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Sweat, Deception, And Mold (AKA: A Perfect PMP Class)

I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach PMP exam prep. I loved being in the classroom, I loved project management, and I loved taking something complex and making it easy for people. So I jumped in with both feet, left my cushy corporate job and became a contract instructor.

I started teaching for a few well-known, large training companies. While I knew that the key to any great class is a great instructor, I was not quite prepared for the fact that that would be all I would have going for me. My students would come into class without any prior preparation.

Many thought that they were taking the exam as part of the class – the company had not explained the application and testing process to them. Some didn’t even meet the requirements for a PMP (and of course the company wouldn’t refund their money). The course materials consisted of nothing but the printed out PowerPoint slides. No graphics. No exercises. No explanations. Just slide upon slide of boxes with words. (And I won’t even mention the location where the sleeping rooms were so stinky that I had to go out and buy all of my students Febreeze candles.)

But then that magical moment arrived. I had been asked to deliver a class in Santa Ana at a local hotel (that shall remain nameless). The class was a big one – over 15 students. The room was a small one. The class kicked off just as the heat kicked up. We experienced record high temperatures that week. One small problem – the air conditioning in the class room, when turned on, made a sound so loud that you could not hear yourself think…. let alone hear someone lecturing.

And so it went: lecture, start melting, turn on the a/c, cool down, turn off the a/c, lecture…. repeat x 100.

The hotel did attempt to fix it. A few times. With a hammer. Very loudly. During class hours.

Repeat the cycle above.

A great part of any training class is the food. I find that students (and instructors alike) feel a little more comfortable with over-indulging during a class. So as the instructor, I was more than happy to dismiss the class from the heat to enjoy the buffet lunch the company provided. As we made our way through the line we found a little extra bonus. Mold on the food. Yummy!

Exhausted after my first day in the heat and quite ravenous (no, I chose not to eat anything else from the buffet), I longed for a cool shower and bed. But it was not to happen. The hotel had “run out” of clean towels. Not even kidding you. While I felt bad, I felt worse for my students who had endured a long day of bad materials, heat, moldy food, and were now left with no towels. And all of this for the bargain price of more than $2,800.

So the title of this blog said “A Perfect PMP Class” and you may be wondering how can I possibly say this was a perfect class?

Well, here is how:

I was placed in a situation where I felt incredibly challenged, and yes discouraged, and yet I was able to put others before me and recognize that I had a job to do and a commitment to them. I refused to NOT have them succeed. They had paid good money and honestly they had been duped. Being an instructor is kind of like being a waitress. You just have to deliver what the cook made. If your food isn’t cooked to your liking, who usually feels the brunt of that? Not the cook out back. But that didn’t stop me from giving them 110%.

I also realized that if “that” company could stay in business, think what could happen if we had our own company with incredible materials, clean hotels, spacious conference rooms, un-moldy food, clean towels, and a staff of folks who were there to support the students AND who knew all about the PMI certifications. I realized, at that sweaty, hungry, stinky, tired, and discouraged moment exactly what our company would NOT be.

That was four years ago and I keep that horrible week as my beacon home and my objectives clear. We will always strive to be what that company isn’t. We have grown thanks to a dedicated team of professionals and truly the most AWESOME students ever. Our materials have been developed and matured as a result of feedback from our past students. We enjoy tremendously high success rates and students who become long-term friends.

Now really, does it get any better than that?

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