My Path

As my career has evolved, and areas of focus have shifted, the most relevant and desirable certifications have changed as well.  In the early 2000’s, work assignments and client needs took me down a path where cybersecurity was the main emphasis.  Hardening environments from a technical and policy level were part of my daily goals and objectives.  As anyone whose work life has taken them down this path knows, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential represents the gold standard of security certifications.  The CISSP cache is driven by the vendor agnostic approach to cybersecurity execution and theory, as well as the difficulty of passing the actual exam.  In fact, the 250-question exam is crafted to not exceed a certain pass rate to ensure its continued exclusivity in the market.  Without question, the preparation required for this exam was as wide-spanning and grueling as any certification or exam I’ve personally taken – the difficulty factor lives up to its billing. 

After earning the CISSP credential my work responsibilities shifted, this time towards a project management concentration.  Working to organize, coordinate, track, and ensure the delivery of large critical business outcomes for my clients began to dominate my personal success metrics.  With this shift of responsibilities, another “gold standard” certification, the Project Management Professional (PMP), became the next logical credential to pursue. This certification would enhance and validate my project management skillset. While awareness of Agile certifications has grown in recent years, the PMP remains the most widely recognized validation of one’s project management skillset. 

Two Threads Intertwined

After obtaining my PMP certification, I found myself holding two highly respected and identifiable certifications that seemed, on the surface, to have little or nothing to do with each other.  While it’s perfectly reasonable and logical that the average consultant hasn’t pursued expertise in these two disparate paths, I feel like this combination provides a unique efficiency and perspective for anyone who pursues both.

1)     Risk: While the nomenclature that they use is different, both the CISSP and the PMP force an examination, intimate understanding and management of risk.  The principles of each certification hone and tone an awareness and eye for identifying and approaching risk that maximizes the potential for positive outcomes.

2)     Increased Peripheral Vision:  The deep dive that preparing for and acquiring each of these credentials requires forces you to expand your view of all the moving gears in motion within a business and technology organization.  Understanding the interdependencies of seemingly unrelated factors allows for the avoidance, management, and proper handling of undesirable outcomes. 

3)     Managerial Perspective:  Both credentials ideally prepare the pursuer for responsibilities with a breadth and scope that can be potentially transformational to an organization.  Both deal with ‘the big picture’ from an outcome standpoint, but also detail the way to get to that big picture outcome. 

Unique Perspective Yields High Value 

As anyone who pays attention to the nightly news can attest, cybersecurity threats are no longer the theoretical boogeyman hiding under your bed. Today, these threats are more like a guy in a hockey mask pounding on your door.  Cybersecurity principles are becoming a necessary filter through which all technology decisions must now pass.  Juxtapose that paradigm shift with the tried and true realities and challenges that all business leaders face: innovate while delivering outcomes on time and on budget.  Having prepared for and acquired both the CISSP and the PMP, it’s easy to see that anyone holding these credentials is uniquely prepared to live in both of these complex and constantly changing worlds.   A project manager tuned to the frequencies of cybersecurity at all times, is analogous to the ol’ two birds and one stone model. 

Dustin Werden

Director of Enterprise Consulting Services | Afidence

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