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How I Earned My CDT: Nuha Alfahham

By CSI HQ posted 03-29-2021 10:41

The Construction Documents Technology (CDT®) certification provides a comprehensive program of study for anyone seeking to enhance and demonstrate knowledge of writing, interpreting, enforcing, and managing construction documents. It is a valuable resource for project architects, contractors, contract administrators, material suppliers, and manufacturers’ representatives, all of whom are realizing the advantages of being Construction Documents Technologists.

Here, recently successful CDT candidate Nuha Alfahham discuss her career in construction and shares her perspective on what it took to earn this elite certification.

Can you provide an overview of your career, and why you chose to work in this industry?

My passion has always been in water resources engineering. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to explore various aspects of this field. I started by working in research and development at a manufacturing company that developed ultraviolet disinfection systems for water and wastewater. After that, I worked in consulting and as an adjunct professor teaching classes related to environmental engineering, wastewater engineering and sustainable architecture. My current job at Brown and Caldwell gives me the opportunity to be involved in both research and consulting projects related to water and wastewater and CDT is very valuable for my consulting work.

What prompted you to earn your CDT?

As a consulting and design firm in the water and wastewater sector, my company undertakes large and challenging municipal projects. My new role involves construction contract administration for projects that use conventional and progressive delivery methods. Having discussed with my manager available training opportunities that will equip me with the most up to date knowledge and tools in the field, I decided to pursue CDT certification. I already noticed the added value of this certification.

How did you study/prepare for the exam?

CSI materials, especially the electronic format, helped me prepare for the exam. I used the latest edition of the Project Delivery Practice Guide and the CDT Study Workbook. The workbook helped ensure that I covered the most important concepts and helped assess my strengths and where needed more practice. I really liked the feature that allowed me to hide and reveal the answers.

One key strategy I used was to start with and fully understand the three core domains that served as the building blocks for the CDT. I felt that the CDT handbook offered valuable information that helped me not only prepare for the exam, but also familiarize me with the exam’s format and content.

I studied mostly during the weekends. Once I was done with each module in the Practice Guide, I used the workbook to practice and assess my knowledge. 

What in particular about the exam process stands out for you? 

The study group and discussions were very helpful in exchanging information, tips, resources, and answers to questions related to the exam content. Initially, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the study sessions provided by CSI since the format was open ended. However, listening to other participants and how they had been preparing, especially to those who had been through the exam made me realize that I needed to dedicate more time for studying the materials. During the study sessions, Matthew Fochs emphasized the importance of becoming familiar with the language used in the latest edition, answered important questions, and pointed out confusing concepts. I appreciated that the study sessions were recorded and available for anyone who couldn’t join them live.

Were there any surprising, or unexpected methods or preparation that helped you achieve success?

I believe it is important to not only have knowledge of the content, but also to know what to expect for the exam. Being familiar with the language the industry uses and understanding how the questions are being asked are two key elements to doing well on the exam. There were no CSI approved practice tests, and while realizing that some existing sample tests included irrelevant questions and some - quite frankly - inaccurate answers, I found that using these sample practice tests, shared by the study group members, was helpful in getting me prepared for the test day.

How did your professional and personal community support you?

It can be challenging to study and prepare for tests while working full time. My manager was supportive in making sure I had the needed resources and in obtaining the CSI membership.

Realizing I have limited time to prepare for the test during weekdays, my family were quite supportive as I had to use weekends to catch up with the material preparation.

How do you feel this will impact your future in the industry and inform the work you do?

With the accelerating change in the construction industry and the desire to adopt more progressive and less conventional project delivery methods, it is important to keep up with the latest developments in the field in addition to mastering the 4 C’s in construction documentation. The CSI CDT certification gives the competitive edge in the documentation, communication, and practices in this dynamic field.

Is there anything else you would have liked me to ask you?

One other thing I would like to highlight is the online testing. I’m grateful that CSI made the arrangements to facilitate online testing while maintaining the same high standards as in-person testing. The experience with the proctored test providers was new to me and CSI, and there were a few challenges with the process. CSI member, Monica Occhetti, was quite helpful in addressing the challenges when I reached out.

For future test takers, it would be important to discuss the proctoring process, what to expect, potential issues, and steps to take if issues arise during the test.