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Tag Archives: Shawn Bolan

Make your 2014 Certification Plan Today

By Erik Ullanderson

IT professionals need to spend around 10 hours per week educating themselves in order to stay relevant in today’s fast-changing technology landscape, David Day noted in his October blog post.

As you look back on 2013 and think about making the most of 2014, I’ve got a couple questions for you: Did you stay on top of current trends and add new skills that will help you solve problems faster and better? If you wanted to get a new certification, did you achieve your goal?

A goal is a dream with a deadline.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline,” according to Napoleon Hill, the original success guru. And now is the perfect time to give yourself a deadline for a new certification, and to make a plan to help you meet it. Below you’ll find advice on achieving your certification goals from IT pros who have received advanced VMware certifications.

Strike while the iron is hot

If your goal to become a VMware Certified Professional (VCP), your plans will necessarily start with a VMware certified class. When the class finishes, “don’t let that knowledge sit stale,” advises Shawn Bolan, a certified VMware instructor and VCAP-DCA.

“While it’s fresh in your mind, go back to work and set a study plan for yourself; work with the practice tests; build your own lab environment.” Especially for the advanced certifications, Bolan stresses how important it is to prepare by both studying the material and building hands-on experience—it’s not enough to simply do one or the other.

Assess your own abilities

Where should you begin when you’re creating a study plan for yourself? VCDX #97, Travis Wood, outlines a helpful strategy that starts with understanding your current strengths and weaknesses.

Starting with the exam blueprint, he creates a spreadsheet that lists every element of the exam and then ranks himself one-to-three of whether he knows it, whether he needs to develop it, or whether he doesn’t know it. “Once I’ve developed that, I can target the areas I need to develop better, then I go through and research those areas, then go back and reassess myself until I get green down the whole spreadsheet,” he explains.

Engage with the community

One thing that VMware certification holders consistently point to is the size and strength of VMware’s certification community. An easy place to start is with the VMware Certification community forum or by joining your local VMUG chapter. It’s also a good idea to put together a study group, where you can share tips and hold each other to deadlines. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to current certification holders for advice. Magnus Andersson, one of the first “double” VCDXs, said he has helped several colleagues prepare for their VCDX defence by reviewing their designs and even hopping on calls to walk through questions.

Use all available resources

When we ask certification holders to tell us how they prepared for their exams (their answers can be found on our Certification Pros page), the list of resources seems to lengthen every time. There are hundreds of blogs, plus webinars, accelerated training bootcamps, books from VMware Press, and a bevy of free instructional videos. In fact, if you’re looking for the perfect place to start your VMware certifications, the new VMware Certified Associate does not require a VMware-approved class at all; training is done entirely through free online videos.

I hope these tips have gotten you excited about achieving your certification goals this year. We’ll be sure to have a glass of champagne ready on New Year’s Day 2015 to toast your accomplishments!

Certification Stories – Words of Wisdom from VCAPs

We recently added a dozen new videos to our Certification Pros page, where VMware certification holders share their experience and advice. As many point out in their comments, the community supporting VMware certifications is an important element of their success. We’re doing our part to strengthen the community by regularly highlighting certification stories here on the Education and Certification Blog, starting this week with VMware Certified Advanced Professionals. Have your own story to share? See the note at the bottom and get in touch!

Why should I get certified?

Timothy Patterson, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-DCA, mentions two of the most common reasons for getting certified—challenging himself to improve his skills and opening new doors along his career path. But we especially like his third reason: “It taught me a lot about myself,” he says.

Timothy urges those considering their certification exam not to wait because they feel they’re not ready. “Don’t be afraid of failure; you can always retake an exam,” he reminds us. “It teaches you about your strengths, your weaknesses, and how to succeed in the industry.”

Where do I start?

In addition to the authorized training classes, there are a plethora of other resources available to help you prepare for your exam, including books, online communities, and webinars. For Gurusimran Khalsa, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-DCA, preparation always begins with a VMware exam blueprint.

“If I can read through the blueprint and understand everything that’s on there, I know that I’m on track,” he explains. “I’ve never taken an exam where they asked a question that somehow wasn’t related to the blueprint—I’ve never been surprised by content.”

How do I prepare?

As a certified instructor, as well as VCP-Data Center Virtualization, VCP-Desktop, VCP-Cloud, and VCAP-DCA, Shawn Bolan has an expansive perspective on how to successfully prepare for a VMware certification exam. He stresses the importance of a “multi-layered” process, combining studying with hands-on experience.

Labs provide students with an opportunity to experiment with tools they might not be able to in their work environment, he points out. That way they “learn how to use that technology correctly before putting it in place, getting the hands-on experience to make the right decisions back in their business.”

Shawn also urges anyone who has finished a certification class to “strike while the iron is hot.” “You’re making the investment and going to a class; don’t let that knowledge sit stale,” he implores. “While it’s fresh in your mind, go back to work and set a study plan for yourself; work with the practice tests; build your own lab environment.”

Remember, your company made a big investment in the right technology; now it’s time to invest in the people who support that technology. By helping your company grow stronger, you’re also strengthening your own career opportunities.


What’s your certification story? We’d love to feature it on this blog. Contact certificationpros@vmware.com and help strengthen the community by sharing your experiences and insights. We are especially eager to hear about VMware Certified Associates!