It’s that time of year! 2016’s “Where in the World are VCPs” infographic was such a hit, we decided to refresh it for 2017. The VMware Education Services team is proud to announce that the VCP community grew (11%) to represent a total of 189 countries this year. Which country do you represent?
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In Redefining Networking with Network Virtualization network virtualization is defined as:
Much as server virtualization recreates the traits of a physical server within software, network virtualization likewise replicates the components of network and security services in a software container. Consequently, the virtualized network is provisioned and managed independent of your hardware, and the physical networking devices simply become a vehicle for forwarding packets. With network virtualization, your network administrators can create and provision virtual networks—logical switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, VPN, and workload security—in minutes rather than days or even weeks.
What does this mean for IT organizations? Enterprises can use network virtualization to connect to the hybrid cloud without worrying about network hardware dependency, interoperability, or service provider lock-in. The resulting hybrid cloud provides much greater business agility, dramatically simpler operations, and lower cost.
Download your copy today to learn more, including
- The Four Cs of Legacy Networking: Complexity, Configuration, Costs, & Cyber Attacks
- Three Trends Reshaping the Networking Industry
Ready for even more on this topic? Check out our free elearning course, VMware Network Virtualization Fundamentals to learn the benefits of and use cases for VMware NSX network virtualization, as well as its main components, features, and services.
Last month we added four new videos to the Certification Stories series on our YouTube channel. Begun in 2013, the VMware Certification Story series brings you informal interviews with current certification holders about the impact VMware certification has had on their career and their advice for others on the path to certification.
The VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) is the holy grail of VMware certification. Those who opt to pursue the VCDX have already achieved at least one VMware Certified Professional (VCP) and two VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) certifications. They are truly VMware experts.
We had a chance to speak with Brett Guarino, a Senior VMware Certified Instructor (VCI) who recently gave a presentation at VMworld Europe on preparing for the VCDX Defense. Brett has been teaching various courses with VMware over the past seven years. Recently, he’s been preparing for his second attempt at the VCDX Defense. In this interview, he shares ideas, tips, and insights for those working toward this prestigious certification.
Before getting into the VCDX process, tell me a little bit about why you love instructing?
The most rewarding part of it is working with students who come into the classroom and have needs. One of the first things I ask my students is “What are you here for?” I don’t think anyone’s come into my class without hearing that question. By the end of the course, students leave with something tangible that helps them do their jobs better, saves them time, makes them more of an expert. For me, knowing that I’ve given my customer (in this case the student) something to take away with them that’s going to empower their career is very rewarding.
Tell me a little bit about the VCDX. What’s it designed to prepare people for?
It’s more about validating your existing skillset. The VCDX doesn’t teach you how to become an architect. However, strengthening your skill as an architect is definitely one of the side benefits of going through the process of VCDX preparation. Assuming that you go through the preparation and successfully achieve the VCDX, you’re going to learn and hone skills and tools that will ultimately make you a better designer and architect.
VCDX preparation requires quite a bit of time from what I’ve heard. What do you recommend in terms of time management?
You cannot prepare for the amount of time it takes. You just can’t. I’ve had discussions with several people who are VCDXs and they all say the same thing. You really can’t prepare for it. From design to documentation, to preparing for the defense presentation, you just need to plan to make this what your life is about for a while.
That being said, when you go into this type of commitment, you’ve got to let the people who are important in your life know that this is what you are going to be doing. You need to prepare your friends, family, colleagues, whoever, that for the next several months, your spare time is going to be dedicated to the VCDX. Many people are under the impression that once you’ve finished your design, you’re basically done. But actually, at that point, you have to create a presentation for the initial half of the defense, and that’s not a trivial task. That presentation is something that you’ve got to know inside and out.
It’s a simple suggestion, but I recommend getting out a calendar and setting deadlines. Know when you will have certain parts of your design finished, know when you will send them off to peers for review, build in time so that when you get behind, you have enough room to double down if you need to. For an extended project like the VCDX, this type of planning goes a long way.
In your presentation, one of things you spoke about was the SMART methodology. Can you elaborate on this?
SMART is a goal achievement ideology and stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When preparing for VCDX, you’ve got to have milestones. Breaking things up, knowing what will be done when, knowing which days you will be working on which things — these are all very important elements of the process. The idea is that you are going to work smart as you prepare. Taking the time to apply the SMART methodology to each of your goals will help you both stay sane and get what you need to have done when you need to have it done.
One of the things you hear about from other VCDXs is the importance of assembling a group or community of people to help you as you prepare. What are your thoughts on finding a group as you pursue the VCDX?
First, you want to make use of all your resources. Find out who you know that’s an expert in specific technologies. Find out who can give you their time. Find out who is really willing to help you. There may come a time as you go through your process when you’ve gathered too many people, and not everyone is actually helping you get to where you want to be. At that point, you may need to drop people. The idea is that you want to make sure the people you surround yourself with are people who are going to challenge you, tell you the truth when something’s not working, and ask you questions that you haven’t thought of yourself.
There’s also the current VCDX community. In seeking assistance from VCDX mentors, who may be identified at https://vcdx.vmware.com/ (use the Mentor Option under Optional Flags), be respectful of their time. They have full-time jobs beyond their desire to volunteer to assist VCDX candidates. Reach out to them after having achieved the VCIX certification (i.e., have both your VCAPs already).
VCDX mentors may aid you with design preparation, mock panels, etc. They should not be expected to draft your design for you. Use the volunteer VCDX mentor resources sparingly. Initially to help define design considerations (requirements, constraints, risks, and assumptions), then to review initial drafts, and finally for panel mocks.
How do you recommend people prepare for the defense itself? What soft skills are important?
Public speaking. It’s one of the key things that people have trouble with, especially if they don’t deal with public speaking in their jobs on a day-in-day-out basis. When you’re standing in front of the panel, you’re going to be challenged, and you need to be prepared for that.
There are a few elements of public speaking that you really should master, things like making eye contact, never speaking with your back to the audience, and whiteboarding. Whiteboarding is a key soft skill, and few people pay attention to developing it. Learning how to stand at the front of the room, write out complex concepts on a whiteboard, and then explain it in a clear way to an audience does a lot for keeping your viewers engaged and translating your mastery and comfort level with a given subject.
Although you won’t necessarily be judged on your public speaking ability per se, having these skills in your pocket helps you establish confidence and comfort so that you can be positioned to really demonstrate your expertise and mastery to the panel.
The other thing that I would say is that part of learning how to speak publicly means learning how to guide a discussion and direct a narrative authoritatively. As the presenter, you’re going to be driving the conversation. Making sure you’re driving the conversation in the direction you want it to go will help you gain points as you present.
The last question is kind of a fun question, but what’s the best way to celebrate once you’ve completed your defense?
Well, my first answer is that I’ll let you know when I pass!
But seriously, rewarding the people in your life who’ve helped to get you to where you are is huge. Make sure you acknowledge your mentors, reviewers, mock panelists. And then also do something for the people who’ve made sacrifices and supported you emotionally — your spouse, your kids, your significant other. I’d say that’s a good way to celebrate as you come back to normal life.
IT certifications on cloud systems management platforms provide a twofold opportunity: While you’re carving out a key role in your company’s future, you can set the stage for career advancement. Our free eBook reviews the importance of cloud management skills and the value certification can bring to your career plan.
Download your copy today to learn more and hear from others who have already seen the benefits of getting VMware cloud certified.
Are you VCP-DCV certified? Here’s how you can fast track to Network Virtualization.
Take advantage of your data center knowledge and gain another critical certification in the industry. Be at the forefront of the technology race.
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Having multiple accounts within the VMware myLearn system could result in incomplete records of your exam, training, and certification history. For example, if you attended a training course on one account, but took your VCP exams on a different account, you may not receive proper credit for meeting certification requirements.
Luckily, this situation is easily fixed. You simply need to email our support team and request a merge. Include the following information in your email to speed the processing:
- any possible email addresses you may have used
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Note: If you currently work for a VMware Partner company, we highly recommend that you use the account associated with your Partner email as your Master so you don’t lose any Partner privileges (like discounted training).
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.
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.”
Matt: For 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.
Kalen: I 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.
The 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.