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The Triple VCDXs: An Interview with Matt Vandenbeld, René van den Bedem, and Kalen Arndt

Anyone who’s entered the sphere of VMware certification understands the time, passion, and persistence it takes to earn a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification. But only three people in the world know what it takes to earn not one, not two, but three VCDXs.

We recently had a chance to sit down and speak with the world’s first Triple VCDXs: Matt Vandenbeld (@TripleVCDX001), Staff Solutions Architect, VMware; René van den Bedem (@vcdx133), Practice Manager,RoundTower Technologies; and Kalen Arndt (@kalenarndt), Solutions Architect, Worldwide Technologies. In this article, Matt, René, and Kalen share their journeys in undertaking three VCDX certifications, how prospective VCDX candidates should prepare for their defenses, and what resources are available to prospects through the broader VCDX community.

 

VCDX merch

 

The VCDX journey sounds like an exhilarating but also intense process of dedication, learning, and self-discovery. What propelled you through the process three times?

René: The first time was all about validating my skills and knowing “ok, am I good enough to pass this?” It was a matter of putting in the time and effort and having a schedule so I could actually prepare the documentation and get ready to defend. The second and third times, I knew “ok, I understand the framework, I know what I need to do.”

MattFor me, the first time was very similar to René. I was validating that I had the skills to achieve the certification. Also, it’s a very prestigious certification and being a part of that select club was something that was definitely interesting to me and ultimately really accelerated my career aspirations. For instance, I would not have the job that I have now without my VCDX.

KalenI was working in support at VMware when I went for my first one. At the time, all of my friends had failed the VCDX and the general tone was “you won’t pass.” This was compelling to me, so I decided to pursue it. And then, during the entire process, I found myself becoming better at what I was doing. Towards the end, as I was going through final preparations, I realized that I was growing more as an individual than I had during any other certification process.

 

For the actual VCDX Defense, you’re presenting your design to a panel of experts. What was this experience like for you?

Kalen: I’m not the most social butterfly in the world, so giving a presentation in front of three experts was extremely nerve-wracking for me. But someone told me before I went in there that you’re here because you know what you know and you’ve proven yourself. And at the end of the day, they’re in the business of making more VCDXs. They’re here to genuinely help you.

René: For me personally, if I walk in front of the panelists and I know that I’ve done all the preparation, followed my schedule, listened to podcasts, read blogs, done mock defenses, consumed as many materials as I can, done my lab preparation, built the solution, pulled it to pieces, done all the failure scenarios — as long as I walk in knowing that I’ve done that, then there’s really no nerves; it’s just a matter of going in and doing my thing.

Matt: A decent part of the panel is how candidates communicate. That’s kind of an expected skill for a VCDX architect. I’ve been a panelist now for close to four years, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, you can tell who’s done their preparation very early on. Within the first few minutes you can tell the people who have invested the time to do mock panels.

 

It sounds like soft skills play a big role in success. For candidates who don’t have customer-facing jobs, how do you recommend preparing for the soft skills portion?

René: Generally speaking, when you’re talking about the IT community as a whole, there’s a higher percentage of introverts versus extroverts. That’s just the kind of people that gravitate towards tech. I personally had a lot of problems with public speaking, and the way around that was just practice. You have to practice. Practice speaking to groups, practice presenting mock defenses, practice whiteboarding, practice drawing nice diagrams and explaining why you did what you did.

Matt: I agree with everything René said, and from my experience, there’s no community like the VCDX community. There are several groups that are organized for doing mock defenses. If you just go to vcdx.vmware.com you can find a mentor. There’s no shortage of people willing to assist you. I think all of us heavily participated in that community and still do. 

Kalen: One thing I did was I paired up with people who knew a technology in my design way better than I did, but maybe didn’t know that much about VMware. It was like an internal mentor program where we would actually help each other and say “Ok, in this technology, do this. In that technology, do that.”

 

One candidate mentioned to me that the best thing someone can do for you is to totally tear your presentation apart and that this will give you the better defense in the long run.

Matt: While I agree with that, something I want to bring up is that this is a design exam. So, while a good portion of it may be technical, a lot of our focus isn’t down into the nitty-gritty weeds of technology. What we care more about are the “whys” of why you chose this over something else, or what that decision had on the impact of the design.

 

How did you go about putting together a study group of peers?

René: Through Twitter and the “vcommunity.” A VCDX by the name of Gregg Robertson has created a Google and Slack channel dedicated to VCDX preparation. So basically, you reach out to Gregg via Twitter (@GreggRobertson5), he adds you to the Google study group and Slack channel, and then everyone communicates and collaborates there. 

Matt: WebEx is great and necessary for study groups, but one thing I absolutely recommend is presenting in person as much as possible. Get as many diverse opinions as you can. In the end, it will help you better articulate what you did when you actually get in front of the panel. 

Kalen: As far as the study groups go, I think they’re great, but many of them are very VMware-focused people that won’t have the background in different technologies. So, like Matt said, find various people. Even if they don’t know anything about VMware, have them look at your design, because they are going to ask questions that you didn’t think of.

 

We’re almost out of time. Any parting thoughts for VCDX candidates:

René: If you’re going to undertake this, passion should be the driving requirement. If you’re just doing it to get a salary increase or your boss told you to, probably not a good idea, because it takes lots of personal time and effort to get there.

Matt: The advice I give is just do it. Try to drop the fear of failure and just go for it. At the very least you’ll end up learning a lot about yourself and you’ll increase your skillsets. The process really offers nothing but benefits. 

Kalen: I’m with Matt. I grew more as an architect and consultant getting my VCDXs than I have doing just about anything else. It is a great opportunity to grow, and if you don’t pass, you learn from your mistakes and you can just pick back up and try again.

 

Essential Elements of Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation For DummiesThe free Micro‐segmentation For Dummies®, VMware Special Edition ebook by Lawrence Miller, CISSP, and Joshua Soto provides a broad overview of micro-segmentation, including how it can help you defend your data center from attack, automating security workflows, as well as steps to getting started.

But before you can get started, you need to understand the essential elements of micro-segmentation, which they explain in Chapter 2:

Micro-segmentation enables organizations to logically divide the data center into distinct security segments down to the individual workload level, and then define security controls and deliver services for each unique segment. This restricts an attacker’s ability to move laterally in the data center, even after the perimeter has been breached — much like safe deposit boxes in a bank vault protect the valuables of individual bank customers, even if the safe has been cracked….

…the network hypervisor is uniquely positioned to provide both context and isolation throughout the SDDC — not too close to the workload where it can be disabled by an attack, and not so far removed that it doesn’t have context into the workload. Thus, the network hypervisor is ideally suited to implement three key elements of micro-segmentation: persistence, ubiquity, and extensibility.

Download your free copy today.

Free eBook Shows How to Advance Your Career with HCI

HCI StackMany organizations are turning to hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) as a smart alternative when architecting a modern data center due to its reduced management complexity, increased agility, and lower costs.

But while moving to HCI can help ease the burden on IT professionals, it does bring along potential job roles changes. The impact varies at every level, but this free eBook can help you anticipate and take advantage of this transition to advance your career.

The free eBook explores:

  • How HCI acts as a change agent for IT career paths
  • How HCI creates a shift in day-to-day responsibilities
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  • How you can take advantage of these changes and stay relevant

Download your copy here.

Save 20% off VCP Exams at Dell EMC World 2017

Dell EMC World 2017Making plans to attend Dell EMC World in Las Vegas this May? Include time to earn or renew your VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification while you’re there.

Start here to schedule your discounted VCP elective exam at the conference, then follow these steps:

  1. On the test center search screen, enter “Las Vegas, NV” and click Search
  2. Select “Dell EMC World Conference Attendees ONLY” from the available test centers
  3. The 20% discount will automatically be applied to your registration

This discount is exclusive for attendees of Dell EMC World 2017, and space is limited so we recommend registering early.

New Interface for On Demand Training

By Guest Author Chris Sullivan

VMware Education Services is proud to announce the roll-out of a new content interface for our On Demand courses. Built to provide the simplest, most intuitive access, the new interface offers an entirely “flat” view of the modules, lessons, and course content.

newUI[2]

You can navigate easily from module to module, lesson to lesson, without leaving the initial page. Previously, you had to navigate the lab manual console to locate the course materials. By separating the content from the lab console, we hope you now have a more fluid experience.

In addition to the new interface, we are also rolling out a new Offline Player that allows you to download your On Demand course content to your desktop for offline viewing.
OfflinePlayer[2]This app is available from the three-bar icon drop-down list in the new interface.

And finally, we are also launching a new Mobile App that also allows you to download your On Demand course content to mobile devices for offline viewing. MobileApp[2]For more information on the Mobile App, you can enroll in the VMware NSX 6.2 Install, Configure, and Manage On Demand course—our first course to launch in the new interface—and then watch the Getting Started video. For now, please take a moment to watch this short introductory video:

Going forward, all new courses will be deployed to the new interface, and we will begin migrating existing courses soon as well.

VCP7-DTM Exam Available for Registration

VCP7-DTMDue to the ongoing efforts of our extended certification team while many people were enjoying year-end vacations, today we released the VMware Certified Professional 7 – Desktop and Mobility (VCP7-DTM) certification exam.

Earning your VCP7-DTM validates your skills and abilities installing, configuring and administering a VMware Horizon View® environment. The exam (#2V0-751) is now available for registration at Pearson Vue.

If you took the beta version of this exam last fall, you should have your results by the end of the month.

As always, huge thanks to everyone who helped develop and refine this exam.

2nd Exam Option Available for VCP6-NV Certification

VCP-NVI am pleased to release the latest exam for VCP6-NV based on VMware NSX v6.2. This new exam (#2V0-642) gives you a second option for earning your VMware Certified Professional 6 – Network Virtualization certification.

Thank you to all of the exam developers, item writers, and beta exam tester who helped create this exam. If you took the beta exam, your results should be reflected in your transcript by the end of the month.

With the release of this new exam, we are also announcing the retirement of the older VCP6-NV exam (#2V0-641) on April 30, 2017. If you have been preparing for that version of the exam please make sure you schedule your test date prior to then.

Over 20 Videos Have Arrived in the VMware Learning Zone!

The VMware Learning Zone has rung in the new year with tons of new video trainings taught by our top VMware experts. These include but aren’t limited to the vAdmin Primer Series as well as vSphere Troubleshooting Concepts. They are all available for Premium and Standard subscribers to the VMware Learning Zone.

VMware vSAN 6.2 – A vAdmin Primer Series

  • Introduction (released in December)
  • Overview and Use Case (released in December)
  • VSAN Primer for the Infrastructure Person (released in December)
  • Applying Business Policy at the VM Level
  • VSAN Troubleshooting Thoughts (Part 1 of 2)
  • Demo: Monitoring Health in VSAN
  • VSAN – Design Thoughts
  • VSAN Troubleshooting Thoughts (Part 2 of 2)

Real Life vSphere Troubleshooting Concepts and vROPS Processes

  • Introduction
  • What is Troubleshooting?
  • Troubleshooting Tools
  • Troubleshooting Log Areas
  • Mindmap Checklists
  • Manual Troubleshooting Ideas
  • vROPS Overview
  • vROPS Terminology
  • Using vROPS in the Real World

VMWorld 2016 – EMEA

  • 10 Tips for Troubleshooting Horizon
  • An Introduction to AirWatch and VMware Identity Manager
  • Preparing for you VCDX Defense: Things You Need to Know
  • VMware Certification: Overview and Update
  • VMware Enterprise and Learning Subscription: A Complete Cloud-based Training Solution
  • vRealize Automation: Abstracting the vSphere Endpoint as a Cloud Resource

Make sure to keep track of when new videos are released by following #NewintheZone on Twitter

Save on Training in ASEAN and Australia/New Zealand

SAVENow through 5 May you have two ways to save on training courses:

Australia & New Zealand
Save 15% on VMware Design and Deploy Courses

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Save 10% on our Advanced vSphere Classes

Getting Your Team Ready for Network Virtualization

nvwpNetwork virtualization with VMware NSX can bring enormous benefits to your organization:  stronger security, a bridge to the hybrid cloud, support for your future vision for SDDC. One way to smooth the adoption process is by considering how people, processes and technologies will interact with the solution during your planning stages.

Excerpted from a recent white paper, here are three considerations of how to get people invested in your network virtualization journey:

  • Create a blended cloud team: The move to network virtualization is the perfect opportunity to create a more blended cloud team of cross–domain, cross-disciplinary skills. The team can work together to come up with common goals and operating principles that will make planning around network virtualization and hybrid cloud smoother.
  • Share the vision of network virtualization as an important milestone in the evolution of the software-defined data center: Everyone has a stake in successfully transitioning to an SDDC. Network virtualization is a critical component of the SDDC model. Each domain will be interested in participating in these SDDC-related discussions, and your planning will be more on target with their involvement.
  • Communicate the professional challenges and opportunities: Developing expertise in network virtualization will certainly require training for already busy network engineers, administrators and technicians. But they will be acquiring new software skills that keep them at the leading edge of network virtualization, security and SDDC. This will be an important message to communicate throughout the planning process.

Read on to discover the role processes and technology play in successfully implementing VMware NSX in this free white paper.