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Ready to Ace Your VCDX Defense? 4 Key Points to Consider

Did you know that the VMware Certified Design exam is divided into two main parts? To become a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) you must pass the submission and defense portions of the VCDX exam. The submission portion is the first part, and it requires lots of time and effort. Candidates usually focus mostly on the submission portion, therefore they often spend less time preparing for the defense portion. Even if you have the best architecture design and supporting documents, if you cannot present your project to the panel and lead them in a workshop, you’re not likely to pass the VCDX exam.

It may seem like a formality to present your project and lead a discussion. However, there are very clear objectives that you need to accomplish, including collecting requirements, identifying risks and constraints, and preparing a logical design. Candidates have 45 minutes to score points by addressing the appropriate areas. Unlike the workplace, the VCDX exam does not allow follow-up meetings. Key points and the design framework must be defined within those 45 minutes!

Having learned from my mistakes, I had to find the optimal approach for the defense portion, which is currently being performed over Zoom. Every single second of the defense is a chance to score a point.

Every VCDX candidate should find a presentation style that feels natural to them. A significant part of enabling a good discussion is finding the best way to visualize key concepts. You need to have not only the methodology in your head, but also a detailed plan to lay it out. Here are four key points to consider as you approach the defense portion of your VCDX certification exam.

1. Select the right presentation tools

The first hurdle you must cross is selecting the right tools that enable you to communicate effectively with the panel. You may have presented to customers a hundred times using online tools, and you can use that experience to inform your defense presentation style.

I tested various tools recommended by fellow VCDXes, such as AirSketch Pro, iPad with Pencil, PowerPoint, OneNote, etc.

I recommend testing these visual tools during your mock sessions to determine the tools that feel the most natural to you. I decided to stay with a Zoom whiteboard, using iPad with Pencil. I use these almost daily during workshops, trainings and meetings with my customers, so it was a clear choice.

2. Figure out your approach

Once I decided on the tools I was going to use for the defense, I had to decide how I was going to communicate my approach through Zoom. Zoom allows you to open multiple whiteboards at the same time and easily switch between them.

My first approach was to write down all RACRs on one whiteboard, then draw and write design decisions on another. This worked well, but I had to keep switching back and forth between the whiteboards. While I had no problem keeping each board straight, I thought the constant switching

might be confusing to the panelists. Remember: To effectively communicate, everyone must be able to follow your logic. Ultimately, I decided to stay with a single whiteboard to make the presentation easier to follow.

3. Map out your layout

The next component to decide on is the layout of your whiteboard and mapping out how you will use the space. When I was preparing for my defense, I had to figure out the best font size to use, ensuring it was big enough to read but small enough to leave myself enough space for the LD diagram.

I decided to keep the diagram in the center and design decisions on the right side of the whiteboard. Putting the design decisions next to the CARRs resulted in the layout below:

4. Practice makes perfect

It’s the oldest saying in the book, but practice truly makes perfect. The tools and setup I outlined above are what worked for me, and I am happy to report that I received positive feedback from the panel. But don’t feel like this is the only way to pass. You need to do what feels right to you.

Bonus tips

Passing the VCDX exam isn’t easy, but the rewards of passing are definitely worth all the hard work. For example, certification holders enjoy higher salaries and bonuses and report feeling more confident in their jobs.

Here are some final tips to help you ace the defense. Good luck!

  • Join the Zoom session from a notebook and iPad separately. Do not mirror the screen, as mirroring decreases the resolution.
  • Use a keyboard to type.
  • Use an iPad with Pencil to draw diagrams and consider adding arrows to map design decisions.

Check out the Official VCDX Directory to learn more about earning your VCDX certification and the doors it can open.

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