Part I: Studying in Sin City
I began the CPLP process three years after I joined the local ATD chapter in Las Vegas. While I have been training and coaching adult learners for the bulk of my career, my resume at that time reflected only five years in which I carried an official training title. I had the skills but not the credentials to back up my experience. If I truly wanted to move full time into the training and development field, I knew that earning a CPLP would give me the credibility I needed to move forward with my professional goals.
Fortunately, ATD has a strong advocate in Jason Gardner, former president of the ATD Las Vegas Chapter. Jason hosts a yearly CPLP exploratory meeting for the chapter, where he invites members to learn about the CPLP process and determine if they are ready to apply for certification. He also uses the meeting to coordinate a yearly study group, which is wonderful preparation for the Knowledge Exam. I learned that:
- Joining a study group helps you learn concepts faster. There were several sections of the study materials that I had difficulty grasping, and I was able to understand them better by discussing them with the study group.
- Networking with other learning professionals who are going through the same process helps you form a crucial support team. The connections I made that summer are ones I will maintain for the rest of my career.
- The study group forces you to adhere to a study plan, and holds you accountable for knowing the material before you come to each session.
- The ATD Learning System and flashcards are especially helpful in testing your knowledge of the material.
Confident that I was well prepared, I registered to take the test in early October. But then my already busy life became even more hectic when my family and I decided to move to the Philippines five weeks after my testing date. My colleagues thought I was taking on a bit too much, and they were probably right. However, I knew it would be a challenge to find a testing center in Manila, and I was eager to take the exam while the study material was still fresh in my mind. Thankfully I passed, although sitting in a testing room by myself for 150 minutes with just a computer and a scratch pad to keep me company was definitely stressful!
The first hurdle cleared, I planned to submit my Work Product from the Philippines and prepare for the next chapter of my life.
Part II: Missing the Point in Manila
After passing the Knowledge Exam in Las Vegas (see Part I), my family moved to the Philippines in November 2013. We arrived in Manila the week after Super Typhoon Hainan swept through the country and caused such catastrophic devastation. While my extended family and friends remained largely unaffected by the disaster, we spent the rest of 2013 settling into the country and donating our time and resources to local relief efforts. As one might imagine, the CPLP Work Product became the last thing I wanted to think about.
It wasn’t until late January 2014 that I realized I needed to start putting my Work Product together in order to meet the February deadline. After reading through the guidelines multiple times, I felt alone and overwhelmed for the first time since beginning the CPLP process. While my study group was immensely helpful in answering my emails, the 15-hour time difference made live interaction extremely difficult. In desperation I turned to LinkedIn and typed in the words CPLP Philippines. That is how I found the LinkedIn CPLP Candidate Group, Cory Archibald, and Trish Uhl.
If you are a current CPLP candidate, I encourage you to join the LinkedIn CPLP Candidate Group:
- You will gain instant access to an international community of learning professionals going through the same process.
- Group members who previously obtained their CPLP certification remain part of the group to pass on knowledge, feedback, advice, and encouragement to current candidates.
- ATD Certification Institute staff members Pat Byrd, Diane Daly, and Jennifer Naughton regularly monitor group discussions and answer administrative- and requirement-related questions.
The group also connected me with Cory Archibald, the only CPLP credential holder semi-based in the Philippines. Like me, Cory submitted her Work Product while on an international work assignment. She quickly became my biggest supporter, and continued to encourage me even after my initial Work Product submission failed to meet CPLP certification standards.
Yes, I failed my submission by one point—the feedback I received indicated that I didn’t have the necessary evidence to prove that I had successfully completed the project to the standards of The ATD Competency Model. This may have been an indication of my mindset at the time, because I found that I couldn’t really muster the level of disappointment one would expect.
First, it was difficult for me to be overly upset about my failure when I was living in a country that was still recovering from Typhoon Hainan and fighting a measles epidemic that affected more than 50,000 people, including people I knew. Second, if I was honest with myself, I had not done enough preparation to make sure I had all the pieces I needed for a complete Work Product. While my former employer had granted me permission to use certain pieces of proprietary information, I did not have permission to use other pieces, and this was more than likely the missing evidence I needed to pass.
So I took a deep breath and resolved to try again with the next cohort. I also knew I needed more guidance, so I reached out to Trish Uhl, one of the pioneer CPLP credential holders who has successfully coached other candidates for more than 10 years. Trish is also active in the CPLP Candidate Group, and I quickly learned what an incredible resource she is for anyone going through this process. But my initial consultation with her would have to wait, because I was packing up one more time to move to Hawaii. While we were supposed to spend a year in the Philippines, my husband received an opportunity in Honolulu that we knew we couldn’t pass up. So we were off once again to a new adventure.
Part III: Channeling My Inner Rudy in Hawaii
After I failed my initial Work Product submission (see Part II), I found myself traveling back and forth between Honolulu and Manila to continue working on my consulting projects in the Philippines while helping my family settle into our new life in Hawaii. I also planned to resubmit my Work Product during the next cohort, but several close friends asked me if a second attempt at pursuing CPLP certification was really worth my time. It was a valid question, especially since I had also started my master’s degree in education.
After reflecting on my initial reasons for wanting to pursue it, I decided that a resubmission was worth my time. I also realized that my Knowledge Exam scores were valid for two years from my testing date, so I had four chances to pass my Work Product submission (even though that is not the ideal situation). I submitted my registration paperwork.
Because I had changed employers, I needed to choose a completely different project to submit for my Work Product. I also realized that I needed more formal guidance, so I enrolled in Trish Uhl’s Owl’s Ledge CPLP Work Product course. While everyone’s path is different and there are many ways to prepare for CPLP certification, working with Trish Uhl provided some missing pieces in my Work Product performance gap. Here are the invaluable lessons I learned from Trish—lessons I wish I had known prior to my first submission attempt:
- Choose your Work Product carefully. Review the CPLP Handbook several times to know what is required and make sure you can gather the evidence needed to back up your claims. Get approval and the required signatures early in your process so that you can begin gathering evidence sooner rather than later.
- Keep everything that is related to your project and store it in a specific folder. You may not end up needing it for your Work Product, but it is easier to pare down evidence than scramble to find a missing piece.
- Choose your area of expertise carefully—your project should be something you know you can conduct with ease, not something you want to try. The Work Product is a stretch assignment in itself; choosing to submit a Work Product under an area of expertise in which you are not an expert could be disastrous for your submission.
- Anything you claim in your essays should be backed up by evidence that the raters can easily locate. I didn’t realize that raters only have a finite amount of time to review your submission, despite you spending hours crafting your responses. It’s like creating a road map for someone who has never been to your town; showing the raters exactly where to find your evidence is key to passing the Work Product submission.
- The project you select does not have to be perfect. Even the most well-planned training is rarely implemented without a glitch, and that’s OK. In fact, problems make your Work Product stand out among the vast number of other submissions. Describe the glitch and how you overcame it, and then provide the evidence to show how you did so.
Feeling better prepared this time around, I set out to record my presentation and submit my final product. I was confident I had everything mapped out, and then I watched as everything I had so carefully planned came to a screeching halt in a tiny back office on a humid Manila day.
I had just spent the day facilitating and recording the workshop I planned to submit for my Work Product. Because of differences found in international recording devices, I had borrowed a relative’s video camera so that it would work in the Philippines and then saved my recording on a memory stick that I planned to convert to DVD format upon my return to the United States. However, while I could view the recording just fine on the camera’s hard drive, nothing played correctly when I plugged the memory stick into my laptop. I will spare you the details of the panic-laden emails, voicemails, and instant messages I sent to anyone I knew who was remotely tech-savvy and instead share with you the lessons I learned from that experience, especially if you are submitting a Work Product under the training delivery area of expertise:
- Thoroughly review the technical requirements of the recording prior to the actual day. Plan for multiple recordings of the same session in case the first one doesn’t work (and use a separate release form to gather signatures for each class).
- Make notations in your facilitator manual for when key actions will be displayed during the recording. Make sure everything you need displayed during your 20-minute time slot is clearly displayed. This will also make it easier for you to indicate time slots in your corresponding essays.
- Do a test run of the video in the classroom with your designated camera person prior to when your session starts. Make sure lighting, presentation slides, materials, participants, and you will be clearly visible and heard (don’t be afraid to use a microphone if needed).
- Make multiple copies of your DVD before sending your submission. And if there are any doubts about what you are sending, contact the ATD Certification Institute for clarification prior to your recording. Diane Daly and Pat Byrd were extremely helpful in answering my questions during this period.
Despite my technical breakdown, I was able to finally view and edit my video (thanks in no small part to my tech-savvy husband). Still, these technical difficulties plagued me with doubts even after I mailed my submission, despite knowing that I worked many more hours on this product submission than I did on my initial one. I fretted for several days about my video, convinced that I would be receiving yet another disappointing email in the fall.
The worrying stopped when I came across a note I had written to myself after failing my initial Work Product submission. The note read, “Be the Rudy of CPLP.” The note was in reference to Rudy Ruettiger, the former Notre Dame football player and motivational speaker whose life story was the basis of the movie Rudy. If you haven’t seen the movie, Rudy never gave up on his goal to attend Notre Dame, despite being rejected several times. I had four chances to pass the Work Product submission, which meant I had four chances to be the Rudy of my own CPLP journey. And while this may not be the right decision for everyone, it was the right decision for me.
I was fully prepared to “be the Rudy” when I received an email in mid-October from the ATD Certification Institute. So when the word “Congratulations!” appeared in front of me, I sat there in shock for a couple of seconds before uttering the words “I passed” to my husband, who was probably more excited in that moment than I was. My spouse’s celebration of my accomplishment reminded me that garnering support from family and friends is vital to pursuing the CPLP. My husband may not have fully understood the process and requirements, but he willingly proofread every essay response (twice!) and encouraged me every step of the way.
Earning my CPLP certification has provided me with the confidence and validation I needed to pursue further professional goals in a field I love. It was a long journey, both physically and mentally, but I have no regrets. So was certification worth it? Absolutely.