By Erik Ullanderson, VMware Director of Certification
Earlier this year, VMware expanded its highest certification, the VMware Certified Design Expert, to include cloud as well as data center virtualization. We were excited to catch up with Magnus Andersson and Tomas Fojta, who received the first two VCDX-Cloud certifications—making them the first “double” VCDXs.
Magnus, a senior consultant at Real Time Services AB in Sweden, received his VCDX-DCV in 2010, number 56. Over the past year, his work has been focused more on cloud projects, so he was curious if they would pass muster for a VCDX-Cloud.
Tomas, a consulting architect for VMware Professional Services based in the Czech Republic, got his VCDX-DCV at VMworld Barcelona 2012 and his VCDX-Cloud this July. “I was doing mostly cloud projects and I consider myself stronger in cloud,” Tomas explained. After becoming a VMware Certified Advanced Professional in cloud, he was just waiting for the VCDX-Cloud blueprint and application to be released.
The designs Tomas and Magnus submitted came from their daily work (with tweaks to meet the application requirements); although VCDX-DCV designs may be fictitious, cloud application must come from a real-world example. Tomas obviously had the support of VMware, while Magnus had the support of another important organization: his family.
“I’ve got two kids, so when they’re asleep, I work,” Magnus explained. He estimates he spent between 150 and 200 hours of his “free time” preparing for his first VCDX and about 80 for his second. Those kids must be good sleepers!
What has changed?
Between Magnus’s first and second VCDX, he noticed an increased awareness of the certification in Sweden as the number of VCDXs worldwide grew. “My organization benefited from my VCDX certification a couple of times when a potential customer requested it; I’m the only one available in the country,” he said.
But probably the biggest difference between Magnus and Tomas’s first and second VCDX was that they did not have to defend their cloud designs in front of a live panel. Magnus felt this pushed him to pay extra attention to clarifying his ideas, knowing he would not have the chance to add details and answer questions in real time.
Tomas, on the other hand, was disappointed to miss the defense the second time around, even though the no-defense requirement was designed to save already-proven candidates time and expense. “I liked standing in front of this panel of people I respected and they had the opportunity to ask challenging questions,” he said. “You have to do troubleshooting and there is a time pressure—it’s like, game on!”
Sitting on the other side of the table
These days, Tomas is getting his fill of defense panels—he’s just sitting on the other side of the table. He helped judge VCDX defenses during VMworld 2013: seven in San Francisco and five in Barcelona. “I like it because I get to meet interesting people and see interesting design approaches,” he said.
But, as he has discovered, asking questions is hard work too. In order to ask challenging questions and judge the applicant’s knowledge, he has to carefully read each application (often 200+ pages). Including prep time, each panel is nearly three hours long, and he often sits on two a day.
Tips for preparing for a VCDX defense
Not surprisingly, now that’s he’s judging other’s designs, Tomas has some pointed advice about how to prepare for a VCDX defense.
1) Get experience with actual designs. Don’t rush it; the real-world experience of talking to customers is the truly valuable thing. That’s the one thing you can’t learn from a book or a menu.
2) There’s no reason to be scared of the process now with so many resources at your fingertips: online communities, bootcamps, books, and dozens of blog posts. Take advantage of them!
3) Have you wondered what will happen to the VCDX-Cloud now that service providers are the main users of vCloud Director? Don’t worry! You can apply with a design based on vCloud Automation Center instead.
Magnus reiterated how important it is to include plenty of customer-facing activities in your design. “Remember that it’s not about creating the best design ever invented, it’s about showing you understand the customer needs and being able to explain why you chose one kind of component over another,” he advises. “And most of all, have fun!”
What’s your certification story? We’d love to feature it on this blog. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and help strengthen the community by sharing your experiences and insights. We are especially eager to hear about VMware Certified Associates!