Sunday, July 28, 2013

Professional Certification: A Key Differentiator

In marketing terms, differentiation is a key source for competitive advantage.  Having a smart differentiation strategy helps a company build a good brand.  This is true for a professional as well.  To build a good personal brand, the professional has to be unique and have the ability to positively differentiate him/her from others.  Professional certifications can serve as an effective differentiation tool for an aspiring individual.

Survival of the fittest is the mantra that professionals should always remember to stay ahead and continuously grow. Thus, any CV with professional certification(s) apart from the experience and educational qualifications will add a lot of credibility for the applicant of a particular job or those seeking job promotions.  Only a fittest person will find time and energy to prepare for a professional certification and successfully complete it.  Many people are unable to complete professional certifications as they claim to be 100% busy due to their current job responsibilities and not finding time to spend on certification exam preparation. 

As a person who has cleared few professional certifications, I would like to provide some quick tips for successful completion of a professional certification (such as ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer - CSQE).  All you need to succeed are the 3Ds - Dedication, Determination and a Deadline Mindset.  Here are some useful tips:

1.  Understand thoroughly the body of knowledge (BOK) or the syllabus for the certification examination - Refer to the professional organization's website to understand clearly the various topics that you need to prepare for the exam.  Note down the major sections of the BOK.

2. Go ahead and book the appointment for examination: First and foremost, pay the exam fees and enroll for the next exam date (available 2 months from the current date).  This will ensure that you stay committed and prepare well for the exam.

3. Come up with a plan and timetable to study the BOK topics: Allot enough time to study each of the BOK areas.  Come up with a timetable.  Based on my experience, your time table can be of a duration of maximum 2 months. 

4. Prepare notes yourself: Refer to prescribed text books (maximum 2) and other online materials to prepare relevant notes (brief points, diagrams, formula etc) for each topic of the BOK.  Let the notes be brief highlighting the very important points.  I suggest avoiding ready-made exam guides available in the market, as they are mostly shortcuts to clear the exam where you may compromise on the learning part.  Eventually, a successful certification should make you a more knowledgeable person.

5. Go through sample question papersSample question papers will be available in the professional organization's website.  Also, refer to the Internet for additional sample question papers.  Take minimum 2 mock tests before the real examination.  With this you can improve your time management skills and answering strategies for the examination. 

6. Revise the notes:  Go through the notes prepared by you twice before the day of the real exam.

7. Re-certification:  Most certifications are only valid for a certain period of time (say, 3 years).  Post your certification, you need to keep yourself involved with BOK related activities and earn credit points to re-certify after 3 years.

Some times you may need more than one attempt to clear a certification examination. Don't lose heart.  Rather understand what mistakes you did earlier and try to not repeat it.  Go with your fullest energy and knowledge as you will definitely attain success the next time.

Please note that Professional Certifications have a lot of value, be aware, complete few relevant professional certifications which will help you stay ahead and have a successful career.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Social Media and the Quality Professional

Effective communication is a key success factor for a quality professional – be it in personal life or business.  Traditional communication predominantly focused on formal communication mechanisms such as snail mails, emails, chats etc., where privacy was ensured. The information shared was mostly secured and intended for a recipient or a set of recipients.   
Today, informal communication, mainly in the form of broadcasting, seems to be more effective and powerful than formal communication.  This has predominantly happened due to the advent of social media – the blogs and networking platforms like - Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.   Paul has chosen the topic on social media to discuss about its usefulness for quality professionals from networking and other perspectives.
ASQ Influential Voices Blog itself was created, by ASQ during 2011, as social media started gaining prominence.  This has become a nice platform for quality professionals to regularly discuss about various topics on quality and share their views.  The discussions and associated key messages (tweets or posts) get cascaded quickly to various stakeholders around the globe and accessible through their personal devices - thus spreading the voice of quality.  Since mobile smartphones have become very popular along with faster internet, the power of social media has increased multi-fold.  People on the move can access online information through their mobile devices and stay connected round-the-clock.
Social Media is of great importance for a quality professional from various aspects.  Let us look at few key scenarios that are beneficial for a Quality Professional:
1)  To Capture Customer Feedback and Measure Quality: Obtaining customer feedback was a challenge during olden days.  With social media, obtaining customer feedback, about a company’s products and services, has become easier.  There are analytical tools and technologies to capture the right customer feedback which, often, can be translated to the quality of the product or service offered to the customer. While customer likes to write about a high quality product or service, they are also very vocal to point the deficiencies, if any, as well.  Today’s quality professionals closely monitor social media information to capture intelligence regarding quality of products and services by crawling the internet and social media information

2)  For Professional and Social Networking: Quality Professionals can network with Quality Gurus and other Subject Matter Experts  through social media - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc.  One can stay in close touch with another professional, work together on a research paper, debate on a particular topic, ask a question etc.

3)    For Career Growth: Professional networking sites like LinkedIn help professionals post their profiles, obtain recommendations from peers, friends and supervisors in network, look for new jobs, discuss on various topics etc.  Quality professionals use social media to explore various career growth opportunities around the globe

4)    For Knowledge Management: This is another major benefit from the social media.  Most of the top schools and professional organizations like ASQ have a dedicated social networking site and a video channel where useful information is provided to people around the world through internet.  Through healthy discussions, quality of information improves; proving that sharing of information results in improved knowledge.  In fact, social media has proven this.   
Last not but the least, social networking helps generating innovative ideas.  As George Bernard Shaw rightly said,

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

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