Infographic Update Alert! Given the popularity of last year’s “Where in the World are VCAPs?” infographic, we decided to check out how things look in 2017. Unsurprisingly, VCAPs are everywhere! It’s exciting to see our VCAP community grow and evolve each year! Which country do you represent?
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 190 countries this year. Which country do you represent?
*Note: This infographic has been updated to reflect the number of unique VCP holders per country
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.
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.
Interested in the architectural components of VMware Workspace ONE? Join our free Webcast on January 26th, 2017 as VMware’s Technical Instructor, Máté Barany, highlights the foundational components of the solution and offers multiple deployment scenarios. Máté Barany will also share best practices and insight into how to troubleshoot a few integration issues.
Register here today to learn more about the capabilities of Workspace ONE.
Over the years, Ross has built skills and continued professional training through a variety of VMware educational and certification programs. Today, Ross offers consulting services to UK & Ireland-based VMware clients working across multiple products and services, including VMware vSphere®, VMware vRealize® Orchestrator™, VMware vCloud®, and VMware NSX®.
In the following interview, Ross offers his experience and insights into the value of getting – and remaining – certified with VMware.
Why is it important for people to continue building skills and training, particularly with VMware?
One thing is that the market and technology is constantly changing. That means that as a professional, it’s necessary to stay up-to-date, informed, knowledgeable about what’s new and what’s changing. A major benefit of doing a course with VMware is that you not only get outstanding, in-depth training in a particular product, but you also get the opportunity to test for a certification proving your knowledge.
What’s the value of getting certifications?
I can probably answer this best through my own experience. To date, I’ve passed about 20 different certifications with VMware. I did my first one — a VCP3 [VMware Certified Professional 3] — in May of 2009. Up to that point, I had a couple of years of job experience, but I didn’t have a way to validate my knowledge. From a career perspective, getting this certification was completely life-changing. Within a month of receiving my certification, I had a very attractive offer for a new job. This was due to the recruiter being able to simply search for VCP holders in Ireland and know that I met a particular set standard for the role that they were looking for. Beyond this, though, I had much more confidence in my knowledge when contributing to solutions within a team.
The reality is, you can say that you’re an expert in your field, but simply saying you’re an expert in something doesn’t amount to much on a CV or in an interview. What a certification does is it validates your experience to prospective employers. By definition, it creates a minimum standard by which an employer can assess your skills.
What’s your experience been like taking courses with VMware?
For me, I’ve had really enjoyable experiences taking VMware courses. There are a few different types of courses for beginning, middle, and advanced knowledge. One of the best things about the courses is that you can start off with the free online Foundation courses which you can take from the comfort of your own home or office when time allows. But when you are a bit more serious about your learning, there are whole host of excellent classroom courses. These classes have the added benefit of direct access to experts — course teachers who really know their stuff. You get the opportunity to have all of your questions answered, and then bring back what you learn to your company or employer. Additionally, VMware courses are a great networking opportunity. With the classroom courses, you get to spend time doing deep dives and sharing knowledge with peers who are as passionate as you are.
How important is it to renew your certification?
Keeping your certifications up-to-date is important because it proves that you still know what you’re talking about and are current in the market. New and updated technology stacks come along every few years, and while there are similarities between versions, there are always new features that can improve your day-to-day working life. Keeping your certification up to date proves that you know how to upgrade, fix, deploy, and manage whatever changes have come along. There was a point when I let one of my certifications expire. I was applying to a job, and it’s likely that I was well-qualified, but because my certification wasn’t up-to-date, there was no way I could prove that I had the knowledge compared to other candidates.
VMware has made it really easy for people to renew certifications. If your certification is expiring, instead of taking another course for the latest upgrades, you can just go and sit a VCP exam in the same track or a different track. Better yet, you can challenge yourself with a VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) exam. The VCAP exams are tough, but immensely satisfying when you pass!
Of the courses you’ve taken, which one stands out to you as a favorite?
I would definitely have to say that my favorite learning experience was the brilliantly titled NSX Ninja Course (aka, NSX Design & Deploy). During that course, we focused exclusively on network design. For me, it was exciting to meet so many likeminded people, get feedback on my thinking, and get to see how other people approached the same challenges. It was great to interact with people who were at a similar level and to geek out together on tech that we all get so excited about.
As 2016 wraps up, predictions are flying on what’s ahead for the coming year. What can we expect to see in security? How will networking look 12 months from now? What changes are on the horizon for the cloud?
To help answer some of these questions, we asked VMware’s all-knowing magic 8 ball (i.e., we took a look through all the recent Radius articles and collected the ones that contained 2017 forecasts). Here are some of the top predictions we discovered:
In this article, Tom Corn, SVP of Security Products at VMware, gives his top five predictions for the world of security in 2017. Among other topics, Corn discusses the outlook for mobile and cloud security, applications security, and what security practitioners can hope to see in terms of automation and simplicity.
VMware Americas Chief Technology Officer, Chris Wolf, discusses what he refers to as the ‘Third Industrial Revolution.’ In this Third Industrial Revolution, we will continue to see IoT and ‘intelligent’ things enter our work and lives in new and unprecedented ways that alter and enhance the way we operate. Here are his predictions for life beyond 2017.
Wherein Bruce Davie, VMware’s Chief Technology Officer for Networking, discusses the future of networking and a fundamental shift of power toward lines of business and developers in 2017.
Bask Iyer, CIO of VMware and Interim CIO of Dell, addresses how interconnection will affect 10 areas of business over the next 12 months. Some of the areas Bask talks about include mobility, the cloud, the IoT, Shadow IT, and the Uberization of Information Technology.
In this article, Kit Colbert, Vice President and GM of Cloud-Native Apps at VMware, covers the future of cloud-native apps, specifically touching on containers and 5 things we can look forward in 2017.
Are you getting the most out of your VMware vSAN experience? Curious about how to effectively troubleshoot common issues? Have questions concerning design, requirements, or compatibility? Do you ever wish there was a one-stop shop where you could get all your questions answered, learn new things, and discover how to make best use of vSAN?
Following a series of video shoots conducted last month, VMware Education Services released the Virtual SAN Troubleshooting Video Series as part of the free, 60-day Trial Subscription to the VMware Learning Zone. This 26-part video series (featuring yours truly!) is an in-depth look at a variety of common troubleshooting topics including vSAN compatibility, storage policies, common issues, and useful troubleshooting tools. This series is built as a resource for all vSAN users looking to improve their knowledge and enhance their experience with vSAN. To access the videos, register here for your free, 60-day Trial Subscription to the VMware Learning Zone.
I hope you enjoy the resources, and feel free to comment and let me know about topics or questions you’d like me to cover in the future.
Every system needs troubleshooting once in awhile. When it happens, you want to be ready.
You need to know how to effectively troubleshoot VMware NSX features. This critical skill helps you heighten and improve security, maintain control over your networking environment, and get the most out of network virtualization and the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC).
Join us on Thursday, December 15, for ‘Advanced Troubleshooting for VMware NSX.’ This free webcast, hosted by VMware Senior Technical Training Specialist Arantxa Duque, will provide NSX system administrators with an overview of the Command Line Interface (CLI). You’ll learn specific steps and commands for using CLI as a tool for troubleshooting and will get troubleshooting tips for critical areas of the NSX environment.
Register now to reserve your spot. We look forward to seeing you there!
In our recent podcast series, West Coghlan, senior editor for technology at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), unpacked the findings of the 2016 EIU study, The Cyber-Chasm: How the Disconnect Between the C-suite and Security Endangers the Enterprise. The study surveyed 1,100 C-suite and senior technology executives at companies across the globe and sought both to uncover the cybersecurity challenges today’s enterprises face and to offer solutions for improving security measures going forward.
Each podcast took on one of the major findings from the EIU study. Use the links below to listen to the each episode.
One of the primary cybersecurity challenges facing enterprises today is a lack of consensus among technology leadership and C-suite leadership on the importance of cybersecurity. While senior technology leaders named security as the number one concern for the business, the C-suite ranked it as number seven on a list of eight key priorities. This disparity between technology and C-suite executives results in insufficient budget, personnel, and support from executive leadership, opening companies to vulnerabilities and attacks that have major consequences for the business as a whole. In order to maintain cybersecurity, it’s critical that technology leaders and the C-suite close this priority gap.
When it comes to security, the C-suite agrees that the most important thing to protect is brand reputation. The modern threat landscape is populated by an increasingly sophisticated, well-funded legion of cybercriminals. Instead of cyber attacks focused on specific parts of the enterprise, cybercrime today examines all possible points of entry into a company. Cyberattackers quickly pivot through organizations to access vital transaction and CRM data and customer lists. Overnight, companies that have spent thirty years developing brand trust suddenly find their reputations in arrears. Protecting customer data from cybercriminals is essential to maintaining brand reputation.
Security measures are often viewed as hindrances to employee productivity, especially in the eyes of the C-suite. And when company leadership doesn’t prioritize security, there’s a trickle-down effect that happens company-wide. If security programs are constructed in such a way that they decrease employee productivity and if there is a lack of emphasis on security at the C-level, employees will forgo security policies long before they will opt to decrease productivity. In order to defend against today’s sophisticated cyberattacks, three things are necessary:
- CIOs and IT leaders need to mobilize, convince the C-suite and board of the importance of cybersecurity, and drive home the point that security is no longer just an IT issue — it’s an enterprise-wide issue.
- Emphasis must be placed on developing a company culture of security. This means proper security protocol and compliance training for employees, customers, and vendors.
- Prioritization is essential. Security experts agree that companies can’t defend everything. Security measures should focus on protecting customer lists, CRM, and transaction data.