The road to VCDX, Part 7: The waiting is over!

Wow, the waiting is over. As you may have read on twitter, the journey in becoming VCDX-DTM has reached a climax.

Since the last post, again a lot has happened. I defended the design and flew back to the Netherlands. And then the dreadful period of waiting for an email from the VCDX program begins. I didn’t really think of this being a “thing”. But it was. When I left the defense room in Palo Alto, I had a positive feeling over both the defense and the design scenario. But the longer the wait takes, the more the insecurity grows. What if this, what if that. That is basically how I spent the last 8 days. ¬†And I guess to me that was one of the hardest parts in the whole process of achieving the certification. Checking your email every 10 minutes, even in the weekend, although I kind-of knew that the result would come in on the tuesday/wednesday, a week after the defense.

And it came ūüôā

VCDX result

I thought that after defending, the pressure was off my shoulders. Unfortunately it wasn’t. The only thing that changed, was the fact that I wasn’t busy reading my design or working on slides.
After todays email, that was really when the pressure was off my shoulders. And now I am here:

vcdx directory

This year was one hell of a rollercoaster. VMworld Las Vegas, VMworld Barcelona, the EUC Champion Accreditation and now this.

My road to VCDX had (for now) come to an end. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog series and I hope I inspired more people in becoming a VCDX-DTM. Although it is a journey that will ask a lot of you, it is well worth the stress, the insomnia, the jet lags because in the end you will become a better architect.

I wasn’t able to get here without the help of my mentor, the people helping me with mock defenses and design scenarios and of course my employer ITQ.

As you can see in the above figure, I have chosen to become a mentor for those pursuing the VCDX-DTM certification as well. Let me know if I can be of any help!

The road to VCDX, Part 6: Judgement Day

As you may have read in the previous post in my journey in becoming VCDX-DTM, I got invited to defend my design at the VMware HQ in Palo Alto. That’s when shit gets real and when you have to work maybe even harder towards the climax of a process that took me over a year. And one of the great things about this phase is that a lot of peers¬†and people of the VMware and VCDX community are really helpful in achieving this.

The last 3 weeks have been quite tough. The first phases in the VCDX process were (in my case) stressful, but good to combine with a private life. That has completely changed now that the actual defense is very close.

As you may know, the VCDX application/defense process contains 3 parts that are taken into account for a final score:

  • The actual design
  • The defense of the design
  • The design scenario

The actual design is probably the easiest one to deliver although it will take the most time to deliver. You will have the ability in this phase to build a design based on the VCDX blueprint and validate this with peers and other VCDXes. Getting this validated and challenged multiple times by people with different specialties (networking, storage, desktop) is really important. After you are satisfied, you send in the design and the waiting begins.

In the meantime you start working on the second part of the VCDX application, the defense stage. I have been working on the slide deck for over a month. I created a lot of backup slides that contained data on multiple technical levels:

  • Main slides – Basic functionality and drivers of the design
  • Backup slide 1 (per subject) – more technical detailed, but stil readable for a customer
  • Backup slide 2 (per subject) – some more technical detailed than Backup slide 1, and mainly readable for the technical person at a customer
  • Backup slide 3 (per subject) – Technical details that are mainly used for a technical consultant (or VCDX panelist)

Because there is a huge amount of functionality in a VCDX-DTM design, you could end up with a large slide deck. Mine was over 80 slides, but contained every piece of information that was requested.

Something that I would highly recommend, is to do multiple mock defenses, including face to face ones. A mock through a Webex is also helpful, but the stress level gets even higher when someone is hammering you and you get pressures by the people in the room and a timer that is running. The more you practice your presentation, the better it goes and the more questions you will get from your mock-panel that you will remember.

During the defense I also experienced that it is of high value that you use an actual customer case. I got a lot of questions on why we chose certain options and when you can remember the discussions with the customer, this helps a lot.

And than there is a third thing, the design scenario. You basically get 45 minutes to create a design for a fictitious customer. You will get a short description of the scenario and you need to ask the panel (who turned into the customer) a lot of questions to create a solution. Questions like: What kind of uptime would you like to achieve? What kind of applications are you using? Who many users do you have? Do they work from home? Etc..
Make sure that you are practicing this as well during a couple of mock defenses.

One major advice on the defense and scenario: Have fun! It should be a lot of fun if your passion for IT/Virtualization/EUC/etc drove you into this.

So it is done. I faced the panel. I’m hoping that the process is done and that I can focus on new things for 2017. If not, I will continue my journey in becoming a VCDX-DTM.

More to follow soon..

The road to VCDX, Part 5: Waiting, waiting..

It has been a while since the last post around my Road to VCDX-DTM. After the last post, the waiting began. Waiting for that email that says “Please come over to Palo Alto and defend the phonebook-sized-pile of stuff you sent in”. And so it happened..

But let’s begin with what happened after the submission. I flew to Las Vegas to attend VMworld in the US. As soon as I arrived in the hotel, I opened up my laptop and discovered that there was an email from the VCDX program already! Could it be that fast? Unfortunately not. Apparently one of the two zipfiles that contained the complete set of documentation couldn’t be opened. So I sent the complete thing again. And this time with succes. My advice: use a proper compression tool to compress your set of documents.

But back to VMworld. One of the great things of VMworld is that a lot of VCDX’s were there (including some of the 13 VCDX-DTM’s worldwide). Some of them I already knew, but most of them I didn’t. Most of those guys I talked to were really helpful and gave me great advice. Most of them offered mock-defences and mentoring and that shows again how great the VMware community actually is. I also visited the education booth to meet Karl Childs and asked him some more around the defense and timelines and stuff. A real friendly guy!

After VMworld I took a couple of weeks off (of VCDX-related stuff) because as you may have read in the blog series, becoming VCDX has a low WAF.

Since the last 2 weeks I have been working on my presentation for the defense. Just in case I would be invited. The defense itself consists out of 2 parts:

  • Defending the submitted design
  • A design scenario

The presentation that I was working on is used for the first part of the actual defense. There are 2 sort-of methods of creating slide decks. The first is to only create a set of main¬†slides (around 20). If topics get questioned that aren’t covered (deep enough) in the slides, you hit the white board.
The other way is to also create appendix slides that cover most topics in quite a detailed way. If the panel question a topic that isn’t covered (deep enough) in the main slides, you dive a level deeper in the appendix slides. An example could be capacity sizing. In the major deck you show the outcome of the capacity sizing. In appendix slides, you could also cover the calculations made to come to that sizing. To get a good idea of what a slide deck could look like and for other great tips and tricks I would recommend reading: IT Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design by John Arrasjid, Mark Gabryjelski and Chris McCain.¬†You can find it on LuLu.

I decided to go for the main slides with appendix slides. Just based on a gut feeling. If I don’t have to use the appendix slides, it’s ok. But when only having main slides and in need for more detail in you design without having it top-of-mind could be a challenge.

In the meantime, I went to VMworld for the second time this year (lucky me). And if this week wasn’t awesome already, it became epic when I finally received an email from the VCDX program:

VCDX application

That confirmation basically did two things. The first and far most important: It gave me the ability to actually defend the thing that I have been working on for the past year. I don’t think I have ever had a goal in which I have put more energy in or worked that hard for than this. And now it may be heading to a climax. And that is a nice ¬†bridge to the second thing. It made me nervous as hell. And I don’t see that as a bad thing. Because being nervous keeps you sharp and focussed (in my case at least).

At this moment I am still working on the slides and preparing for a couple of mock defenses that are planned in the next couple of weeks. And after that I will be traveling to Palo Alto for the (hopefully) final stage in my road in becoming VCDX-DTM.
More to follow soon..

Continu reading: Part 6: Judgement Day