Highs and Lows of My CPLP Challenge

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Certified Professional in Learning and Performance Certification (CPLP) endeavor was like jumping on a roller coaster: I didn’t know how fast the car would go to its highest peak before it dropped to its lowest valley and swerved around twists and turns before reaching the glory of accomplishment—if I made it that far. I also didn’t know if I’d be thrown off in shame like when I foolishly climbed onto a horse I didn’t know. Ouch!

Some choose the straight path. I made it an adventure.

My CPLP adventure began February 2014 when I stumbled upon the ATD Learning System CPLP training and certification program, which promised to make me a better training and education manager in my current position. I was intrigued by the prospect of becoming an all-around more effective leader in identifying the root cause of problems, as well as inspiring my team to improve performance and achieve goals in whatever field we choose.

I believed it would be easy because I was vested and interested in every module.

All I had to do was remain steadfast through the twists and turns of convincing my employer to see the value of the program for our agency’s mission and open the purse strings to let the benefits begin.

As noted in the ATD Learning System, my employer needed help to digest and embrace the importance of keeping their education and training manager up-to-date, informed, and certified.

While government procurement is slow, I didn’t push very hard because my plate was overflowing. The money was there but no one made a move to buy a ticket to begin the voyage. Like a hesitant child, I waited for an invitation. In retrospect, the root cause of the longest delay was I hadn’t filled out the requisition.

In 2016, my employer arranged an extensive leadership training for every agency manager, supervisor, and executive, except one—the training and education manager. That’s right—me! Every week, I supervised the office in everyone’s absence. And yes, staff asked why I wasn’t included in the training.

So, after a mild tantrum and acknowledgment that someone had to supervise the office while the other managers were required to attend workshops about DiSC profiles, change management, diversity, and more, I filled out the requisition form to begin my CPLP adventure.

Before you begin your journey, I recommend you become an ATD member. The cost of a membership, the workshop, and certification exam is less than taking the course and exam as a nonmember. Membership provides valuable resources and discounts. Join ATD—the benefits and savings far outweigh the costs.

My 2017 would begin with a seven-week instructor-led online workshop, then a knowledge exam in April and subject test in June.

The online CPLP workshop had an immediate impact because the workshop had 20 participants facilitated by an instructor and a technical expert. On my job, I facilitate webinars with over 200 participants without assistance.

Kudos ATD! Now I host webinars with a subject matter expert and other support staff. Our participants love the more informative, interactive, and well-run online experience.


Everything went splendidly until the end of February. After a surgical procedure, my husband developed large blood clots in both lungs.

I had one more class and seven weeks to study the ATD Learning System’s more than 900 pages for the knowledge exam. I knew some of it from my master’s coursework in psychology, but that was more than 20 years ago.

My husband encouraged me to push through. In his hospital room I logged on for the last class, with my husband’s doctors in the room.

Hubby and I had a very long journey ahead of us.

The workshop helped me develop a study plan. I took the pCPLP practice test, scoring 68 percent in January and 98 percent the night before my knowledge exam.

An ATD Learning System chapter was with me everywhere I went.

To focus, I read chapter quiz questions first and only highlighted information reviewed during the CPLP workshop, on the practice exam, or in the chapter quizzes. I copied highlighted information into a notebook to study whenever I had a free moment. I also applied my learning to daily tasks.

My employer encouraged me to reschedule, but I took the knowledge test at my scheduled time.

The CPLP knowledge exam was like the chapter quizzes. Most questions have multiple correct answers, which taught me to learn hierarchies of importance, trust my first answer, and don’t overthink or change my answer. But I still doubted every answer and was shocked when the screen and proctor congratulated me on passing the test.

I celebrated with my husband.

My next challenge was the training delivery skills application exam. I loved the skills application exam. I enjoyed getting lost in the training scenarios and case study materials, except I needed every last second to complete the exam.

My best advice for the skills application exam is don’t neglect to study the other areas of expertise as they relate to your chosen area of expertise. And pace yourself.

Waiting to find out if I passed was excruciating. Yet, nine weeks later the email came the day before my husband and I were leaving on a long-awaited and needed vacation on leap year to New Zealand for my 50th birthday. The train rumbled into the glory of accomplishment. Thank you ATD for an awesome gift. I passed. I’m a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance.

Learn more about the CPLP certification. 

About the Author
Karen Simpson is the employer education manager of the Maryland State Retirement Agency. She trains and certifies approximately 700 employer designated retirement coordinators who represent 800,000 members, retirees, and beneficiaries.    Karen has dedicated her 25-year career to building effective education programs to assist agencies in developing a strong, productive, and stable workforce to serve Maryland and her  citizens. Karen has previously served on several nonprofit organization boards. She holds a master's degree from Towson University and a bachelor's degree from Radford University. She also holds the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential from the Association for Talent Development.
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