Professional certifications – building my career

Hand holding a wooden print stamp with the word 'certification' printed along its side with laptop in background

Emma-Ruth Arnaz Pemberton looks back at her career in project management and the role that best practice professional certification has played.

Like a lot of people, I “fell” into project management without any formal qualifications. I was working abroad at the time and, with hindsight, can see that I was using some project management principles without officially recognizing them as such.

For example; writing down what I was going to do (“scope”), organizing the activities (“planning”) and learning from completed activity (“knowledge management”).

Once I returned to the UK, however, I looked for specific development opportunities and AXELOS certifications became the pillars on which I built my knowledge and expertise. Each method provided me with processes that I could put into practice according to the responsibilities of my role at that time — and so support beneficial outcomes.

  • Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) gave me a wider view of Project Portfolio Management (PPM); an approach which was hugely beneficial when tasked with designing the Project Management Office (PMO) for Office Depot, the office supply retailing company. MSP’s enabling processes and training allowed me to see clearly the different “tranches” of programmes and identify which required most attention.  
  • Management of Risk (M o_R®) became pertinent when I started working globally for Office Depot and the risks of working cross-borders became evident. The course helped me to do better horizon scanning, as well as use critical thinking approaches to understand and deal with risk.   
  • PRINCE2 Agile® became an important addition to my armoury when working as an independent consultant for organizations such as Coventry Building Society, Hampshire Fire & Rescue and ERAP Consulting. With clients increasingly wanting to “be more agile” and most needing a blend of approaches, having this certification made sense.

Complementary APM certification

Having been involved with the Association for Project Management (APM) for a long time as a volunteer, harnessing its best practice approaches into the rest of my work was a natural progression.

Achieving APM certification has given me a broader view of how to run projects outside the generally complex world of pure PRINCE2® and PPM.

Continual development

I don’t believe in the term “expert”, as it suggests the end of the line, in the sense that “I’ve asked the expert, so that must be the answer”. In the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world we live in, that just doesn’t work anymore.

Instead, at Wellingtone, we talk about the concept of “mastery” as this implies there is always something to learn and a way to improve.

For me, this has been an underlying principle throughout my career; where certification and experience of different “project” walks of life have worked hand-in-hand. As a result, I am able to deliver a truly personalized service to my clients based on what I know - and have seen - working in other industries. It’s an approach which is aligned with their DNA and reality.

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