My VCDX Journey

It has been more than two months since I got my VCDX number, however due to work related work load and preparations for VCAP-DTA exam I couldn’t find time to blog earlier about my own VCDX journey, but as they say, better late than never 🙂

In this article I would like to spot a light on my journey to achieve VCDX-DCV back in July 2014 and became number 136.

Since I joined VMware PSO on 1st May 2011, I had set a milestone for myself which is achieving VCDX.

So what is VCDX-DCV according to VMware? (as many of my Non-IT friends asked about it)

VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) is the highest level of VMware certification. This elite group is comprised of design architects highly-skilled in VMware enterprise deployments and the program is designed for veteran professionals who want to validate and demonstrate their expertise in VMware technology.

VCDX5-DCV certification is achieved through the unique design defense process, where all candidates must submit and successfully defend a production-ready VMware Solution before a panel of veteran VCDX-DCV holders. This process ensures that those who achieve VCDX status are peer-vetted and ready to join an elite group of world-class consulting architects.

The Journey to achieve such complicated certificate isn’t easy and the candidate should satisfy all below requirements before getting it:

  1. Hold VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA) and VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design (VCAP5-DCD) Certification
  2. Submit a VCDX5-DCV Application that is accepted
  3. Successfully present and defend a VMware vSphere based virtual infrastructure design and implementation plan

To achieve that goal, I have built my own Lab at home to start practicing for VCAP5-DCA, the  task wasn’t easy as you need to cover every point in the exam’s blueprint and finally passed it in November 2012 (result came beginning of December 2012). 

The next step was working on VCAP5-DCD, this one was easier, at least for me as I am involved almost on daily basis in Design’s sessions at customer sites. I had sat the exam in February 2013 and passed it too.
I was pretty busy on the coming months, so I couldn’t start working on my VCDX design, also I had sat in July 2013 the freshly released exam at that time VCAP-DTD and passed it too. This was pretty easy due to my SME within PSO team as VDI/EUC specialist 🙂
I have start working seriously on my VCDX design starting from September 2013 aiming to submit by December 2013 hoping to defend at PEX2014 in San Francisco.
I have picked up a design which I had done back in Q2\2012 for an important government entity in Saudi Arabia and started reviewing/editing it to align it with VCDX blueprint.
I had submitted on-time for PEX2014 defence date and started the hardest part, the waiting!
I believe my biggest mistakes at that stage were:
  • Ignoring sharing my design with others in order to review it and have their valuable feedbacks before submitting it.
  • Not knowing that there were some VCDX study groups running in EMEA & US, which could be a great preparation phase for real defence.
  • Underestimate the depth of details & knowledge required for VCDX.
Anyway, the design had been accepted and been invited to defend it in San Francisco, at that stage I shared my VCDX design with my friends & colleges at VMware; Ray Heffer (@rayheffer) and Andrea Siviero (@asivix).
Thanks for both of them, I had a lot of useful feedbacks which scared me as I realised how many gaps I had in my design! that worried me as it would be very difficult to defend all these gaps.
I had flown to San Francisco February 2014 to undertake my first VCDX attempt.
Thanks for Mark Brunstad (@MarkBrunstad), I was able to attend the live VCDX Bootcamp in San Francisco. That was very useful and I was lucky to meet Brad Christian (@BChristian21) in person there, who was very kind and invited me to attend the love mock defence sessions at the next day.
During those sessions I realised what I missed really by not attending VCDX study groups and connecting with other VCDX candidates to exchange knowledge and participate in daily mock defences and study sessions.
My defence slot was at Wednesday 12.Feb.2014 2:00PM, I tried to have as much sleep as I could at that night, but the jet lag destroyed that plan as I woke up 03:00AM local time without being able to get back to sleep! somehow I managed to survive till my defence.
The experience of meeting up with the panellists in person had really scared me, those guys really went through my application set carefully and spotted all weakness and gaps. I did my best trying to defend my design decisions during the first 75 minutes, in the other two parts I thought that I did well enough to recover my issues during the first part, but unfortunately I was wrong! 
The result came really fast at the next day evening saying that I failed 🙁
For a moment, I was questioning why I had failed!? Then I tried to remember all questions been asked during my defence and wrote them down in order to identify my weakness and issues which led to that outcome.
I didn’t gave up! I had check the next available defence and it was in July 2014, so I register for Frankfurt’s one (which I prefer as it’s almost in the same time zone as Saudi Arabia) and done all the travel arrangements myself.
The official feedback confirmed my thoughts and it was almost all points I wrote down after my failure.
Now, I need either to get a new design or perform a complete overview for my current one. I went for that later option.
So to cover the missing points from first attempt, I added few fictitious parts to align perfectly with VCDX-DCV blueprint and cover all gaps from initial design.
Lessons learnt from first attempt, I had shared the new VCDX design before at least from one month from the submission deadline (08.May.2014) with a lot of VCDXs and other experienced friends and got precious feedbacks from them, then I had adjust my design accordingly before submitting it.
Also at the same time I joined EMEA VCDX Study Group which ran by Gregg Robertson (@GreggRobertson5), that was the best step I took during my VCDX preparation.
The waiting is over and I had an email beginning of June 2014 informing me that my application is accepted and been invited to defend in Frankfurt.
Within the group, I found out that myself, Craig Kilborn (@Craig_Kilborn) and Magnus Edh (@vTerahertz) are defending in Frankfurt, so Craig took the leadership and created a smaller study group contained all of us. We had almost daily Webex session to go through all different technologies and holding mock defence sessions. 
Later on joined us Sunny Dua (@Sunny_Dua) who was planning to defend in Singapore and sometime we had the pleasure to have Frank Büchsel  (@fbuechsel) to provide us with real life troubleshooting scenarios.
I started working on my VCDX presentation after being accepted and got bigger and bigger to end up with 90 slides! in those slides I covered different aspects of design in addition to justifying the design decisions I made there.
Myself, Craig & Magnus got the chance to spend the weekend before the defence day in Frankfurt doing face to face mock defences, those sessions were great help to all of us and a lot of fun too.
My defence was scheduled on Monday 7th July 2014 2:00 PM, so I had good sleep and went early enough to defence place to avoid any unexpected delays and arrived around 1:15PM and waited at reception until been escorted to defence room exactly at 2:00PM. 
The panellists were professional and friendly, the first part was the toughest one for myself as I had a lot of good and valid questions and discussions around my design decisions and I felt to a minute that I am not going to make it. However the Design & Troubleshoot scenarios were much better or at least this is how I felt about them.
Thanks for Mark Brunstad (@MarkBrunstad) efforts, the result was pretty quick and I got mine on Thursday 10th July late night and guess what … I passed to become VCDX #136 🙂

 

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