Monday, November 20, 2017

How to become an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

Preparing for the PMI-ACP exam
I just became a Certified Agile Practitioner (PMI-ACP), as of July 31, 2017 there are about 17,000 PMI-ACP holders, and proudly am now one of them.
In relation to the traditional waterfall school (PMP), Agile is a new school of project management that is greatly influenced by the Japanese school of quality, low tech/high touch approach, and I also heard somewhere it was inspired by rugby, it is built over four main principles:
  1. Focus on Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Focus on Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Focus on Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Focus on Responding to change over following a plan.
requirements & registering for the exam (www.pmi.org/certifications/types/agile-acp)
  • you need 2,000 hours of general project experience working on teams. A current PMP (or PgMP) will satisfy this requirement
  • 1,500 hours working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies. This requirement is in addition to the 2,000 hours of general project experience. You can use this template for hour calculation (link). Examples on how to fill project descriptions (example 1, example 2, example 3)
  • 21 contact hours of training in agile practices:
    • if you prefer onsite training, these guys are based in Amman, Jordan and they hold training Agile training sessions periodically (Process and Smith)
    • For me, I took my training online while sitting on my recliner sofa through Cape Project Management and it was a great value for my money (link). (Update: you can also take the course on Udemy www.udemy.com/courses/search/?q=acp&src=ukw )
  • Cost 435$: (for PMI members, membership costs: $129)
preparing for the exam
I used this book to prepare for the exam (PMI-ACP Exam Prep Book by Mike Griffiths), it including a free access to some sample questions
I took me from oct/2016 until jul/2017 to finish reading the book on a part-time effort. Then for the second time it took me from aug/2017 until nov/2017.
Free sample questions (resources 1, resource 2)

strategy for the exam
Although the passing score is not announced, I read somewhere it is about 70%, which is slightly higher than that of PMP. But don't worry, some questions looked really trivial to me (e.g. any question that says the scrum master should instruct/delegate one person).
For this exam you have 3 hours to solve 120 questions, so I was aiming for 40 questions per 50 minutes. I tried to take a break for every 40 questions (5-10 minutes), close your eyes and take a deep breath in this short break. Make yourself very comfortable, I took off my shoes during the exam period. I finished my exam 30 minutes earlier.

special thanks:
to my friend Hamzah Yamzash who has been encouraging me to go for this certificate
to Guinea Bissau: a peaceful country in west Africa. The ACP Prep Book traveled with me to a handful of countries, on of which is Guinea Bissau. Later while preparing for the exam I used to listen to some very nice music of a band from Guinea Bissau, the band's name is Super Mama Djombo, check them out!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Circassians and Circassian Cuisine in Jordan

The Circassian society of Amman was established in the late 19th century and since then Circassians have continuously contributed to modern Jordan and the society.
Circassians originally inhabited the Caucasus region, but in the 19th century the Russian empire committed a genocide against them and expelled the majority of them from their homeland into lands of the Ottoman empire.

Circassian horsemanship in Transjordan, April 1921 - Source: library of congress
In this post I will try to highlight the main elements of the Circassian cuisine, yet please keep in mind that there are many other dishes and sorts of dessert that I will leave for you to discover (e.g. Jash Pit, Laqom, Zatej..)
Ships pasta:
This is the main dish in the Circassian cuisine, Ships is a thick dipping that consists of walnuts, roasted flour, chicken stock and garlic, while Pasta consists of burgul and rice, mashed and shaped into blocks. The dish is usually served with chicken.
Ships and Pasta
Haleva:
Haleva is fried thin dough that comes either stuffed with potato or Circassian cheese and is best served with tea.
7aleva
  • Where from to order these sorts of food?
Samawer, a gourmet kitchen and a small a restaurant that offers a variety of Circassian cuisine dishes (open from 9 till 7). Address: Close to the 7th circle and the driving training centre of the royal automobile club, Yazeed Al-Asadi street, google maps link and facebook page (Telephone: 06-5814818)
Circassian kitchen & Restaurant (Samawer) - Amman
Circassian kitchen & Restaurant (Samawer) - Amman
Alternatively, feel free to check this list of home-base businesses within the society, all of them prepare dishes of Circassian cuisine and some of them even offer delivery service.
Adygea kitchen 0776952025

Fadia kitchen 0779536257

Hanada kitchen 0777993201

Laila kitchen 0777295476

Mama Sireen kitchen 0796817677

Qofabz kitchen 0772121207

Tamara kitchen 0779756169
Circassian Cheese:
The cheese is made of cow milk, in Circassian it is called ‘Mata Qway’. Some friends say it tastes like feta cheese. It can be found at:
  • Ra’ed supermarket (Telephone: 0785456006)
Address: Main street leading from 8th Circle to Wadi Sir (Husni Souber street), opposite to the post office, building of the Islamic bank
  • Tamby supermarket (Telephone: 065833046)
Address: Main street leading from 8th Circle to Wadi Sir, then turn left (Husain Khawaja street)
Circassian cheese
Desserts:
Although not Circassian in specific, but rather associated with the Caucasus, Napoleon cake and walnut shaped cookies are popular across the society. Both are also available at Tamby supermarket.
Caucasian desserts

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to get from first circle rainbow street to weibdeh in 3 easy steps (and less than 1 jd): using Sarvice

Often during the lunch break I go for a quest, trying to utilize one hour for something useful. Lately I also discovered some public transportation routes (have a look on this nice public transportation initiative http://maannasel.net/map/mapinstructions/ )

So at first I thought, just like it was interesting for me to know how to get from Jabal Amman to Weibdeh using public transportation, maybe it would be interesting for someone else to know this too, and in this case I need to put this knowledge over the internet, typically through my blog. Then I remembered ok I need to take pictures then go and use my laptop, soon this will turn into a weekend project, but take a moment to feel the discomfort of simplifying things, why to overkill it? The answer was why not to use twitter?

I quickly went to the first circle took the picture and took the Sarvice to downtown, and from there I took another picture of the other Sarvice that takes you to Weibdeh. Then I realized that taking the picture of the parking spot of Sarvice cars going to Weibdeh will be sufficient, in this case I won't need to spend time to go to Weibdeh. For some reason it was off my head, this is again about the difference between theory and practice.

While drinking a cup of espresso, I used my mobile to edit the pictures with handwritten instructions, they were not perfect but I am sure they are there on the internet changing someone's life at least weeks before I get semi-perfect circumstances, because I will never get to the perfect circumstances point. Don't waste your life waiting for perfect circumstances.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Issuing the Certificate of Non Criminal Record (in Jordan) - شهادة عدم المحكومية

First you go to this link and create an account
http://ncrc.moj.gov.jo/NCRCApplication/faces/com/moj/ncrc/issuingncrc/customer.jspx
You fill your details (submit request / تقديم طلب), including the desired language of the certificate (this is good news because previously it used to be issued in Arabic only) and if you want to collect it in person, or via Aramex delivery.

The application then provides you with a unique ID for your application (in my case it was a 7-digit number) and you will use this ID to pay for your application in a later stage.

Then you go to this link 
www.efawateercom.jo and create an account, but keep in mind that you will have to pay using a credit card (visa or mastercard).

You fill the details through the Add New Billing button
Biller category: government service
Biller name: NCRC

Service: NCRC 
Billing number: you enter the ID you received earlier



The item will be visible in your dashboard, then you click Process to Pay, fill your credit card details and by this you are done. I received an email on the same day that my application is ready, and it took my about 15 minutes to collect it in person.



Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to become a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)

Onomo hotel - Mali, Bamako
I finally passed the PMP exam! And what is this photo? That was in Bamako, Mali, I was stuck at the hotel as it was pouring rain outside. And then I got into that moment where I told myself that's it, I am not postponing the PMP exam anymore, I will register for the exam right now.
This could be a long post, but I tried to write all the lessons I learned, anyway there are no shortcuts to the PMP certificate, good luck! 

about the exam
It consists of 200 multiple choice questions and you have 4 hours to finish the exam. If you have a university degree, you are eligible to sit for the exam if you have:
  • 3 years of project management experience (4,500 hours)
  • 35 hours of project management education obtained through (physically) attending a course in a center or taking an online course.
registering for the exam
You can register for the exam (total cost is $544) through this link:

In you application you should provide a 550 character description (yes 550 characters, not 550 words) about each project that you worked on. You can download a useful template from this link which will help you fill your application.


Some applications are selected randomly for an audit process, it happened with me. If it happens with you too, don't worry I put some useful details at the bottom of this post.


preparing for the exam

I studied from two books:
  1. The PMBOK, 5th edition pdf (13 chapters)
  2. PMP Exam Prep, 8th edition by Rita Mulcahy (15 chapters)
The PMBOK is more of a guide and it presents the information in a raw format (for example it has no questions), that's why you will find Rita's book very helpful. Here are some additional resources:
First step: I highly recommend you start by fully reading Rita's book. Keep in mind that you may find the first three chapters a bit too abstract, it is ok, they will make sense as you move on.

Second step: After you are done with Rita's book for the first time, you have to read Rita's book again in parallel with the PMBOK (chapter by chapter), and this time try to summarize the main points which will help you keep the knowledge in your mind. By now you should be able to easily write down the breakdown of the 47 project management processes.

Third step: I did not solve thousands of questions, I just solved the questions at the end of each chapter in Rita's book. It was a frustrating process because I made many mistakes, but mistakes help you identify gaps in your knowledge. And last week before the exam, I did two mock exams using the Fast Track software, which helped me simulate the actual atmosphere of the exam.

How much time did it take me? I would say over a year, but I was studying in a part time mode. Most importantly:

  1. Try to build daily momentum, try to study 5 times a week (every working day). If you can't put yourself in a 3-hour slot, do three 1-hour slots a day. I don't know, find a solution (before work, after work, during lunch break..)
  2. Registering for the exam made me put serious efforts because of the firm deadline (my story above in Bamako). You have one year to take the exam and you can reschedule for free if the exam is more than 30 days away, rescheduling within a month would cost you $70. If you do not feel so confident, there is nothing wrong about paying these $70 (I did myself), still feels better than to failing the exam.
  3. After you finish reading Rita for the first time, your exam should be (maximum) within two months, if you take your time you will start to forget the parts you studied at the beginning.
Sample-hypothetical-bottom up estimate:
Rita first time: 15 chapters x 3 days each = 45 days
Rita second time: 15 chapters x 2 days each = 30 days
PMBOK in parallel: 13 chapters x 1 day each = 13 days
Two mock exams = 2 days
Total would be 90 days (so ~126 calendar days)

strategy for the exam
You have some extra time before the exam starts, use it to write down the 47 processes (or anything that you might forget) on the papers you have. You also have a calculator, so don't worry about being good at math.

I tried to take a break for every 50 questions (5-10 minutes), close your eyes and take a deep breath in this short break. I was aiming to take 30-40 minutes for each group of 50 questions. It is easy to benchmark using 50 questions, 200 questions are four 50-question groups.

Last but not least, don't wait for the perfect circumstances to do the exam, be prepared to study anywhere (your room , library, kitchen, airport, plane..), even though I passed the exam I can admit that I was not fully prepared.

bonus: about the audit process
When you are selected for an audit, you will receive an email with forms containing details about the projects you submitted in your application.

You print each form and give it to the boss specified in the application for that project (if the previous boss is not available you can give it to the current boss who is familiar with this project). Then he/she has to sign it to validate the details you wrote, put it in a sealed envelope without you seeing what they wrote, and writing their name initials over the front edge of the envelope.


You then collect these envelopes and put them in one big envelope and send them to PMI by mail.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

March' 16

IMG-20160327-WA0016

This is Floria, post my horseback riding exam. March was an eventful month, with some good lessons learned too. Two trips, one race, and two exams. Bting more than I can chew? Or, if you want something done, ask a busy person? At one point I did not have a choice, the horseback riding exam and the Dead to Red race happen once a year.

Number 1: a business trip to Cote d'Ivoire
Team Cote d'Ivoire prefer to do the workshop in French and am not fluent in French. Two options, either to give the opportunity away, or to take my chances. Eventually, I left my comfort zone, and the outcome was -despite all my mistakes- that I officially completed my first workshop in French (chapeau bas pour moi).
Takeaway: good things come to you when you leave the comfort zone

Number 2: Dead to Red, a 242 km relay race 
I usually run in the evenings where I have to drive to my running track. Too exhausted to follow my habit I had to come up with a new plan: a new running track where I run in the morning directly from my house. Even when I was in Cote d'Ivoire I used to run in Abidjan.
Takeaway: importance of adaptation

Number 3: DELF A2
This is a French language exam held by the Institut Francais, the exam occurs three times a year, but I felt I was ready for this session.
Previously, I missed the last session of 2015. My trip to Cote d'Ivoire was also a very good exercise, practicing French and solving mock exams.
Takeaway: if you miss a train, prepare yourself for the next one

Number 4: horseback riding exam (perhaps the sad part of the story)
The exam has two parts, I passed level two but I did not pass the jumping part (yes I admit I failed!). Strangely this time it felt fulfilling to fail. I have been thinking of doing this exam since last year, enrolling for the exam actually put me under the commitment to prepare hard by reading, training intensively, and watching youtube videos, which helped me acquire more knowledge.
Takeaway: trying and failing still feels better than not trying because you are too afraid

Number 5: business trip number 2
Management decided the trip will not happen in March anymore.
Takeaway: in reality, not all of what you expect will eventually happen.

Overall, March was an exam itself, and the major takeaway is: the right time is always now, you will never be perfectly ready.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rethink Teamwork: The Ringelmann Effect

Teamwork

Do you believe in teamwork?
Once upon a time, a scientist called Ringelmann did a small experiment, he made a few individuals pull a rope separately and measured their efforts. Later, he made the individuals pull the rope together and measured their total effort.

Surprisingly, when he divided the sum of their effort over the number of individuals, the result was less than their individual efforts! It could be that the more members you add to the team, the more they rely on each other until the point where it affects efficiency of the teamwork.

In one of my previous posts I highlighted synergy (1+1=3) and in this post it is obvious that teamwork is not an ultimately good thing, well yes, this is just the true essence of critical thinking.

* Reference: Mullins, L. J. (2007). Management and Organisational Behaviour (8th Edition ed.) Harlow: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

'The Art' of Sleeping on a Long Haul Flight

The Art of Sleeping on a Long Haul Flight

So lately I survived a 14 hour flight, usually I find it hard to sleep on a flight but this time I think I did pretty much well. And as I consider this a skill, that can be acquired over several iterations and perfected by exercise, you may find here my ultimate list:
  • Wear sweatpants with zippers, comfortable and you leave the passport and money in the pocket that has zippers
  • Case for glasses (yes I wear glasses)
  • Get a neck pillow
  • I take sleeping pills right when boarding, ask your pharmacist for the herbal based one (does not need a prescription)
  • Cap to keep off the light from your face, do not use the typical eye cover as the band is not comfortable
  • Use small earphones like the ones that come with the ipods. Although the big ones provide good insulation but they are not comfortable especially while sleeping 
  • I use a cool app called (Muji to Sleep) which plays natural sounds (birds, forest, a stream ...) and sometimes I listen to verses from the holy Quran
  • Read in your native language, for me it uses less concentration
  • Remember to take off your shoes.
Last but not least, timing of the flight is essential, try to pick one overnight.
* update: as of Nov 2015, I don't use a hat anymore, I just use the blanket to cover my face.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reflection: About Productivity

He has a "high execution", these were the words of the head of the department describing my performance - ps. execute as in "the carrying out of a plan, order, or course of action" and not as in "carry out a sentence of death!". I am flattered of course but I have not yet mastered the project management space. Project management skills are useful (even in day to day activities), thus I am reflecting about my knowledge about this space.

So, for me the essence of project management is all about accomplishing dependent tasks, which happens in two ways:
  1. executing the task itself
  2. eliminating unneeded dependency
But, there are other useful things that come along the way.

Task Breakdown
Reverse engineering by starting with the end result (example: a trip to the moon), decomposing it into smaller manageable chunks (check earlier post about work breakdown structure link), and identifying dependencies.

Dependency
Does task A really have to wait for task B before it happens?
Does it have to happen in this exact order? Sometimes it is suitable for me to flip the order of tasks
It is so tempting to follow the "two birds one stone" approach, yet I often find it much of a hindrance

Scope
Many times I start my day with a to do list that I fail to accomplish at the end of the day. Then I ask myself, why did this happen? Findings:
  • The pending tasks are not important and should not have been on the list in the first place
  • I executed some items that were not on the list, did I define scope right? were they not important in the first place? both ways, they ate some of the time/effort resources
  • The list was so optimistic, biting more than I can chew, underestimating the time or effort that I as a human need to accomplish all of this
Last but not Least
  • Follow up is key (sometimes it becomes nagging too)
  • Becoming obsessed with the question "what's next?"
  • Iterations, it does not happen over a single cycle. For example I compiled my thoughts in this blog post over three sessions, and not in one setting
And because lately I adopted the "progress is more important than perfection" mindset, this blog post is left without a picture.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Gaps Model of Service Quality

Gap
There is this popular framework that is related to service quality management, it is called The Gaps Model of Service Quality (I think: Zeithaml et al. (2000)). Briefly, the framework says that there is a group of gaps that eventually influence the difference between what the customer is expecting and what he/she is perceiving, which is also linked to the level of satisfaction of the customer.
  • Gap 1 is between what customer is expecting & what management 'thinks' customer is expecting
  • Gap 2 is between what management 'thinks' customer is expecting & the standard they chose to satisfy this expectation
  • Gap 3 is between the standard chosen by management & the product/service being delivered
  • Gap 4 is between product/service being delivered & what is being communicated about this product/service to customers
However, my post today is more of a reflection upon this model. An intriguing phenomena that I witness nowadays in this world, specifically related to the ideology of the extremists.
  • Gap 1: is the original source of information a flawless one or is this just an assumption? how accurate is this source? does it fit within the right context?
  • Gap 2: if the piece of information is being carried through a middleman, has this person fully and correctly understood this piece of information? has this person correctly explained this piece of information to its final destination? gap 2 is of course cascaded in case there was a group of middlemen (instead of one).
  • Gap 3: has the final recipient accurately comprehended this piece of information? any distortion along the way?
I am really shocked to see how people tend to underestimate the first two gaps and to totally exclude the third gap from the equation - which is related to their own understanding of things. I am also shocked to realize that the threat of extremism is not that far away. It is ok to make assumptions, as long as we keep in mind how devastating an inaccurate assumption could be. You know, there are gaps of knowledge too.
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