My VCDX Journey – 5 simple steps to VCDX

I’ve just recently been awarded the VCDX4 certification after completing my defence in Frankfurt. It is part of the final stage in the VCDX certification culminating in a journey over the past year. Defence experiences have been shared by others such as Duncan Epping, Jason Boche, Scott Lowe and Kenneth van Ditmarsch and I found that mine was very similar so this is a post on how I prepared for my VCDX and by careful planning how it can be achieved within 12 months.

For information regarding the VCDX certification path, please see the VCDX page on VMware.com.

First a quick thanks to all those that helped in true Oscar style, namely Steve Byrne my manager at VMware for supporting my journey, my colleagues at VMware for your help with the mock panels, you were awesome – @simonlong_, @repping, @ady189, @baecke & John Pollard. A shout out to @frankdenneman for the motivational support and advice.

Fail to plan? Then plan to fail, preparation is key, so this was how I planned my journey in 5 easy steps.

Step 1 – Gain support from your employer and family

This is critical as the certification path is not an easy one, there is a minimum of one course to attend (vSphere ICM), three exams (VCP, VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD) and fees for the VCDX submission and defence. Not to mention the expenses of travelling to the defences themselves. It’s also good to agree time to study, work on your defence materials as well as any time you need to actually attend the defence. Remember that taking time out to study and prepare would mean your company would take the hit on your productivity. So having a mutual agreement benefits all.

Support from your family is also a must as it will be a huge investment in your time.

Step 2 – Set clear objectives

Sit down with your manager and discuss clear objectives that are SMART. Agree on what your objectives are, and plan to achieve them. An example:

Objective Estimated Completion Date Resources
VCP Q1 ICM course, lab practice
VCAP-DCA Q2 Courses (optional), lab practice
VCAP-DCD Q3 Design Workshop (optional), read PDFs, lab practice
Create a vSphere Design Q2-Q3 Work on real design for a customer with real world requirements and use this as your VCDX submission
Complete VCDX Submission Q4 Choose a VCDX defence date and aim to submit your VCDX materials in time

Step 3 – Keep a track of your progress

Remember to keep a track of your progress, if you pass the exams, share the news with your team, it keeps you motivated. If you fail, then your timeline objectives may need tweaking. Keep your manager in the loop with progress, as ultimately, funding needs to come from somewhere for your fees and expenses right?

Step 4 – Work on your VCDX materials and then submit

Read the VCDX requirements and register your intention to pursue the VCDX on myLearn and make sure that you meet all the requirements before sending in your submission. Make sure to get some colleagues to review your documents first.

If everything goes well, your submission may well be accepted by VMware and you’re invited to defend.

Step 5 – Prepare for your defence

At this stage you should have been invited to defend. This is the most critical stage of the process, all the work that you’ve done so far has ultimately come down to this. So no pressure.

There are many ways to prepare, but here’s how I made myself ready for the defence.

1. Request peer reviews from your colleagues and virtualisation friends. Ask them to review all of your documents and materials again, especially the design.

2. Run Webex sessions with your peers to go over your 15 minute VCDX presentation. Record this, it will help you review your performance, note the duration and your tone of voice, did you project well?

3. Conduct a mock defence session with your peers. Invite them to ask as many questions that they could think of, even the obvious ones. Record this as well, note your performance, how you responded to the questions, tone of voice, setup a BS counter. Too much BS means that you don’t know your design well enough and you’ll be at risk when it comes to your real defence. Just remember to be – clear – concise – calculated.

4. Practice white boarding, you will have at least one whiteboard at your defence and it’s your most powerful tool, so learn to use it like it’s second nature.

5. Know your design inside out, not just the technical aspects. If you can justify the technical design decisions back to the business and technical requirements and constraints then you’re on the right track.

6. If you feel that you’re not ready or you can’t make it to your defence, you can postpone it to the next defence dates without submitting your application again. I was initially scheduled to defend in Singapore but could not travel so defended in Frankfurt instead.

Well that’s my advice, I hope this information is useful and that it helps more people being able to attain the VCDX certification. Who knows I might see you on the other side of the table in 12 month’s time. 😀

VCDX: An overview

VCDX: VMware Certified Design Expert

VCDX is not a follow on from VCP and is not currently a VAC or Partner program requirement, this should be seen as an advanced Certification and is only applicable to architects who have designed and deployed enterprise environments. The Enterprise Exam is available this month. Candidates can check their skills and assess their suitability for this exam online via our Certification page : http://mylearn1.vmware.com/portals/certification/ Only those who meet these qualifications will be able to attend the exams. The Design exam is now in Beta development. We expect design submissions and presentations will begin in Q308.

The BluePrint is available now, use as a tick list… all 16 pages of it. 🙂

Here’s a summary of what I know about the VCDX over the last few days….

To attain the VCDX, one needs to achieve…

1. VCP
2. Pass the Enterprise Exam
3. Pass the Design Exam
4. Successfully pass a grilling by your peers, most likely chaps from VMware PSO on a design and implementation plan.

Now, according to my sources, the official preparation, and non-compulsory, for the Enterprise Exam is the DSA Course:

VI3: DSA v3.5
Duration 4 days
RRP £2095 p/p

It’s upto you to decide if you really need to go on the course to pass, so a read of the blueprint will probably give you a guide as to the level that you are at.

The official preparation for the Design Exam, also non compulsory are two new, unreleased courses from VMware, the first is aptly named Design Patterns (release Q3/Q4) and the second course is an unknown at the moment.