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A CPSM Story: How Failing Led to Success (Part I)

November 17, 2014

This two-part chronicle comes to us from Barbara Hicks, CPSM, the Director of Marketing and Media for Margulies Perruzzi Architects. Barbara has spent the past decade applying her talents in marketing, graphic design, social media and branding to drive MPA’s fast-paced, award-winning efforts. 

My name is Barbara Hicks and I’m proud to say that I can now write “CPSM” after my name. I read the material, I followed along with the study group, I studied hard on my own, and I failed. And then, I repeated the process, and passed. This is a story about my CPSM journey: why I wanted it, how hard I worked for it, and why you should follow in my footsteps (well, some of them anyway).

“CPSM – What the heck is that?!” my friends ask. Being a Certified Professional Services Marketer does sound a little strange and even geeky to folks outside of our industry, but those of us in the know understand its significance. I first heard about it from my good friend and colleague, Jennifer Shelby, CPSM of Rhino PR, who was starting SMPS Boston’s first CPSM committee and study group. I had seen the designation before but had no idea what it was. After discussions with her, I thought about all the good having that designation could do for me: maybe it could advance my career, or even get me a raise. As hollow as those goals may sound, I was shocked at how much more I gained from the entire experience, not just having the designation after my name, but all that I would learn and do through the entire process.

Getting certified takes a tremendous amount of time and energy, and I thought I was ready for it. I went to the CPSM Info Night to learn what lay ahead. First, I had to apply to even be able to sit for the exam, requiring transcripts, letters of reference, etc. Once accepted came the hard part: the reading. It seemed endless. The recommended reading list contains nine books, the most important of which has over 600 pages. Six. Hundred. Pages. About marketing. Flipping through that book you’ll find single-spaced Times New Roman type, small margins, and almost no graphics. Sounds like fun right? Breaking up this amount of reading over 6 study group sessions seemed manageable, and so I began.

I stayed on track, at first. I took notes and made flash cards like I was in college again. The further I got in the reading, my goals seemed to change. I was really learning valuable information that I use day to day in my job! What’s better is that I was learning about industry best practices. But as each study session grew near, I found myself getting lazier with finishing each chapter. In this industry for 12 years, and being a Senior Associate and Director of Marketing and Media with MPA, I admit, I got a little cocky. I have plenty of experience. I do this every day. I don’t need to read every single word. I’ll be fine. I was totally wrong. I thought I had worked hard, I thought I had studied more than enough. I took the test with the rest of my study group and missed a passing grade by two points. I thought, “Well, see ya never CPSM. I’m done.”

It took me a few days to rebound. I was embarrassed and just wanted to forget the whole thing. But, I forged relationships in that study group. I told my boss I was trying for it. Friends and colleagues in the industry wrote reference letters as part of my application process. I felt that in failing the exam, I was failing them too. So I got over myself and tried again, this time with a completely different attitude.

Stay tuned for what the next “chapter” was like for me (pun intended), including some tips and tricks for sticking with it and staying motivated.

For more posts from our CPSMs, click here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2014 11:05 am

    Great post. And you leave us hanging!


  1. A CPSM Story: How Failing Led to Success (Part II) | Outlook Blog

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