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To Gain Industry Confidence, Seek Out Leadership Programs

Written by Sarah Mora, EIT


A/E/C technical professionals are expected to be subject matter experts in their designated specialties. But a vital, often overlooked component of the job is understanding what’s happening in the industry and knowing your industry counterparts.

Over the years, I’ve attended many A/E/C events, often intimidated by the topic or the amount of unfamiliar faces in the room. When I was approached by my firm’s President, Eileen Chin, to join the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA) Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), I was apprehensive about what I would learn and who I would meet.

As an ELP participant, I can say firsthand that this leadership program has done a tremendous job of providing diverse presentations, resources, and activities. Our first session of ELP 2017-2018, “How the Industry Works,” gave me a deeper understanding of IRTBA, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, bonding, accounting, risk, and claims. The fall session focused on utility coordination, working with contractors, planning and prefabrication, and labor unions. The last session for 2017 included presentations from local agencies such as the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation, and the collar counties. This session provided insight into doing business and the procurement process at each agency, as well as perspectives from executive-level agency leaders. In January, we left the boardroom and traveled to the Prairie Concrete Plant in Bridgeview to discuss materials. The day included presentations from CDOT, STATE Testing, and True North Consultants as well as a brisk plant tour. Our ELP class will meet one more time this March before we go to Springfield in April to meet with Illinois legislators, and then the program will end with trip to Washington D.C. in May.

For me, being active in a leadership program like ELP has been a game changer. After going through this program, I am more confident at industry events – with familiar faces by my side and more knowledge under my belt. Initially, it was nerve-racking to step out of my comfort zone, but now I have made valuable connections, expanded upon my technical skill set, and gained a more comprehensive understanding of the transportation industry. I strongly encourage others to seek out leadership programs for career development. You won’t regret it!


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The Self-Prep Study Plan for the PMP® Examination

Written by Faheem Hussain, PMP


The journey towards obtaining the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is not an easy one. It can be an uphill task with numerous sleepless nights – at least that’s how it was for me. But if you prepare yourself, you too will see the word, “CONGRATULATIONS” flash across your computer screen.

If you decide to forgo a formal training course, here are some of my tried-and-true tips.

Step 1: Figure out the Why to Figure out the What

There are many reasons to obtain your PMP. To be a better Project Manager, to work on more exciting projects, to get a promotion, to land a new job, or to learn something new – these are just a few of the most common. By identifying why you want to take this exam, this will help determine what motivates you.

Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with the Basics

To become familiar with the components of the test and learn simple test-taking strategies, start with Head First PMP, 2nd Edition: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam. I personally reviewed this book cover to cover multiple times before registering for the prerequisite 35-hour class, which I completed with ProXalt – an online web based training.

Step 3: Get Serious

I recommend carving out a solid month or more for preparation. For “serious” preparation, go for the PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam. I have no hesitation recommending this book because of its AEC industry-based management tips on time management, cost management, and quality management, various quizzes, short-cut methods, and tips for how to eliminate the wrong answers.

Step 4: Try Different Formats

By reviewing different formats – online videos, practice tests, and a variety of hardcopy books – I kept myself challenged and did not get bored from one single source of material on repeat.

Just before the examination, I had an opportunity to use a web-based training site,, which allowed me to watch training videos. This site contributed a lot to my success.

I also purchased several of the recommended books, such as How to Get Every Network Diagram Question Right on the PMP® Exam and How to Get Every Contract Question Right on the PMP Exam by Aileen Ellis, McGraw-Hill’s PMP Certification Mathematics, and the PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman.

Step 5: Know Your Limits

The 4-hour exam is mentally exhausting. Despite relaxing the day before, I still felt drained throughout the exam. It’s important to pay attention to your body so that you don’t burn out on test day.

Ready to take the exam? I wish you well during your journey towards PMP certification!