Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Mini Update on My Swedish Self-Study Endeavor

Reporting live from Huskvarna, Sweden. Hej, hej! ūüėä

Learning Updates:
  • Duolingo. 30% skills golden and 32% skills completed. I'm about to start on "Places" (section 3, module 5) and "Objects" (section 3, module 6). Action: I need to ramp up the remaining 2% to make it golden by completing "Adverbs 1."
  • Learning Swedish. My overall grades as at today: 92.21%. This is a free course offered by the Swedish Institute. I'm currently studying Module 1 (M1) and have completed three sections out of the six in M1. There are three modules in total. 
New Discovery:
The Forvo Website

(*) Swedex is a unique, internationally viable Swedish language exam designed by Folkuniversitetet. Anyone whose mother tongue is not Swedish may take the exam, which relates to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the European Council's level scale for language learning. From 2011 it is possible to take the exam at three levels: A2, B1 and B2. Swedex is approved by the government body the Swedish Institute and can be taken irrespective of how you have learnt Swedish.

Swedex tests knowledge that can be applied in practice within all kinds of language proficiency: speaking, reading, listening and writing. [...]

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I Am Now PMP-Certified!

25 July 2017: I passed my Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam today on my first try!

Combining my work experience with this certification, I can now be a better project manager and it is my hope to continue to do my best and be a valued member at work. In this post, I'd like to chronicle my journey in becoming a PMP.

I became a member of PMI in August last year and immediately began the PMP® application. It was a long process of gathering and filling out all the relevant information about the projects I've managed, etc. and then wait for PMI to accept the application. Once accepted, PMI emailed me to notify that I was successful and I would be able to submit payment and then schedule the exam. I was also hoping I would not be selected for audit as it's a time-consuming process, but in any case, I was ready for it if it happens. PMI randomly selects a number of applications to participate in the audit process, and all these are outlined in their handbook (important tip: download the handbook and read it should you decide to become a PMP too). I was not selected for the audit (yay!).

I estimated that I would need six months to prepare for the exam. It wasn't until January this year that I made the payment to sit for the exam. Exam slots at the Prometric Testing Center in Singapore were limited and availability was on a first-come-first-serve basis. I scheduled mine for July this year. I know it was cutting it a bit close to the expiration of my eligibility to take the exam (August) but then again, I wasn't planning on failing...

The PMBOK® Guide, I must say, is one of the most difficult and dry read I've ever encountered, but it's a necessary evil. It's not a bad book but I was just hoping and wishing that it was easier to digest. It is also very important to use the PMBOK® WITH the Exam Content Outline, which can be downloaded at the PMI website to familiarize oneself with the five domains (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and control, and closing). I literally eat, sleep, and breathe them every single day. They're, like, my best friends. I also took an online training program to fulfill the exam requirement for 35 contact hours.

It's finally time to sit for the exam. In my case, just two days before THE day, the Prometric Test Center emailed me with the appointment reminder, which also explained the security procedures (remove eye glasses, no watches, etc.) and identification policy (accepted or not acceptable identification document, etc.). I arrived early by about an hour on the day of the exam and to my delight I was told I could start sitting for it immediately! 

So, having passed the stringent security checks (it was like an airport security scan), I chucked my bag into the allocated locker, and carried with me the locker key and my passport into the exam room (those were the only things you're allowed to bring in with you). There were many people in the same room. After the test center staff explained the 15-minute review process (no jotting of notes, please!) and how to use the computer that administered the computer-based test (CBT), I said a silent prayer and started the 4-hour examination.

The other examinees in the room were coughing, sneezing and making intermittent noises, so I reached for the earmuffs that were provided by the test center. The earmuffs didn't completely drown the sounds but it was better than nothing. The mathematical questions were the easy ones (you either know them or you don't but they're all solvable if you know the formulas). The situation-based questions were the tricky ones. You could be looking at a few possible correct choices but you'd have to pick the best correct one. The whole thing was quite intense so I didn't take any breaks in between.

Four hours later... I actually maxed out all the time that was allocated. I had quite a few questions that needed review and managed to do so for 7 minutes before the timer ended the session. Very important: answer every question even though you're not sure of the answers and mark them for review later. At this point after the timer ended, I said another silent prayer and kept my toes and fingers crossed. A few seconds later...

“Congratulations! You have passed your PMP Certification Exam.”

Super happy. The result was published immediately after the test right at the test desk. The Prometric staff then gave me the result printout. I love a happy ending like this!

I had a Japanese beer to celebrate my success!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Only Sane Way to Create...

Yesterday, in my Big Magic post, I talked about fear and creativity and how much I liked Elizabeth Gilbert's book. Today, I'd like to share this passage from the same book that will help us stay sane and continue to create. Here's from page 125:

If people enjoy what you've created, terrific. If people ignore what you've created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you've created, don't sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you've created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?

Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.
And... I will continue making mine, thank you very much!

P/S: Embrace this paradox: "My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I'm to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely)."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

BIG MAGIC, by Elizabeth Gilbert: Welcoming Speech for Fear

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a joy to read. Mail on Sunday says the book is "brimming with positive ways to think about creative living." Huffington Post says "I have profoundly changed my approach to creating since I read this book." Harper's Bazaar says "Gilbert demystifies the creative process, [...]" AND I, Alice Teh, agree with everything that was said.

I say please read this book. Gilbert encourages us to face and accept our fears of creativity. She encourages us to live a life driven by curiosity than by fear. We spend too much time "defending" our weaknesses. I love this quote: "Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them." Why would we want to keep our limitations?

To go anywhere interesting or to do anything interesting, we must learn to travel comfortably alongside our fear. When I reached page 25 of the book, I made a note to myself to own this:
Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I'm about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There's plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. [...] p.25
There is no point in trying to kill fear or go to war against it, but it sure makes total sense to make space for it.

Gilbert also talks about not being a stereotyped 'Tormented Artist' (check out page 39 for the list of traits) and she suggested a different approach instead: PARTNER with inspiration. "You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures," says Gilbert. Work steadily, thank the process. Just go make stuff.

With that, my friends, what better way to pass my days than by spending my life collaborating to the best of my abilities with forces of inspiration, and always with gratitude.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Geeking Out with SwedishPod101

After a two-week break from Swedish language learning, I'm back! I did mostly reviews of basic lessons. Below is the chart of my most recent completion of a study module on SwedishPod101. The module is called Getting Started with SwedishPod101.com and it contains 10 lessons.

What I love most about SwedishPod101 are its audio lessons, notes and transcripts. They're all downloadable. I'm a Premium Account subscriber. My two-year subscription plan will end in October next year. It's highly likely I will renew. I was previously an ItalianPod101 subscriber when I was self-studying Italian four years ago—loved it! For now, onward to my next Swedish lesson!

Check out my Swedish language journey here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Singapore Orchid Series

In the latest series of photography on my Facebook page, The Weekend Traveler, I am sharing the photos I took a while ago at the National Orchid Garden, which I've grouped into a color theme. In this post, I have pink, yellow and purple for you. I hope you'll like them!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Habit" In Action: Duolingo Swedish

I have just finished the chapter HABIT of the book I'm currently reading, My 31 Practices, by Alan Williams and Steve Payne (illustrated by John Montgomery). At the beginning of the chapter, the authors are talking about the Hook Model (Trigger/Action/Variable Reward/Investment) and the Habit Loop (Cue/Routine/Reward), and towards the end they provided an illustration of the approach in a general manner.

The Book: front and back covers.

I decided to "test drive" and adapted it in the context of my Swedish language learning with Duolingo, using pages 115 and 116 as my template. To my delight it was super easy to do! So here goes...

1) At a certain time in the day, I receive a prompt to remind me to practice for the day (PROMPT/CUE).
This is a screenshot from my iPhone. This becomes my first point above.

2) When I click on the Duolingo app (ACTION/ROUTINE), I can see which sections require revision (PROMPT/CUE).

3) I take the time to (PROMPT/CUE) look at those sections and start practicing or completing them (ACTION/ROUTINE).

4) I am pleased to complete them and see the 'bar' becoming full once again (REWARD). Having completed the section(s) requiring strengthening or revising, I start on a completely new module—Duolingo does not allow you to tackle a new module until the current one is completed—and I do the section until it is completed (INVESTMENT).

5) I capture a screenshot of the new level I have passed for reflection and recording (ACTION/ROUTINE).

6) Completing this "process" is motivating because I am confirming to myself I have completed my Swedish language learning, to whatever extent (REWARD). This happens on two levels: first, the Duolingo scoring gives a sense of achievement; second, recording it (screenshots) reinforces it (REWARD) and the accumulation of this data over time builds my connection with the Duolingo approach (INVESTMENT).

7) Sharing my results on my blog or Facebook page or in person with my friends and family serves a similar purpose (REWARD and INVESTMENT).

Seeing how easy it is to "gel" it with what I'm already doing and now seeing it reinforced through what I'm reading is satisfying. I will continue to study the principles in this book and craft my own 31 practices. I've got stuff jotted down already and looking forward to the end result, which I'm sure I will always be refining.

Taking "baby steps"—just one small thing each day is indeed easy to do as part of our daily lives!