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
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 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


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


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.

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

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

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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How to Apply for the Skilled Independent Visa of Australia (subclass 189)

Australian Embassy
Disclaimer: I am not an official immigration consultant, this blog post is an attempt to collect some useful information in one source.

The skilled independent visa of Australia (subclass 189) allows you to work and live in Australia (and New Zealand) and is the first step to becoming an Australian citizen. Here is the general concept, you get points based on a group of factors (age, professional experience, marital status etc.. details here: link), getting 65 points almost guarantees that you will get the visa. The whole process takes around one year and costs about JOD 3,000.

Step #1: Professional Consultation
Visit Reach Immigration, (link, contacts: +962-65521114  and +962-795999429). No, I do not get any commission from these guys but they are really professional. You can ask them for a general consultation about your chances and accordingly proceed with them or go through the process on your own.

Step #2: The IELTS Exam
Usually you need to get a band 7 in each of the four sections of the exam. It is not so easy to do this right from the first time, here are some useful tips (link).

* important update (Nov 2015): I recently heard that you can take the PTE test instead of IELTS, which is relatively better

Step #3: Skills Assessment
Cost: JOD 300, duration: three months
Australia is looking for certain skills, this list (link) has the occupations that are in demand and the corresponding assessing authorities. So, for example ICT business Analysts are assessed through ACS (The Australian Computer Society). There is a ceiling for the occupations as well (linkoccupation ceilings tab) which is reset every year in July.

It is not a matter of the job title itself, but the assessing authority has to evaluate the duties handled within the job and make sure it fits with the academic qualification of the applicant. Here is a sample of duties for what ACS considers a business analyst (link), the obtained work letter should also match the official template of the assessing authority (example: ACS template link).

The assessing authority requests certified copies of original documents, the Australian embassy in Amman is authorized to stamp such documents and they are very cooperative and professional. Book an appointment first (+96265807000, extension: 125), you would have to stamp a copy of your passport, the employment letter, and academic qualifications (degree and transcript of courses) where it costs JOD 20 to stamp each document.

Then you upload a scanned copy of the documents to the assessing authority (example: for ACS link) and the assessing authority in its turn sends back a result via email.

Step #4: Submitting an Expression of Interest (EOI)
Cost: free, duration: one month
The department of immigration introduced this step to make the process more efficient. Applicants do not have to upload any documents in this stage, but if the result of the EOI is positive, it means that there is a high certainty that the applicant will get the visa given that the details he/she provided earlier were all accurate. EOI should be submitted through SkillSelect (link). The same link has some useful details, such as the invitation rounds tab which shows a log of previous invitation rounds.

I am not 100% sure about this but as far as I know, state sponsorship can be requested within the EOI (Skilled Nominated Visa - subclass 190). Applying for this visa gets the applicants 5 extra points but also means he/she has to work in the sponsoring state for the first two years.

Step #5: Apply for the Visa
Cost: JOD 2,500, duration: three months
An EOI positive response email will have a link that automatically leads to the visa application portal (this one: link) fees are payable using a credit card. After several weeks of submitting the application a case officer is assigned, who will ask the applicant to provide any remaining documents such as:

1) Birth certificate in English: can be obtained from the Civil Status and Passport Department of Jordan (1st circle, next to the Iraqi embassy).

2) Supporting evidence in regards to the work experience.

3) Police check: a non-conviction certificate can be obtained from the court in Abdali but it would be in Arabic language. You have then to translate it from an authorized office, Al-Zahra' Translation Center (+962-799404022) is opposite to the court and can do this in one day. Then you have to ratify the document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in rainbow street. (update, Aug'16: you can now submit your request to issue a non-conviction certificate online, and it can be issued in English, so there would be no need for a translation service, check out the details here: )

4) Evidence of Health: there is a list of clinics that are officially recognized by the Australian embassy (link). Dr Amy Khoury clinic is open on Saturdays and she is super friendly, the medical check costs JOD 130.

Last but not least, I want to thank Tareq, Rami, Feras, Taimour, Laila, Ala, Bashar and Omar, this post would not have been published without your help.

Ps. Here is a blog that has more details about immigration to Australia (link).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Qualitative & Quantitative Research

Mr. Smiley Face Waiting for His Turn

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research" - Albert Einstein.
I really admire research! Research is powerful enough to helps us reduce the risk of making a bad choice. Essentially in terms of business, research is conducted to discover customers' needs and to see if these needs are worth catering for through a product/service. Yet we also use research in our daily life (esp. Qualitative research), there are two main sorts of research:

* Qualitative Research
When you intend to buy a new car, or decide on your upcoming holiday destination you ask some friends about their recommendations. These are all examples of Qualitative research, you look for what some people are doing and try to pick an option from that list. This type of research helps us build new knowledge and expand the list of options.

Interviews and focus groups are amongst the popular tools to conduct Qualitative research, having diverse group of participants (age, gender, background etc..) ensures richer findings. The thing about Qualitative research though is that the findings cannot be generalized, and this is where Quantitative research comes into place.

* Quantitative Research
This sort of research is used to reduce findings to the ones that are really important, in other words helps us make a scientific conclusion.

A popular tool to hold such research is a survey, but the sample should have at least 30 respondents (of course having more respondents better represents the population). Quantitative research involves sophisticated mathematical sorts of analysis using SPSS or MS Excel tools (including correlation, anova, t-test, chi-square, analysis.. the list goes on) and the what so called P-value, which if less than 0.05 means the observation is not happening due to chance or in other words is statistically significant.

One last thing, sometimes people unintentionally express thoughts that are different than what they really have in mind. So, findings are not sacred. And what does this picture have to do with research? Simply, research usually leaves you happy with the end result!

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Get a Band 7 in the IELTS Exam

IELTS by Kaplan
Fresh from the oven!
Finally, after three trials I got a band 7 in the General Training IELTS exam. I thought of sharing some useful tips, which are put below in the same order of the different parts of the exam (If you are taking the TOEFL, click here).
Be calm and confident, just as if you are having a normal conversation with a friend. The second part is the toughest as the minute you spend on preparing your answer goes too fast while talking for two minutes seems to take a very long time.
If you have the option, do the Speaking test on a different day and remember that you don't get extra points for the accent. It is also useful to memorize some fillers to use them in case you run out of words (ex. that's a good question, let me think, I cannot find the word for that ..). Finally, take a deep breath when you get confused and as the examiner is asking the question.

Focus, focus and focus! As you proceed towards the last section, the speed of the conversation increases and you have more blanks to fill. If you miss one blank proceed directly to the next one, otherwise you might mess more blanks.
The narrator spends time explaining the task before the actual exam, you can utilize this idle time to read the questions and try to predict the answers, especially for the last section. Silly mistakes could happen as well, I once made a mistake in copying my answers to the answer sheet, please don't do that.

The trick about this part is to read the questions first then move to skim the passages for the answers, otherwise if you start by reading the whole passages you will run out of time. The good thing about the Reading exam is that the questions come in the same order of the passages, though the bad thing is it is a bit tougher than the Listening section (a mistake here costs half a mark, while in Listening 3 mistakes still get you 8.5).

In my opinion, this is the dullest part of the exam, I had to repeat the exam for the third time because I was short of 0.5 mark in the Speaking exam and all the extra effort I put hardly got me to 7. The two parts of this section are mentioned below, in both cases word count is important, but exceeding the word count does not mean points will be deducted.
* A Letter (150 words)
Spend 5 minutes to prepare (read, brainstorm & plan), 10 to draft and 5 to review. You have to explicitly address the objectives of the question. As for the salutation:
- a formal message, name of recipient is unknown: Yours faithfully
- a formal message, name of recipient is known: Yours sincerely
- an informal message: regards
* An Essay (250 words)
Spend 10 minutes to prepare (read, brainstorm & plan), 20 to draft and 10 to review. When brainstorming, write at least four points on each side and in terms of the structure:
- introduction, just rephrase the question
- write "on the one hand" followed by a paragraph containing the side you argue with
- write "on the other hand" followed by a paragraph having the side you support
- write "in conclusion" followed by concluding paragraph, which should clearly mention your opinion

I read somewhere that even a native English speaker could fail this exam, therefore, doing more mock exams enhances your chance of getting a very good result. This book was useful although I had higher expectations about its content (ex. it has some trivial typos: "you might makes" on page 143). Good luck!
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