After finishing my VCDX defense in San Francisco a little over two weeks ago I wrote this post. It’s an understatement to say I caught a lot of grief for that post… Most said I was being way too hard on myself. Some said it was bad form to admit defeat like that. The point of that post was to give perspective in to what I was feeling after my defense. I was not happy with my performance. I was not happy with how I handled parts of the defense. My issue wasn’t with how the defense was done, or the panel, or VMware, or some sort of unfair process. To be honest, I thought the panel was very well done and agreed with most of the overall process. My issue wasn’t with them…it was with me.
Often I’m told that I’m too hard on myself, but I don’t believe that to be true. I think you need to hold yourself to a high standard. If I had just not been prepared for the defense I don’t think I would have felt nearly as bad as I did. I felt really bad because I choked (primarily) on a section that I thought I should be able to handle. Then again, maybe that train of thought made me unprepared and caused me to really stumble? I don’t know… I’d love to go back and run the panel again for fun to compare scores (you don’t ever see your score..so it’s unrealistic). But, it looks like I won’t have to worry about it.
I’m VCDX #49. On Tuesday I got an email that I was expecting, but it contained a message that I wasn’t. I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that I got this email while driving back from a meeting in our Greensboro office and during that drive I was running my defense back through my head working out where I went wrong and better ways to approach it. Then my beloved iPhone went DING:
Congratulations! You have achieved the VMware Certified Design Expert on VI3 (VCDX3) certification.
Your VCDX number is: VCDX49
You have no idea how big of a relief it was to get that email. Instantly all the stress I felt was gone. So looking back, was I just being pessimistic? I think I just underestimated some other parts of the defense. My assumption is that I did well on my design which accounts for a large part of the scoring. It’s also easy to forget that the documentation you submit well before the defense also plays a part. Maybe I wasn’t the babbling fool I remembered during the ad hoc, but I’m pretty sure I was… In the end I think it was a combination of things and I’m grateful that it ended up the way it did.
An associate, Jeramiah Dooley, said something the day I got my VCDX that I completely agree with. He said, “It’s good to know that there are still IT certifications out there that people fear.”. I think that sums up the reasoning behind the stress and anguish so well. Things like the VCDX and still the CCIE aren’t easy. They require a great deal of preparation and work. They aren’t something you can just go retake again in a week. I feared my panel defense far more than I did the Comprehensive Exam for my Master’s degree. It’s a real commitment and I applaud VMware for going the extra mile to offer this.
Finally… Many people still ask for my words of wisdom on preparing. There really isn’t much to add. Everything that a VCDX candidate can say without violating the tight NDA has already been said. Scott Lowe said it to me several times and again in a comment on my post the other day. Know your design and know why you made the choices you made and then know the impact of those decisions. That’s really the key. My words of advice are not to stress too bad. If you come out of the defense feeling as I did just remember the other often repeated VCDX advice, “It’s more about the journey than the final result.”. After looking back over my experience that makes a lot more sense now. All that work you put in to your design submission isn’t just to get a ticket to the big game, it’s a huge part of the big game. The Administration and Design exams are also part of the big game. The idea is to show proficiency throughout the journey, not just that moment in the spotlight. Do that and maybe you can afford some mistakes…I think that’s what I did.