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Author  Patrick Olden - Project planning engineer, Actavo

September 4, 2020 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Career progression
  • Professional development

We spoke with Patrick Olden, who works at Actavo, an engineering solutions company. Patrick recently became a PRINCE2® Practitioner, and he told us all about his virtual training experience.

Tell me about your professional background

I’ve been working in telecoms for six years. In the last year and a half, I’ve been doing project planning.

My company works primarily for larger clients like Vodafone, Virgin Media, and BT. We take care of projects that might take two or three years and cost £2-5 million. We also do smaller projects for local councils, maybe taking about 30 days for £2-5 hundred thousand.

A project’s scale really impacts planning. Small projects can be very similar to ones we’ve done before, so we don’t need an extensive plan. Bigger projects are different: they’re complicated, and every client has different requirements.

It’s great work, but I didn’t have any formal experience in project management. That’s why I was looking at PRINCE2®.

What made you decide that PRINCE2 was the right certification?

My father and my uncle both took PRINCE2, and I know other project managers who have done it. I asked my dad if I should do PRINCE2 or PMP, and he was a big advocate of the former. My uncle was working for Amazon and he told me PRINCE2 was the certification that they recognized.

My boss and I are trying to give our project management processes more structure and consistency. We want to use PRINCE2 as a framework to get some controls and procedures in place.

We’re rolling templates and guidelines across existing projects and implementing them from the get-go when we start new ones. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel, I can just open the PRINCE2 book: there are templates in there ready to go. When I was doing the course, I wasn’t just highlighting stuff for the exam, I was highlighting for my own workplace. I kept thinking: ‘This is something we’re not doing and probably will need to do.’

You did the training online. What was that like?

It was my first online course and it was the best training experience I have ever had.

The group was smaller than with classroom courses I’ve done before, which made everyone more engaged. Everyone was able to give feedback when there was a question, and the trainer did a good job of managing the conversation. We stayed focused and I was kind of surprised at how quickly everything started sticking.

It is also so convenient. You don’t have to get up an hour early and get to the training centre; you just wake up in your own home and you’re there.

What is doing the exam at home like?

It’s unusual. You have to take your webcam and show the proctor your desk and room. If you want to get up, you have to speak into your computer so that they can okay it. That didn’t bother me. I actually thought the experience was quite pleasant. If anything, I think I probably did a bit better because I was at home and there were no distractions. It was the first exam I’ve ever taken where I knew I was going to pass.

Did you like that the exam is open book?

I know people who think open book exams must be easier, but you have to know the book really well to find the right information. Our trainer got us used to flicking through the book regularly to find something, so when it came to the exam it felt natural.

Before I did the course, I looked at the book that my dad used 20 years ago. Trust me, the new edition is a lot better. It’s all colour coded, and it’s very easy to find whatever you need.

Would you choose online over classroom again?

Absolutely. If I can just do it online in the comfort of my own home, and get the same results, why wouldn’t I?