Jo Toon MCIPS is the Principal Category Manager, Ministry of Social Development, Wellington

MSD Purpose: We help New Zealanders to help themselves to be safe, strong and independent Ko ta mātou he whakamana tangata kia tū haumaru, kia tū kaha, kia tū motuhake.

Jo’s journey to MCIPS

I started my CIPS journey in February 2011 through the self-study route. My previous work experience allowed me to begin studying at the Diploma level. I completed my exams in November 2014, and received confirmation of my final passes (and therefore the ability to apply for MCIPS) in February 2015. It does take a lot of work to complete fifteen exams over three years, particularly as I worked full time throughout my study, but the end results are worth the commitment!

I have been able to weave the topics I have learned into my day to day work, and it has been very satisfying to use the models and theory when explaining processes and rationale to my non-procurement colleagues.

The focus of the learning materials lifts from operational and managerial at the Diploma and Advanced Diplomas through to strategic at the Professional Diploma. Each Diploma builds on the information that you learn at the previous level. I have been able to mirror this lift in my procurement career over the last three years.

Overall, the qualifications have given me the confidence to explain complex procurement issues to both non-procurement and procurement colleagues, the skills to progress in my career and given me the tools and techniques I need to get the best value for money for the organisation that I work for.

It’s a challenge

There are challenges along the way, particularly if you don’t have a tutor to explain aspects of the syllabus.

Here some hints and tips for other students who are thinking of going down the self- study path:

  • Plan your study time
    Study at a set time regularly and stick to it, it’s easier than trying to snatch the odd moment here and there. This is particularly important if you are working full time, as you need to be able to work around peaks in your workload. I set aside specific lunchtimes during the week, as well as a couple of weekday evenings and, when the exams got closer, Sunday afternoons.
  • Start early
    - If you plan out your study time when you book your exam, you can split the book and the Learning Objectives into manageable chunks
  • Networking
    - If you can, find other people who are studying the same exams. Being able to get together to discuss questions and to work through problem areas is a lot easier than trying to get through it all on your own. 
    - Join a LinkedIn study group. I regularly used the CIPS Student Members group for support, as this has students from all around the world who post questions and get feedback.
  • Student Zone
    - On the CIPS website is a Student Zone where you will find lots of tools and resources to help you study.
    - Use the past papers to test yourself as you study, leaving at least one to give yourself a full “mock” exam prior to the actual exam.
    - Use the assessors’ reports to give you a steer, particularly on where common mistakes have been made in the past on those types of assessments.
  • Stay current
    - Sign up for the Supply Management Daily email - it helps to get information and news that puts the theory from the textbooks into context.
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