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MY CPSM Story: I Wouldn’t Recommend This as Your Path But It Worked for Me

By Chuck Raymond, CPSM Marketing Manager
Geosyntec Consultants, Acton MA
SMPS BOD and Director of Outreach Committee

I think I’ve told this story about my path to CPSM many times to people in SMPS, including some from headquarters in Virginia. Some people find it amusing and some people just give me a quizzical look (I’m used to those by now). I must say though, that, when I was the Director of the Chapter’s CPSM Committee, I kept it to myself.

Immediately prior to my joining my current employer in 2004, I had been unemployed/underemployed for close to a year. Needless to say, when I was offered the position as Marketing Manager, I was very eager to meet whatever demands they had of me, one of which was to uproot my family on Cape Cod and move to someplace closer to the office in Acton. The other was that I needed to join SMPS and become a CPSM within a year.

“Absolutely,” I told them. “I’d be glad to.” I’m pretty sure now looking back on it that my then supervisor could sense that I had no idea what he was talking about. I had never heard of either of those acronyms in my life, but if it meant a new full-time job, I was game. So, I joined the firm and went through a two-week training period in Atlanta, part of which involved a description of what SMPS and CPSM even meant. I then went online and joined SMPS. Ok, that was done. Now, to become a CPSM.

Keep in mind that I didn’t know a soul at SMPS, including in the Boston Chapter. However, I did at least have the requisite education and prior experience in sales, marketing, and BD, so I was at least qualified to become a CPSM. I found out what books I needed (in 2004, it was a veritable bookshelf, some of which were basically large text books) and I bought them. Now, this next part is one I didn’t want to mention to the future CPSM candidates I began mentoring when I became the CPSM Committee Director and was running the study groups about 10 years later. Way back then, when I found out about the study groups (which weren’t nearly as organized back then as they are now), I didn’t feel I needed to take the time to go all the way into Boston and sit down with people I didn’t know and do whatever it was that they were supposed to do. After all, I had my degree. I went to college. I knew how to study. What could go wrong?

I took the highlighter that I stole from the office supply closet at work and when I had the time, either at lunch or at home, I sat down with the books and over the next 2-3 months read through them as best I could, using the highlighter as frequently as I needed to. Another bit of confidence I had was that, because of my marketing and BD background, I already knew much of what would be on the test. Right?

Fast forward to July of that year. It’s a month or so away from my first SMPS Build Business conference, that year in Manhattan (we need to go back there, by the way), and I was one of the first people to register to take the exam online. I then arranged a mutually agreeable time with a proctor, who came to my office to babysit me while I logged on and took the test, just to make sure I didn’t cheat. That was one of the oddest chunks of 2-3 hours I’d ever spent.

I had been told ahead of time that it would take a few weeks to find out how I did, but while sitting on my couch at home one night, I got an email saying that I had passed, which was much sooner than two weeks. As it turns out, I barely passed, but I passed. And the domain that I thought I’d do best in (Client and Business Development), I did the worst in.

So that was my odd path to CPSM. I do now wish that I had partaken in the study group. It would have greatly eased my entry into SMPS which ended up taking quite a while longer, and it would have made taking the CPSM exam much easier. But, no complaints. No great life lesson learned, no cautionary tales. I took it, I passed, and I’m glad I did. Next stop – Fellow (hopefully).

Chuck currently serves on SMPS Boston’s Board of Directors and is Director of the Outreach Committee. He previously served as Director of both the CPSM Committee and the former Sponsorship Committee. He is also a member of the Certification Committee with SMPS’s National Chapter.


Karyn Tirabassi is the Director of the SMPS Boston CPSM Committee and a Market Development Representative at eClinical Solutions.

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