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I started hearing about VMware’s Technical Account Manager (TAM), James King, due to his fantastic blog series. I recently had the chance to meet in person and chat with James about certification and why he’s such a huge fan of, as he puts it, “VMware’s coupling with Amazon”. With several of his customers moving workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS, he recently passed the VMware Cloud on AWS Software Defined Data Center 2019 exam and I wanted to learn more about his path to success.


James, you are a TAM. You have a technical focus where you are working with VMware products and solutions all day long. You know what you are talking about, so why get certified?

Certification provides a framework to give you the tools to get the most out of your VMware investment. It verifies your skills in the technology space and helps grow confidence in your day to day workings


What about confidence from your customers and partners? Does having a credential make a difference?

It really does, it proves to my customers that I have a defined level of knowledge and validates my experience and knowledge. At the end of the day, customers love it. When I talk about the benefits of a badge or certification, I feel it is important to lead by example, making a note of my study materials and experiences to pass an exam, and then helping others to do the same.


You appear quite invested in education and growing your knowledge and you clearly have a passion for it. How has validating your skills helped your career or personal growth goals?

A million percent! Experience is king. It’s important to show you have invested the effort to keep your skills up to a high level, proves to yourself and to others that you can support them as a trusted adviser. It also bolsters my real-life experience. I hold other technical certifications from other IT suppliers as well.


Do you think pursuing and maintaining industry credentials has had any impact on hiring decisions in the industry?

Coupled with job experience, credentials show that I have been tested against various technologies across the years. It’s not just about how long you have been in the industry. The first VMware certification I earned was VCP 4 and now I have VCP 5, 6 and 6.5 – it shows I have been in the industry for a long time and my certifications match the growth in experience.


Why choose to get a Skills badge? What is the benefit to you?

The first benefit was that it had no prerequisites so I could jump right in and get tested. It’s also a good way to demonstrate knowledge in the technology without having to attend any course requirement. Many customers are going to VMC on AWS, I can maintain my role as trusted advisor with proof that I have knowledge in areas where they are looking to grow. We all see customers investing heavily in tech and actions speak louder than words.


There are many options to self-study for this badge which you detail in your blog. Which resource stood out?

Because the solution was still fairly new when I took the exam, there wasn’t a ton of information available. The best resource I found was the VMware Cloud on AWS: Deploy and Manage. The training was excellent, and the Education team gave tons of support. Its offered On Demand through the VMware Learning Zone (VLZ)


Exam guides are provided for all VMware exams. How do you use them? Which areas do you try to pay attention to when prepping?

It’s a suicide mission to try to pass an exam without reviewing the guide. It’s essential – VMware says, “know this and you will pass”. It’s the next best thing to them telling you exactly what’s in the exam. My advice is to print it off and review all the information contained and make a study plan based off it.


To wrap up, how do VMware Hands on Labs (HOL) compare to other lab environments you have worked with?

Nothing but fantastic things to say about them. The main draw back for the VMC on AWS solution is that the production environment can be cost prohibitive whereas HOL are great to navigate your way around the solution and not incur costs. It’s the best lab of all I have worked with. All the others I can set up at home, this is the best way to access AWS.


It’s been great talking with you, James. Any last thoughts?

VMware has the best certification in the industry. I’ve been doing certs for 10+ years before I joined VMware. The thing that sets us apart is the level of support to get certifications. There are evaluations of products, great study guides and lots of free stuff. Also, the recent announcement to end recertification which was entirely driven by feedback from the certification community shows that VMware cares and listens and wants the best for the community.