Galen Low is joined by Crystal Richards—Principal & Owner of MindsparQ—to talk about what it means to become a certified project management professional, dispelling common misconceptions about the PMP, and digging in to some of the often overlooked advantages of certification.
- Crystal’s background and a little bit about MindsparQ [2:29]
- Crystal is the Principal and Owner of MindsparQ, where she trains people to be better project managers.
- She also provides professional development training—both getting certified and maintaining certifications.
- Crystal has an event called Indoor Recess that tackles things talked about during PMP and PMI-ACP certification.
- She works virtually with people across the world.
- Crystal’s other projects [6:01]
- She’s working with the University of Maryland to develop an online course.
- Can achieve Contact Hours & PDUs by taking this course
- She also has a course on Udemy: Agile Project Management in 30 Minutes and has received a lot of good feedback.
- She’s currently writing a PMP exam prep book—likely to be released in Q1 of 2024.
- She’s working with the University of Maryland to develop an online course.
- Crystal explains what she meant when she said, “if all you want to do is pass the PMP or ACP exam, then MindsparQ might not be the right fit for you.” [10:24]
- Some people want to learn beyond just passing the exam—they want context and examples. And that’s where Crystal helps.
- She provides everything in context so when they see the question and the scenario, they’ll be able to identify the answer because they understand the content of the exam in context.
- She helps people understand the “why”.
The value of the charter for the exam is to indicate who is the project manager.Crystal Richards
- What does getting the PMP mean to Crystal [14:09]
- If you can keep to your own calendar, you’re self disciplined, and budget is a constraint for you—do the self study courses on Udemy and LinkedIn Learning.
- Once someone gets their PMP, what does that mean?
- It has the potential to increase your salary. Though, usually the salary increase happens when you move to another company.
- Getting the PMP means that you’re going to need to maintain it which requires going to conferences and continued education.
- The PMP says to the industry that you’re serious, you’re investing in yourself, you’re aware of the tools (i.e., the PMBOK guide), but it also gives you access to a lot of resources (i.e., PMI events). So when you have questions or get stuck, you’re no longer alone.
- It’s a great starting point for level setting and baselining language.
The PMP now indicates to industry that you’re serious about the field, that you are investing in yourself, that you are aware of all these tools because you understand that there is a guide called the PMBOK guide.Crystal Richards
Meet Our Guest
Crystal Richards is a renowned PMP & ACP trainer, prolific speaker, and founder of MindsparQ—a training organization that focuses on helping overwhelmed teams improve their project management skills so they can lead projects with clarity, courage, and confidence.
Getting the PMP means that you’re going to maintain that credential by getting further education, professional development, training, and conferences.Crystal Richards
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Crystal on LinkedIn
- Learn more about MindsparQ
Related articles and podcasts:
- About the podcast
- The Future Of The PMP, What It Lacks, And How To Fill The Gaps
- Best Online Project Management Certifications Reviewed
- PMBOK 7th Edition And The PM Revolution
- Project Charter Complete Guide: Template & How To Make It
Read the Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low: Finally. That moment you've been waiting for. The one where you get to add three very significant letters to your email signature. The letters P, M, and P.
That's right, you're a project management professional now. But somehow you don't feel like you're any better at your job. And so far no one has asked you to calculate the earned value of your project. And the headhunters haven't started reaching out on LinkedIn yet with 6-figure job offers.
So what was all the effort for?
If you've been considering getting your project management professional designation but aren't sure what to expect — or if you're someone who's just gotten their PMP and are feeling a bit lost about what to do next — keep listening.
In this first part of our two-part conversation about the state of the PMP, we're going to be exploring what it means to become a certified project management professional, dispelling common misconceptions about the PMP, and digging in to some of the often overlooked advantages of certification.
Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with The Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in the digital world. If you wanna hear more about that, head on over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Okay. Today, we are talking about some of the misconceptions people have about what life is like once you become a certified project management professional. And also what to do leading up to, and also after that moment when you get your PMP.
With me today is the one and only, the one and only Crystal Richards, a renowned PMP and ACP trainer. She's also a prolific speaker and the founder of MindsparQ—a training organization that focuses on helping overwhelm teams improve their project management skills so they can lead projects with clarity, courage, and confidence.
Crystal Richards: Thank you, Galen. Wow. What an intro. I'm like, drop the mic, I'm done.
If I say anything else, I'll just ruin the rest of this conversation.
Galen Low: And that's it, folks. So there you have it.
Crystal Richards: I know. I'm wonderful. Call me.
Galen Low: Yeah. There you go. I mean, literally I've been following you stalker-like, but also kind of like fan human. I just like watching what you do. I think you are such a buoyant personality in the industry.
You're a mover and shaker. You're doing so many good things and I'm really excited to dig into this. But I thought first of all, maybe you can tell me a little bit about MindsparQ. Like what made you start your business and how do you and your team help project managers like navigate the stress of their role?
Crystal Richards: Yeah, I'm excited to share. So again, I'm Crystal Richards. I am the principal and owner of MindsparQ, where I train people to be better project managers. And so with that, it comes with certification training for the PMP as well as the PMI-ACP. I also provide professional development training, so it's not done with me when it's project management certification.
It's also maintaining your certification. So one of my recent loves and passion projects is to host a virtual event for right now called Indoor Recess. So, pretty fun, right? Taking you back to your elementary school days. But let me tell you, I pulled that bad boy off. It was my annual or inaugural event last October.
And I was like, oh, I hope this is good. And then when it was done, I'm like, I really did the darn thing. This is pretty good. And I had great reviews and it was just tackling the things that we talk about during the PMP certification and as well as the ACP. You know, you learn about the documents and learn about the techniques, but a lot of people will say, I've never created this document.
I don't know how to do this technique. They want me to figure it out. And I can watch a whole bunch of YouTube videos, but we really dug into that. So that's what I'm there to provide, like I work with individuals. I love working with teams, so definitely pitching out to any corporations out there. If you're looking to build your teams with the skillsets and they don't have to be certified, they get the full benefit of the fun and the learning and the growth.
And it's also nice when we get to learn together. So that's what we do. I'm based in the Washington, DC area in the US. And being in this virtual world, I'll work with anybody across the globe provided I don't have to get up at five in the morning. I've been doing the whole 5:00 AM club and it's been a struggle. So to actually get up to teach, right?
Galen Low: Indoor breakfast.
Crystal Richards: It might be pushing you just a bit, but that's a little bit about me and you can find me on LinkedIn, Crystal Richards, or type in The MindsparQ cuz mindsparq.com was already taken. So themindsparq.com. And it's spelled with the Q, MindsparQ and get a little bit of my opportunity to get the trademark, and so very proud of that accomplishment.
And my social media playground is definitely LinkedIn, so definitely follow me there.
Galen Low: There you go. We'll link in the show notes below. I have to ask the name Indoor Recess. Is this what young Crystal was doing in school? Like getting people together, teaching 'em about projects and like how to be better? Where does that tie together?
Crystal Richards: I teach 'em how to be better humans. I definitely was doing that. So, you know, play nice. I would always say, and to this day, I'm a very good second in command. Because I think sometimes the leader has to be really big vision and kind of set that vision. I'm much more tactical.
So I'm like, okay, here's what she said. Let's all get it together. Let's bring it together. So, and I take on that role with love and not at all that, you know, I wanna be up there at that, you know, this is great for me. So, and even with training, I take that role. When people are successful with the exam, I say, you did it. I just showed you like the path. Follow the process, but the rest is up to you. So...
Galen Low: Honestly, the world needs that, right? Like there's a lot of high level out there, but when it comes to the brass tacks of getting something done, you know, we're huge believers of that too, right? Sometimes you need to talk it through.
Sometimes you need to see how somebody else did it. You know, it's not all just textbook stuff, which we're gonna get into. But what I was saying earlier, I've been kinda like keeping a close eye on you and your business. It's really dynamic. So you got Indoor Recess last October. You're probably gonna do it again this year.
Are you working on any other like interesting projects right now?
Crystal Richards: I am. I'm really excited. I'm working with the major university—University of Maryland—to develop an online course. So it is so awesome to thinking about, I'm duplicating myself. So I can only do so many classes and this is an opportunity cuz I have a course also on Udemy—Agile Project Management in 30 Minutes.
And right now I just got my stats and I have over 18,000 students who have gone through it.
Galen Low: Very nice.
Crystal Richards: And just received a lot of great feedback about the course. So I'm excited about delivering this course online, cause I know a lot of people are like, Eh, you know, whether it's cost or just convenience, I'd rather do something self-paced.
And to be able to partner with major university like this is really awesome. And in conjunction with that, I'm also writing my own PMP exam prep books. So, I'm nervous, but excited about it. I have all these ideas. I've worked with enough exam prep books out there where I'm like, ah, I think it's missing this.
Or really could explain a little bit more clear. Let's have some pictures like get some visuals. So, I'm excited about what's to come. That will probably be released first quarter of 2024. And the kind of funny side story. I've been talking about, I turned down a lot of speaking engagements last year. I'm like, well, I'm working on a book.
I'm working on a book. And so for anybody who's thinking about working on a book, it's gonna take you a whole year to tell people I'm working on a book and then you need the next year to actually write the book. So... so just know it is, it is not like, you know, there's enough ads out there.
Like write a book in 90 days. Ah! I mean, if it's a comic book, yeah, but you want something a little bit more, more in depth. It's gonna take a little bit long and you've got kind of like the whole writer's block and mind trash sometimes. Like, oh, this is not good enough. And you just have to like overcome that.
So that's my quick advice for anyone thinking about writing their book.
Galen Low: Well, and also like what a beefy topic. Right? Like you didn't write a book. It's not a novella. You're talking about preparing for, you know, the PMP. Talking about certification, we'll talk about it later. But you know, the Project Management Institute is like changing pretty rapidly, which I'm impressed by. But also, you know, it's a moving target in some ways, right?
Crystal Richards: It's ok. You can say that.
Galen Low: It's a little confusing. I'm looking forward to your book because I'm gonna read it and then I'm gonna get it, right?
Crystal Richards: Me too.
Galen Low: Finally, I'm gonna get it. That's awesome. What an undertaking. What an under digging indeed. And is the course for credit, like you're teaming up with University of Maryland, is it like a continuing learning thing or for credit?
Crystal Richards: It is. So we call it contact hours, so it definitely will fulfill the 35 hour, contact hour and PDU. So we also call that Professional Development Unit. So if someone already has their PMP, then you start accumulating PDUs. And if you want to retake a boot camp or like PMP course again, you definitely can achieve those 35 contact hours or PDUs through taking it.
So the more the merrier in, I'll probably, if people are interested who are listening, like, Hey, I'd love to kind of give you some advice or guidance about, this would've been great in my PMP exam prep book. I absolutely welcome that, like bring it on. So it would've been really great if there was a book that had this information or explain critical path this way.
I'm like, I got you. We could do that.
Galen Low: You hit the nail on the head. I think pictures, stories, right? It can be very abstract in there.
Crystal Richards: Yeah. It's just like this is the answer and you're like, wait, what?
Galen Low: Yeah.
Crystal Richards: I'm trying to minimize people having to like Google all their answers. I mean, some people can't help it, but you know, I want this to be comprehensive, but not overwhelming and scary. Cuz there are some scary, thick books out there. And you're just like, we're never gonna get through this. And when you see kind of the thought process I go and exercises that I'll incorporate, you'll have fun. You're like, Ooh, I'm getting through this book.
Like, you know, gang busters. So that's what I'm looking forward to.
Galen Low: All right. Taking on the late Rita Mulcahy.
Crystal Richards: Yeah, that's right.
Galen Low: There we go.
Crystal Richards: Don't tell them that. Like, oh, Crystal's coming out here. But, yes.
Galen Low: Awesome. That sounds super exciting. One thing I recall you saying, I think it was to me maybe in one of our earlier conversations.
But it was something to the effect of like, if all you want to do is like pass the exam, pass the PMP exam, pass the ACP exam, then what you do and what you do at MindsparQ might not be the right fit for you. Can you tell me a little bit about what you mean by that?
Crystal Richards: Yeah. First of all, me and my big mouth, so. But I do mean that wholeheartedly. There are some people who are very self-disciplined.
It's just getting that, you know, the three letters after their name and I totally respect that. Whereas some people are, I want to learn more than just passing the exam. Can you give context and provide examples? And that's where I go. I take it a step further, still keeping it to the 35 hours that we have and not going off on a diatribe.
But really explaining to them, you know, here's the value in this. Like for instance, just the project charter. Something that you'll learn about if we, and I think we all know about them, but just sometimes we do it just out of automatic, right? Like, oh, I gotta do a project charter, but sometimes I'll kind of give the antidote of, you know, people forget what this is all about.
And this is a great document, or this is your sales document to get people excited about what we're doing. And sometimes, you know, whether you have the vision or the big picture outlined in your charter, that's something that you can translate into your meeting agendas. Because sometimes people forget why we're there.
It's instead, it's picking apart something. And if you see that mission constantly repeated, this is why we're here, this is what this is for. I also like the fact, what I explain to folks when we talk about the value of the charter for the exam is that also indicates who is the project manager. And sometimes when you don't have that formalization, you're walking in rooms and people are like, who made you project management god or goddess?
And now you have this piece of paper to say, right here. This is, you know, and it has the executive signing off on it. So it's that backup document. It is that sales document for you. And I provide that all in context so that when they see an answer, they're so entrenched in the understanding about the product charter, that when they see the question in the scenario, people are unclear about your authority level.
And, you know, what this project is about? What did you do wrong or what was missing? They'll be able to identify the answer option you failed to have that project charter. And that's where it makes it clear for folks from that perspective. And I really try to provide whole picture of why these documents are valuable, why sometimes you have to say, it's just not gonna work for my organization.
But I'll have it as a back pocket item and you know, if these questions keep coming up.
Galen Low: Right. Yeah, I love that. The 'why'. There's a lot of what in some of the earlier PMBOK guides that I read. And yeah, just the why kind of sticks it all together. Also, I kind of love this idea of having like a project charter badge, right?
Like an FBI badge or whatever. You just walk into the room, you just like flip it open. Nope, I'm allowed to do this. Listen to what I have to say.
Crystal Richards: Exactly. I've arrived and this charter indicates... that is so.
Galen Low: There is some of this like, right, like formality. I think you hit the nail on the head earlier and I wanna dig into that, which is that like sometimes it won't be the right thing for you.
Like just cuz it says it, just cuz you learned it doesn't mean you have to use it. And I think, you know, it comes like head to head with this moment and just to kinda like dive into it. Like in my circles, a lot of people come to me usually after getting their PMP and they're kind of stuck, right?
Like they've all, you know, read the PMBOK guy that did the exam. They've been taught all sorts of techniques. They know their processes and their best practices, but they aren't always entirely sure like how to apply them. And also they just don't feel like they're any better at their jobs, so I thought maybe just for starters. Juicy question for starters, like what does getting the PMP mean to you?
Like, is it meant to be training? Is it just kind of like a shared vocabulary? Is it just about professional accountability? Those letters, like what is it all about for you?
Crystal Richards: Yes. All of the above, it's all those things. And before I answer that, I do wanna put a pretty bow on your question, cause I'm not sure I've answered it fully.
For those who are like, okay, Crystal talks about how wonderful she is, but why wouldn't I wanna take her course? Like I said, if you can keep to your own calendar and you are self-disciplined, and I'll be honest, if budget is a constraint for you, a concept that you'll learn about in your studies, do the self study courses that are on Udemy or LinkedIn learning.
And if it's really about just getting that feather in your cap and checking a box, I totally respect that and there's nothing wrong with that at all. I think a lot of times people love taking bootcamp course with me, but bootcamp courses in general is the networking. It's the, just being able to ask your questions from someone who's taught this for long enough that.
And especially you get to ask those questions to add a lot more context versus if self-study, you're just like, okay, I just have to memorize this. I have to memorize that. And, right? And just spit it out and get my PMP. But I think now weaving into your question, once I get my PMP, what does that mean?
And yes, it has the potential to increase your salary. I think negotiate that, hopefully, that you have with your boss is one of my professional development goals. So I had a question asked earlier this week from a company where they asked about the 20%, right, once you, the average 20% increase that you get.
I think there needs to be context with that, right? I don't know if you'll necessarily get it in the company that you're at. Maybe not. But usually it's when you jump ship. Not that I'm advocating that you jump ship, but I think there needs to be a little bit more context around that 20% bump.
But you know, your organization gets a benefit because you are now committed. Cuz you have to be, if you wanna maintain it. So getting the PMP also means that you're gonna maintain that credential by getting further education, professional development, training, conferences. And what I always tell people is the PMP doesn't guarantee a job.
And I think this is something that we had touched on earlier in our pre-talk, is that especially the new folks who are into the field and they think PMP, I've arrived. Where it's really for folks who have the years of experience and it's just rounding out all their work experience and knowledge.
So, the PMP now indicates to industry that you're serious about the field, that you are investing in yourself, that you are aware, maybe not necessarily that you utilize all these tools, but now you're aware of all these tools because you understand that there is a guide called the PMBOK guide, the project management body of knowledge.
But it also gives you access to a cadre of resources, whether it's people, the Project Management Institute website. Attending these PMI events where if you have questions or you get stuck, you don't have to figure it out on your own. You're no longer alone. And cuz a lot of us, I would say from our experience, number one, we were the accidental project manager and we were the only project manager.
Right? There was no one else to talk to. You didn't know what this stuff was about. And then you learn all these terms and I think it is a good reference point to level set and baseline language. Right? So, you know, oh, this is what they mean when they're talking about a baseline. This is what they mean when they're talking about a projectized organization versus functional.
And it's just nice to know what this means we're, you know, Googling it and trying to figure out where it is. You have this book of knowledge and you have this institute.
Galen Low: Alright, folks. That was part one of our two-part series on the state of the PMP. Catch the rest of the conversation in our next episode. Do just a few weeks.
In the meantime, if you'd like to join the conversation with over a thousand like-minded project management champions, come and join our collective! Head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership to learn more.
And if you like what you heard today, please subscribe and stay in touch on thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Until next time, thanks for listening.