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Student testimonial: From being out of work to running my own company

Past student, Adrian Tolliday began his journey with us unemployed. Find out how he reached career success after getting certified.

Following gaining his project management certification, Adrian went on to project manage the Bu Tinah Dome project for Abu Dhabi Environment agency.


What circumstances led you to the PMP?

“I had just set up the aquarium in Atlantis the Palm, Dubai, when in 2009 the world economy slumped and Dubai was hit hard. Having to move back to Northern Ireland, I found myself living off the state, with no job and being a specialist in a very narrow field.”

“To change my fortunes, I decided to set about developing my own project plans and proposals to try and get an investor to buy into my knowledge and skills. So how could I get an investor to believe in me?”

“I’d been heavily involved in building the Atlantis Aquarium, and learnt a lot of new skills from the experience, but I knew I needed to formalise these. Fortunately I discovered the PMP course, and, after researching several different service providers, I came across the Learning People.”

Why did you choose Learning People?

“Learning People offered by far the most cost effective course and had the best customer care. An online training course I could do without having the expense and inconvenience of travelling seemed like the most appropriate method of study for me.”

How did you find the PMP?

“The course was fantastic, and doing it in my own time meant that I could really focus on what was delivered in each module. The training cemented the knowledge that I had already gained through my project experience in the past, and caused me to think about what could I have done better?

“Although the exam was a gruelling four hours and by far the most challenging one I have done, the course had been so thorough I was adequately prepared and passed.”

How did getting certified affect your career?

“With renewed vigour and an extra qualification, I approached my contacts again, but this time I included colleagues in other related professions. I got a call from Abu Dhabi and was asked to project manage a new turtle pool development for the Abu Dhabi Environment agency, which led me to secure a job at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater zoo.

“The skills I developed though the PMP course meant I could organise my job better, and the framework I was working in was a very functional orientated environment.

“The great thing from a professional and personal perspective was my directive to make improvements to the exhibits and to the operations of the aquarium.”


How do you approach a project?

“Each improvement project started with a business case including the five process groups:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Controlling
  5. Closing

“Following the process, you have to justify your project, identify the stakeholders, identify the problem and issues, before making your recommendations. Then you have to justify that recommendation and develop a very simplified project overview.

“This is a high level description of the project, typically so that the authorised senior managers get a feel for what you are trying to achieve. The goal of any business case is to get the authorised ‘green light’ for the project, so it is important to find the right balance between giving too much information and too little. The project overview is also the tool that you need to manage their expectations.

“Sometimes functional managers do not understand your business, so it is very important that your goals and objectives, assumptions, constraints and expected milestones are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.”

What happened in the following year?

“I left the aquarium last year to set up my own company – Tolliday Group – in Dubai focusing on developing new and exciting animal based attractions, so this is a time when my PMP training is really becoming a valuable asset to me.

“I have been fortunate enough to secure several great projects, which are just in the initiation phase. It’s an exciting time – one of our biggest projects at the moment sees us about to embark on the detailed design phase of a large project in Muscat, Oman. I’m thrilled because through this I get to achieve the goal that I set myself at the beginning of my career – to design and build my own public aquarium.

“When I think about where I was three years ago to where I am now, I have to attribute a lot of my success to the knowledge that I gained through the PMP process.

“I now have the confidence and knowledge to take on multi-million dollar animal based projects, with my approach to each project being structured, organised and sequential – something clients buy into time and time again.”


Study the PMP course like Adrian or another project management accreditation with Learning People – speak with our career consultants today to find the course that best suits your career ambitions.