How I Bootstrapped My Way to Passing the PMP Exam on the First Try

Shannel Wheeler
10 min readOct 9, 2018

***Note: Please stay up to date with the current project management requirements from the Project Management Institute.***

I’m a creative professional with a project management certification. Interesting “left-brain/right-brain” combo, right? As a designer, I’ve always looked to level up my design skills: being faster and more proficient with keyboard shortcuts, learning new techniques in Adobe programs, challenging myself with comprehensive projects, etc. However, a few years back, I realized that I needed something to give me an edge in my career (I was getting weary of the corporate scene) and also a methodical way of tackling big personal goals that I so often left hanging in the balance midway through starting. It’s not that I was doing bad; I just wanted to do better.

I heard through the grapevine that project management was the way to better organizational skills, planning and execution. But I also heard all the gripes of current and yet-to-be PMPs who preached how grueling and pain-staking the exam was. Honestly, their testaments were intimidating, but I had already made up in my mind that obtaining project management certification would provide me with a much-needed turning point in my career.

At the time of my revelation, I had recently bought my first home and finances were a little tight (no one told me I would be living in Home Depot for the first month). I was also knee deep in work at my full-time job and my with own personal clients. Nevertheless, I started a high-risk/high-reward journey of self-study and bootstrapping my way to PMP certification. I’ve never enjoyed tests or been the best standardized test-taker. But I was determined to prove to myself that I could tackle this beast of an exam and add a skillset that I believed would be a benefit to my life and career.

In no way, shape or form am I suggesting that my way was the only way, or the best strategy. However, it did work for me. Along with a lot of coffee and prayer, here’s the formula that allowed me to bootstrap my way to passing the PMP exam on the first try:

1. Purpose

I’ve designed professionally for the last 15 years across the corporate, non-profit, entrepreneurial, small business, and start-up…



Shannel Wheeler

Left-brain creative | Brand/Design Implementation | Design Instruction and Inspiration | Creating with Purpose: