more successful projects. A good message, but one that could have been much more direct. I heard one person in the audience speak almost as much as Bill.

Overall, I would say this was an evening well spent. I got exactly what I was hoping for out of the workshop, more confidence in pursuing my PMP!

PM Movies in SPACE!

NASA was an early adopter of modern project management methodologies, so it stands to reason that movies based on their organization would illustrate key principles of the discipline. Watching The Martian I had a lot of empathy for Teddy. He’s the director of NASA and pseudo project manager of the effort to bring Mark home. This thought prompted me to analyze other NASA movies that also demonstrate the fundamental aspects of project management.

SPOILER ALERT: I will not tell you who lives or dies, but I will be reviewing critical plot points of recent blockbuster films.

Image Source: IMDB
Image Source: IMDB

“…get a viable amount of human life off the planet.”
Interstellar

• Scope: Fixed
• Schedule: Variable
• Cost: Variable

Interstellar is the convoluted tale of saving the human race from an inhospitable earth. The schedule is variable because there isn’t a specific time table, and we’re just told at some point in the future the blight will destroy all the crops. The cost is never discussed in the movie. NASA has become a sort of shadow agency and appears to have unlimited resources. This leaves the scope of perpetuating the human race as the fixed constraint. They have multiple plans to achieve this goal, but never stray from that objective.

Image Source: IMDB
Image Source: IMDB

“I’ll start starving on SOL 584.”
The Martian

• Scope: Variable
• Schedule: Fixed
• Cost: Variable

In the Martian, NASA’s objective is to help Mark stay alive until he can be rescued. The schedule is fixed because Mark’s rations will last for a limited amount of time and there is an optimum launch window to send him more supplies. The schedule is so critical that they cut every ancillary step in the plan and add more people to the team to ensure they launch the resupply on time. There is an excellent scene on their risk analysis of shortening the timeline that I am sure left every Quality Assurance Analyst in the audience cringing.

Scope is a variable constraint because it changes throughout the movie. The initial scope is to get Mark a new supply of rations and equipment to keep him alive until the next planned mission to Mars. Eventually it changes all together as they analyze contingency plans. Cost is also variable because it is of no concern in the movie. Because the entire world is captivated by Mark’s struggle they have global resources available to them.

Image Source: IMDB
Image Source: IMDB

“Houston, in the blind…”
Gravity

• Scope: Variable
• Schedule: Variable
• Cost: Fixed

Gravity starts with 5 astronauts upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope. Implementation of the project work was originally scheduled to take a week, but minutes into the movie the mission is aborted and the new objective is survival. Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone’s objectives change a number of times as she is reacting to a series unplanned issues which is why the scope as variable.

The movie covers approximately 3.5 hours of Ryan’s life, and while there are 2 very specific milestones the schedule is variable in relation to the objective of survival. That leaves cost as the fixed constraint. Once communication is lost with Houston and her crew Ryan’s resources are limited to her own capacity and the resources within her reach.

The projects I work on do not have life and death consequences, but these extreme examples show how even when everything seems critical it is essential to identify and manage the primary constraint. This will help to focus and prioritize your work efforts and ensure you meet your objective. It also makes for a compelling story!

What other professions crop up in certain movie genres? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Recipe Roundup – SparkPeople

My last recipe roundup is from SparkPeople. It’s an online community for healthy living that I was hip on a few years ago. I thought now was a good time to jump back in a peruse their offerings.

10424364_1658479897736340_23019545_n(1)Paula’s Ranch Style Pork Chops & Potatoes

  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 8 small red potatoes, cut into bit sized chunks
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 packet hidden valley ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Brown pork chops and remove from skillet
  • Add soup, milk, dressing, and potatoes to skillet, mix well, cover and cook for 15 mins
  • Add pork chops and paprika, cover and cook for 15 mins

I really love this recipe. It’s simple and only calls for one pan which makes for easy clean up.

Healthy Chicken Vegetable Casserole12751566_1711591002423260_759664117_n

  • 12 oz cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 10 oz skim milk
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan
  • 7 oz whole wheat penne pasta, cooked
  • 2 orange bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 head broccoli, chopped, cooked
  • 1/3 cup Monterrey jack cheese
  • Make a roux with the flour and butter, add milk, parmesan, and spices to taste
  • Mix pasta, vegetables, and cheese mixture in a bowl, place in a baking dish and sprinkle cheese
  • Bake at 350 covered with foil for 20 minutes

This make a lot of casserole. I liked it at first, but the portion size seemed huge. It got me to eat some vegetables I don’t normally eat, but I probably won’t make it again.

12798087_1662055257387455_936625615_nGrilled Cheese Pizza Sandwich

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 2 tbsp marinara
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp parmesan
  • Bread, marinara, mozzarella, parmesan, marinara, and bread
  • Grill until cheese is melted

This was something that seemed appetizing in the picture, but just did not turn out that well. I won’t be making this again and would not recommend it.

I did not have much luck with the SparkPeople recipes. I think part of the problem is that fewer ingredients are better when trying to eat healthy and follow the 8WW meal plans. I’m glad I tried to branch out, but I might stick with simpler meals and less carbs.

Have you have better luck on SparkPeople? Please share your favorite recipe in the comments!

WBS Webinars

The first set of PMI webinars I watched were related to creating a work breakdown structure (WBS). As I am spinning up a new project I thought this would be an excellent place to start.

Tips for Creating the WBS and Gathering Better Estimates 

  • Vincent McGevna, PMP
  • Rated: 5.13/7
  • Duration: 70:35

This presentation was a good starting point. McGevna explained that a WBS needs to be deliverable oriented, hierarchical, and define 100% of the work to be delivered. He detailed how to start with a product breakdown structure and expand it into a work breakdown structure. I also liked that he reviewed different tools that could help you accomplish this task like WBS Chart Pro that integrates with Microsoft Project.

Industrial Strength Work Breakdown Structures 

  • Dale Boeckman
  • Rated: 4.29/7
  • Duration: 61:39

The second webinar I watch was not nearly as good as the first. Boeckman’s slides we’re overloaded with information and did not sync up with his talking points. It also appeared that he was reading directly from a page in some areas and had long pauses not caused by technical issues.

I wished he had gone into more detail around the WBS dictionary, because I thought his list of required and optional definition was very helpful.

The quality of these webinars is not very good. The audio cuts out in certain places, and they don’t really seem to have any standardization on the slides. I will try a couple more sessions based on rating instead of by topic and see if those are any better.

Do you have any suggestions for project management webinars? Please share your recommendations in the comments.

TED Talks for Foodies

TED has curated a playlist called Talks for foodies. There are 8 talks with almost 2 hours of content. My favorite talks not only introduced me to new ingredients but also discussed ideas of sustainability.

“How can we create conditions that enable every community to feed itself?”

How I fell in love with a fish – Dan Barber

Dan Barber has two talks on this playlist. Both presentations spotlight farmers who produce top quality food ethically. Barber has a very engaging speaking style and I really enjoyed his videos.

“It’s a mind ripper.”

Cooking as alchemy – Ben Roche & Homaro Cantu

Roche and Cantu were the founders of Moto Restaurant and specialized in molecular gastronomy. The food experiments they discussed in the presentation looked creative and tasty. I was hoping to try it out the next time we were in Chicago, but the restaurant has since closed after Cantu’s death.

“We are all part of a solution.”

How can we eat our landscapes – Pam Warhurst

Warhurst isn’t a chef, but a volunteer who is clearly passionate about the Incredible Edible cause. After watching her lively speech I am excited to learn more about bringing shareable food into community spaces and implementing some of those ideas in Red Wing!

On top of all the excellent food knowledge I gained by watching these videos I also discovered the word unctuous. Try saying it out loud, it’s wonderful.

What is your favorite video from the list? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Crash Course on PMI-MN

Tonight I attended my first Project Management Institute – Minneapolis Chapter event. Their February dinner included a number of short presentations prior to the main event. Want to know what you can get out of a 4 hour PMI-MN event?

Career Networking

The first hour was a networking presentation provided by a recruiter who gave us some great tips on growing your network through references from existing contacts. The best advice he gave was to try and make yourself useful to the people you want to connect with. That might sound counter-intuitive, but you are trying to build a communication path, and it has to be a 2-way street.

Practitioner Communities (PrCs)

There were different options for next 45 minutes and I choose to attend the PrCs presentation called “Can SCRUM Flip a House?” It was a great talk about how to apply SCRUM principles outside of IT. I’m excited to apply the agile principles to a non-work project.

New Member Orientation

Next they offered a 30 minute new member orientation. There was a short overview of what PMI-MN provides its members but most of the time was spent with the n00bz discussing their goals. It was a great lead into the dinner.

How to be a Chameleon: A Key to Enterprise Project Success

source: http://www.sideshowtoy.com/mas_assets/jpg/901290_press01-001.jpg
source: http://www.sideshowtoy.com

The main presentation was 50 minutes, and focused on the soft skills of project management. By this point I was getting pretty tired, and it wasn’t the most riveting presentation. I did take away a tip on making sure that not only do you identify all your key stakeholders, but know everyone that will have an impact on your project. Never forget the admins! I also loved that he described himself as a gun-slinging chameleon (he used a different picture).

That was $32 well spent. I made two networking connections and got some great practical tips on pursuing my PMP certification. The dinner was pretty good too, and fit my 8WW diet! I look forward to attending future events.

How do you make the most of these professional events? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Recipe Roundup – 8WW

I am finally getting back into the swing of things after being sick all week, so please forgive the delay in this recipe roundup. Better late than never. The recipes we have tried from the 8WW Program Manual are listed below in order of preference.

12093386_1552101478417533_82519975_n(1)Classic Fired Egg & Toast

  • 2 fried eggs
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 1/2 tbl Smart Balance Buttery Spread Lite

I love fried eggs, so we’ve eaten this breakfast many times while building this habit. I’ve also adapted it by using one egg and adding a slice of Canadian bacon or using sourdough toast instead. It’s tasty, quick, and filling.

12523790_1508604729435439_306716952_nQuick & Easy Finger Food Lunch

  • 1 mozzarella cheese stick
  • 3 pieces thinly sliced, low-fat lunch meat
  • 1 small apple

Another quick and easy meal that has helped us stay on track even on the busiest week night. Also surprisingly filling.

 

12479369_445752062287040_1527690902_nHealthy Chili

  • 1 lb ground turkey meat
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 28 oz can low sodium tomato puree
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 tsps low sodium beef bouillon
  • 1 tbl chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 15.5 oz can kidney beans (drained)
  • Brown ground turkey in a large pot, drain
  • Add garlic, onion, and pepper and cook over low heat until vegetables are soft
  • Add remaining ingredients, cover, and cook over low heat for 45 mins until lentils and beans are soft
  • Makes 6 servings

This wasn’t a successful recipe in my opinion, which is unfortunate because it requires a lot of ingredients. Clayton didn’t really like it either, so it wasn’t just my finicky palette.

Overall the manual gives you a lot of great recipes to start you on the 8WW path. I’m sure we’ll try more recipes while we build this habit.

Recipe Roundup – Mayo Clinic

We have tried a number of new recipes as we build this healthy eating habit. This roundup will focus on the healthy recipes we have tried from the Mayo Clinic site (listed in order of preference).

SteakQuesadillaChicken Quesadilla (adapted)

  • 2 oz chicken
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • spoonful of cheddar cheese
  • onion
  • green peppers

Slice chicken breasts, onions, and green peppers and saute of medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked. Spread chicken and cheese over half of the tortilla. Fold tortilla in half and heat on a skillet over medium-high heat until cheese is melted. Cut and serve.

I LOVE flour tortillas! Seriously, it’s a problem. So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the whole wheat tortillas we bought. I have made this recipe twice already.

Beef Fajitas (adapted)BeefFajitas

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 ounces beef sirloin, select grade, cut into strips 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 4 whole-wheat tortillas, about 8 inches in diameter, warmed in the microwave
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa

In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Dredge the sirloin pieces in the seasonings, coating completely. We grilled the steak and veggies and then sliced them prior to serving.

I served this by putting the individual components on a plate like normal fajitas. We had cheese, guacamole, and salsa on the side. It was excellent.

SpinachChickenCalzoneChicken and Spinach Calzones 

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (grilled and cubed)
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 4 teaspoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg whites, divided
  • Frozen whole-wheat bread rolls (16 ounces), thawed, not risen (separated into 6 equal pieces)

Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, garlic, parsley, Parmesan cheese and 1 of the egg whites. Mix until well blended. Set aside.

In another bowl, use a wire whisk or fork to lightly beat the remaining egg white.

On a floured surface, press each piece into a circle. Using a rolling pin, roll each dough piece into ovals 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Brush the edges of the dough ovals with the lightly beaten egg white. Place 1/6 of the chicken cubes in the center of each oval. Add 1/6 of the spinach mixture to each. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges together. Crimp with a fork and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until browned and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

This recipe is very tasty, but not perfect. If I make it again I will season the cheese mixture with salt and pepper. I would also flip the calzones halfway through baking because it seemed like the bottom got soggy.

There are a number of fantastic recipes on the Mayo Clinic site. I am excited to attempt more recipes as we continue to build on this habit.

Are you convinced? Please share share the Mayo Clinic recipe you plan on trying in the comments!

Book Breakdown: Eat Yourself Calm

    • Title: Eat Yourself Calm
    • Author: Gill Paul and Karen Sullivan
    • Genre: Health/ Nutrition/ Cookbook
    • Grade: A

I picked up this book at Urban Outfitters last week because I thought it could help me achieve my goals for this diet habit and the goals I had for my previous meditation habit. I also loved the design elements and photographs.

Part 1 of Eat Yourself Calm is about how the food you eat impacts your ability to cope with stress. It includes what foods can help combat stress and a guide of what to eat for specific symptoms like irritability or low energy. It concludes with a meal plan that seems pretty intense.

Part 2 is a variety of recipes that utilize the ingredients discussed in Part 1. It is broken down by course, and I am especially excited to try the healthy, calming desserts. I am most intrigued by the Mango Brulee:

  • 2 large, ripe mangoes – peeled/stoned/sliced
  • 2 teaspoons rum OR vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 6 teaspoons brown sugar

Divide sliced mangoes between 4 small ramekins filling them half way, then drizzle rum or vanilla and sprinkle cinnamon. Spoon yogurt on top and level. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Low broil for 5 minutes until sugar browns and bubbles.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?! I’m sure this will pop up on my Instagram feed soon.

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe that helps you relax? Please share the recipe in the comments!

Documentary Details: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

I have been talking about our new healthy eating habit to pretty much anyone that will listen. A coworker was really excited by the idea, and told me I needed to watch the Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead documentary for inspiration. It is the story of one man’s adventures in juicing as a means to get down to a healthier weight, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I felt like Joe was very relate-able, even though he is more well off than the average viewer. His motivation for documenting his weight loss progress mirrors my own motivation for starting this blog. I also found him to be a very generous spirit and loved that he took some of the people he met on his travels under his wing. Finding liked minded people to help you on your journey is key!

I really liked that they showed health care professionals in the documentary, and that both Joe and Phil met with physicians before they started the “reboot.” It helped me see it as a viable option as opposed to a story about someone who starved themselves for two months. I don’t think I could do a 60 day challenge, but I am very interested in trying one of the shorter challenges.

Reboot With Joe is the companion website to the movie. I have saved the link for future reference since Clayton and I are motivated to try the 3 Day Plan. They also have modifications you can make to the plan that would accommodate blending instead of juicing. But we’ve got to finish our current habit before we take on a new one. Baby steps!

I’ve got Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 on the docket for this weekend. Will you be giving it a go?