I was recently asked if pursuing NPDP Certification through the PDMA is worth the effort. In the interest of full disclosure, I am the Executive Director of the PDMA, so before you think to yourself "well of course he’s going to say certification is worth it," let me explain why I really feel that it is, with full transparency. I hope that this post will help spark others to offer their opinions on the question as well.
I am a certified NPDP, and have been for almost six years (I’ve only been Executive Director for a few months). I pursued and maintained my certification while working as a practitioner for a variety of CPG and retail organizations. I have personally found two primary benefits that have made the certification worthwhile:
The learning experience
The learning experience was particularly important. I come from an engineering/R&D background, so even with a few years of experience under my belt, my perspective on product development was restricted to the more technical viewpoint. It was also restricted by the limited range of companies that I had worked for, all within the consumer packaged goods arena. Pursuing the certification forced me to study and learn the full gamut of product development, including strategy, teams and organizational structure, processes, tools and metrics, market research, and portfolio management. I had exposure to some of those areas, but others I had not. Even in those areas with which I had familiarity, I gained exposure to different approaches from those that my employers practiced.
The credential aspect is a bit more of a mixed bag, but overall, it has also served me well. I found that having the letters “NPDP” after my name can be a good conversation starter with potential employers, and with people who may see presentations that I make. When I describe what an NPDP is, what I had to do to earn the certification, and how it needs to be maintained with ongoing professional development, it is generally impressive to those I speak with, and gives me instant credibility on NPD topics.
I admit, though, that my preference would be that people see NPDP, already know what it is, and become impressed without me having to explain anything. I would like to see more organizations leveraging the common skill set and language of NPDPs within their organizations, so that certified new hires and solution providers first coming in can have an immediate common framework for collaboration. We are not there yet. It won’t happen overnight, but PDMA will work to move it in that direction.
I would appreciate hearing other candid thoughts about certification. Any feedback will help us to make the experience, both before and after certification, better for all concerned. I recognize that we have room to evolve and improve, and we will continue to work to do so.