ATD Blog

My CPLP Journey - Becoming More Well Rounded

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I’m a training and development professional with more than 20 years’ experience. After working for the same company for almost six years, I felt stagnant in my role as a senior regional training manager and moved into an instructional design and content development position. In my new role, I was able to transfer a lot of my skills, but lacked the actual instructional design knowledge and experience. So, I decided to look into different programs to gain more expertise.

I looked at a million (or at least that’s what it felt like) certificate programs across the country. There were so many options, from a two-hour webinar to a 12-week classroom training program and everything in between. I became overwhelmed and unsure of what to choose. However, as I researched the various programs, one thing became evident. It was time for me to hit the “refresh” button and sharpen all my learning and development skills, not just instructional design. Through this process, I was inspired to continue my professional development to become more well rounded in all training and performance functions.

Why CPLP? 

I was a member of ATD, so I had heard of the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification, but I wasn’t familiar with what it entailed. As I learned more about it and compared it with other programs, it became clear that the CPLP program was the best choice for me:

  • It was a comprehensive program that would provide knowledge in 10 areas of expertise (AOEs), including instructional design, which was relevant to my current role. 
  • Having the CPLP certification would give me more credibility and help me stand out in a competitive job market. 
  • I could manage it around my family and work schedule.
    I decided to jump into the CPLP program in June 2013. I was excited to start and had an “I’ve got this!” attitude.

I ordered the ATD Learning System, printed out all 1,200 pages, and brought it to Staples to have it bound so I could be “organized.” When I went to pick it up, I remember thinking, “What did I just do? When am I going to have time to study for the exam, never mind complete the Work Product?” With a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old at home, it was a good day if I was able to complete my own work, never mind study for a 150-question exam.

When I signed up for the CPLP, I wasn’t sure if the CPLP preparation workshop was necessary or if I would even have time to do it. I decided to invest in both the Learning System and the workshop because there was so much information to learn, and I am glad I did. The workshop allowed me to compartmentalize the information and discuss the concepts and theories with my facilitator and peers for better retention, application, and overall understanding.

It took me five months to prepare for the exam. After reading through the Learning System three times, completing seven weeks of asynchronous training, writing out and reviewing 450 flashcards, retaking the quizzes and assessments at least three times, and working with a phenomenal facilitator and mentor, I was ready.

I remember driving to the test center the day before my scheduled Knowledge Exam with my toddlers in the back eating Happy Meals. I figured if I at least knew where the test center was and how to get there, I would be (a little) less anxious. As I drove by the testing center I said to myself, “If I am not ready now, I will never be ready.”

The next day, coffee in hand, I drove like I was on autopilot to the facility, brain dumped everything I could remember onto that sheet of paper, and finished the exam in just under two hours. I was so excited when I saw the “Pass” notification that I screamed “Yes!” with my arms waving in the air. Everyone else thought I was crazy, but to me, it was a big achievement.

However, I wasn’t done yet. Passing the exam was the gateway to the Work Product, which took me another three months to complete. Since my new role was in instructional design, I thought I would challenge myself and select that as my AOE. Did I mention that I was working full time and had two toddlers? Yeah, looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking, either. I should have selected something that I was more familiar with, such as training delivery, to make it a little easier on myself.


Nonetheless, I worked diligently on the Work Product, learned a lot, submitted it at the end of February, and was notified in April that I had passed. My kids and husband were happy to finally have their mom and wife back, and they knew how much this accomplishment meant to me.

Looking back, I am not sure how I got it done, but I did. It took a lot of organization, planning, discipline, dedication, and more planning. It felt like I was back in college getting my master’s degree.

Helpful Tips

If my older self could give my younger self any tips on how to successfully complete the CPLP program, they would be:

  1. Don’t kid yourself; it’s a lot of work. But the more effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it. Not only will you gain the CPLP certification, but you will also have gained so much knowledge and be a more well-rounded talent development professional.
  2. Utilize the tools and create your own. Depending on your learning style, you may want to print out the ATD Learning System and write out your own flashcards. These were such valuable tools for me. I am a Gen X girl, so I love having hard copies. Having the Learning System both electronically and in print allowed me to make notes, retake the quizzes, and feel more organized. I still refer to it today.
  3. Don’t just memorize the theories; try to understand the concepts. Being able to apply the knowledge is more important than remembering who developed the concept or the definition of something. I am not saying to not know the definition. I am just saying that knowing how to apply the information is more crucial.
  4. Plan, schedule, and manage your study time. ATD suggests an average of 90 hours to prepare for the Knowledge Exam. For those of us who are working professionals with families, this can sound like a lot. However, I found it helpful to chunk out my study time and create a physical calendar. The percent weight of each AOE on the exam helped me determine how much time I spent studying a particular AOE. Once I became more proficient in that AOE, I would spend more time on the areas in which I was not as familiar or confident. This process was continuous.
  5. Utilize your CPLP community. Having a support system of peers and mentors who have done it before and who are going through it with you is so important. Using the discussion boards and communities of practice not only helps you learn the information, but also gives you the motivation to accomplish your professional goals.
    Why I Facilitate

My CPLP journey was such a positive experience, largely because I had an amazing facilitator and mentor. Lynn was not just a good teacher. She truly cared about our progress and took the additional time to help coach us through the entire process, which inspired me to become a CPLP facilitator as well.

At that point in my career, I had been training, coaching, and facilitating workshops for more than 18 years. Facilitating the CPLP prep workshops and coaching others through their own CPLP journeys seemed like a perfect way for me to give back to the program.

There are so many things I love about facilitating the CPLP prep workshops, whether it’s the online or in-person course. From the course curriculum to my connections with the CPLP candidates, there are too many things to list. However, my top five favorite things would be:


5. Helping candidates navigate the materials and tools so they can compartmentalize and chunk the knowledge to learn it more easily.

4. Delivering the knowledge in a fun, engaging way that ensures that candidates are learning and confident with test-taking strategies.

3. Creating an environment where candidates feel safe to ask questions and share their experiences so they can learn from one another.

2. Witnessing an aha moment when a candidate finally understands a theory and can apply it to a real-life situation and evaluate its effectiveness.

1. Helping CPLP candidates achieve their personal and professional goals. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing from candidates after they received their certification. The excitement (and relief) in this achievement cannot be described in words, but some compare it to receiving a college degree, winning a lottery ticket, or having a child. (I am not kidding. Someone once said that.)

I get just as much fulfillment out of facilitating these sessions as the CPLP candidates do attending them. I am so grateful to work with such an incredible group of candidates, as well as with a talented group of people at ATD who continue to inspire me. It is an honor to be a part of the CPLP community and to contribute to an organization that is a leader in talent development.


About the Author

Emmy Monticelli, CPLP, is a certified professional leadership and corporate coach, instructional designer, facilitator and classroom trainer who specializes in the retail sector.  With over 20 years of experience, Emmy has been a corporate trainer, a regional trainer, global content & development manager and a senior sales & training manager overseeing a team of educators.   Although she has enjoyed all of her positions, Emmy is most passionate about designing and developing learning solutions, facilitating learning and coaching & developing individuals and teams. Learning modules that she facilitates the most include: performance improvement, situational leadership, communication, team-­‐building and change management to name a few.  Emmy earned her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications, along with her MBA from Assumption College in Worcester, MA. She acquired her Certified Professional Coach accreditation through iPEC in Marlborough, MA. 

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