“And, And … And????” This was the short cryptic WhatsApp message I received last Wednesday evening from my ITQ co-worker Marco van Baggum (VCDX #223) while tending to my kids’ supper. I jumped to my email and there was the message I have been waiting for for just over a week: From: email@example.com. Subject: VCDX-DCV Defense Results. I opened my mail and thankfully VMware has given a lot of thought on the paragraph and sentence layout because the first word says it all Congratulations! My kids must have thought their dad went crazy. I literally started jumping around and screaming. I am usually pretty laid back. When I successfully defended my Bachelor of ICT thesis a couple of years ago, I was happy. Very happy actually, and I may have made a short ‘Yeah!’ statement … but this VCDX email did something entirely different with me. Man … was I relieved. I am now the proud owner of VCDX #252.
Time for some VCDX reflection
There are tons of blogs and articles about how hard and time-consuming VCDX is. They are all right. It is hard, tough, it will put a strain on your personal life and your family will also have a hard time. I know every VCDX says that step one is to explain to your family what VCDX is and set expectations right. Of course, me being me, I skipped that step and started studying and writing my design without fully explaining the proces to my girlfriend. Big mistake! Especially around deadlines I had a pretty rough time. Of course in the end she gave me all the time I needed but I could have prevented a lot of tension and discussions if I just took everyone’s advice. You need to earn the support of your family by explaining the entire process before you decide to take on this beast.
Looking back, I made two other mistakes in the proces.
- I can be a bit of an ‘einzelganger’ when working on projects. I guess it has to do with ‘do things yourself, so you are in control’. Let me say this loud and clear: you need other people’s help to achieve VCDX. You need people to review your application, you need people to review your slides, you need a study group, you need people to do mock defenses with and you need people to practice the design scenario with. In the end I took most of these steps but I did not plan them very well. That brings me to mistake number two: bad planning.
- I put myself in a world of hurt due to bad planning. VCDX mentors are usually pretty busy folk. I did not plan ahead and in the end most of the guys I eventually reached out to, were out of the country, busy with work or otherwise engaged. I got some really good feedback from ITQ co-workers (both VCDX-es and non-VCDX-es) but in the end, time only allowed me to do one proper mock defense with Yves Santford and one with Rene van den Bedem. The mock with Yves was six days before my defense and the mock with Rene was only three days before my defense. Both gave excellent feedback but they also made it clear I still had a LOT of ground to cover. I had to pull a couple of all-nighters to finish everything in time for my defense. I finished my final slide deck in my hotel room in Staines on Monday evening around 8:00pm with my defense planned for Tuesday morning 9:00 AM. I only had just a couple of hours left to put a design scenario strategy together. That is not the way to prepare for a VCDX presentation. Talk about stress. So: plan well ahead, join a study group and reach out to some mentors and plan mocks in time. And one final note on planning: the submission dates and defense dates are known for the entire year. Choose a set of dates that fit your schedule and make sure you clear your agenda around these dates. Do not, for example, have your girlfriend plan a big birthday party on the Saturday before your defense because you did not explain the VCDX defense process very well. Take my advice … please, don’t.
VCDX eye opener: score points
My mock defenses with Yves, Rene and the Webex session with Joe Silvagi put the entire VCDX program in the correct perspective for me. It is a certification program in which you have to score points according to the blueprint. VCDX is not about creating your life’s work or the best design ever. No, it is a certification and the panelists will score you according to the blueprint. Joe was asked about how harsh and brutal some of the panelists supposedly are, according to some of the horror stories on social media. Joe explained that panelists should be your peers and they should be there to help you pass. He explained some candidates may feel bullied on by panelists because they keep drilling the candidate about a topic he or she doesn’t seem to know very well. On top of that, the design scenario turns out to rely heavily on that same unfamiliar topic. This is not bullying candidates because they do not know a specific area, but the panelists are actually providing opportunity over and over again to score points. Also, if you realise during your mocks you didn’t cover specific blueprint areas very well in your design, make sure you pay extra attention to them in your design presentation. Remember: score points!
The same basically goes for the application submission itself. It is a certification program. Read the blueprint and write a clear and concise set of documents that cover the blueprint and score points. No panelist is looking for a 500 pages design document. That will not earn you extra credits. Less is most often more…
My VCDX defense experience
I can be short. I actually had a great time. My panelists were really awesome. Of course they were sharp and critical but all in all they were polite and very friendly. During my design presentation itself I felt quite relaxed and in some moments I even forgot I was in front of a panel defending my VCDX. It really felt like a customer meeting at some point in which we were deeply discussing a vSphere solution. I really enjoyed it. Because I did not practice the design scenario very well, I felt this could have gone much better. I did not feel they were pushing me into a specific blueprint area so that actually made me feel pretty good about my design presentation. I strolled back to my hotel after the defense and enjoyed a nice lunch on the terrace beside the the Thames. I felt pretty good and relaxed. That was a strange feeling after a full week of stress and panic.
What to do after VCDX?
Due to the all consuming VCDX process I did not yet upgrade my VCAP5-DCD so I am officially VCDX5-DCV. I already planned my VCAP6-DCD exam to upgrade to VCDX6-DCV. After that, I will be focusing my attention on achieving the AWS Solution Architect certifications. Of course I will also be looking into vSphere 6.5 because that also flew straight passed me. And a double VCDX? Who knows? I am VCIX6-NV certified and I have an NSX design that may be VCDX worthy in my mind …. but I promised my family to turn it down a notch for a while.
I would like to use this blogpost to thank some people. First of all I want to thank my family for all the support. I did not make this easy for them. Secondly, I want to thank ITQ and my co-workers at ITQ for helping me in this pursuit. I think it is pretty awesome that we have four VCDX’es now at ITQ. That shows some major dedication from both sides. VCDX is an expensive track and if you show dedication, ITQ will support you all the way. That is pretty unique I think. Yves and Rene: your feedback combined was critical to my succes. I hope we will meet in person at VMworld for example so I can buy you guys a beer 😉
Finally I would like to thank everyone in my study group and all VCDX mentors involved in Webex sessions I attended. You guys rock!