TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCDX Spotlight: Eric Shanks

Name: Eric Shanks

Twitter Handle: @eric_shanks

Blog URL: theITHollow.com

Current Employer: Ahead

VCDX #: 195


How did you get into using VMware?

I was at a Chicago Microsoft Users Group and a company called Altiris was speaking about virtualizing applications with their solution. The whole idea was pretty eye opening to me so when my boss suggested some enhancements to our infrastructure the virtualization concept was brought up again. After some testing we decided that VMware was the clear leader in the space so we virtualized our infrastructure on 4.0.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The VCDX certification was a challenge I wasn’t convinced that I could achieve, but I had to know for sure. A few other co-workers already had the credentials and I decided it was the time to find out what I was capable of doing.


How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

The whole process took me about six months to complete. I already had my VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD before I decided to try the VCDX so that helped, but I left myself plenty of time to work out my design before submitting it.


What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Talk with your family first about the endeavour. The VCDX is challenging, but more than that time consuming. Expect to spend nights and weekends working on it. The VCDX journey is personal achievement but can’t be done without some support from family, friends and co-workers.

Aside from talking with your family first, the second piece of advice I’d give is don’t be afraid to fail. This isn’t an easy challenge and many really qualified people have stumbled on it. It doesn’t mean you’re not awesome, it just means you need to tweak your design or presentation skills a bit.


If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I would have made sure to understand the defense blueprint better from the start. I felt that there were specific sections of the blueprint where I didn’t have enough things in my design to present. Specifically my design didn’t have a lot of “Security” related items so I wasn’t able to talk in depth about it in my defense. If I could have done it over I would have added an additional security requirement and supported it with my design so that I could talk about it in the defense.


Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

After the process was over I was recognized at our company’s Tech Summit and given a bonus for the achievement. The feeling of a sense of accomplishment from meeting a personal goal made the process worth it.


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VCDX Spotlight: Scott Norris

Name: Scott Norris

Twitter Handle: @auscottnorris

Blog URL: www.virtualiseme.net.au

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 201


How did you get into using VMware?

After finally scoring a server role back in 2005 I was introduced to ESX 2.5 and GSX, right then while like some kind of black magic I saw the potential and tried to be actively involved when it came to installing, configuring and supporting the platform. Later in 2009 I was leading a team 100% dedicated to VMware technologies that supported local and global accounts right up until 12 months ago when I made the jump to work for VMware.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The VCDX for me was my own personal challenge which I set some time ago.


How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

This question is a difficult one to answer technically I attempted to start the journey in 2011 but unfortunately was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which put the brakes on for some time.

But after everything I finally found the time to complete it and restarted the journey late 2014. I was ready for PEX defence where I was accepted but was unable to get time off work. So defended in June instead, this gave me a little more time to polish off some rough bits in the design.

All up about 6 months of solid work it took to get across the line.


What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

My advice is:

· Keep the design simple, it doesn’t have to be complicated

· When it comes to the presentation take advice from people but do it your way, do what flows well to you. Just because X worked for me doesn’t mean it will for you.

· Don’t over prepare if you feel yourself losing interest or just want it to end have a couple days off kick back relax and get back into it.


If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently as far as the preparation I did, I think if anything I would have dialled back the amount I did, towards the end it was becoming a chore where its meant to be fun and something I want to do. Also I don’t advise writing a book at the same time that didn’t help at all.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

The response from family, friends, the VMware community and work was fantastic. And for me personally was worth it. Having something to show for all the time and effort was fantastic.

As for life after, nothing has changed but I have noticed at the engagements I’m on my word has more sway than it did before, or I’m just imagining it. Either way I think VCDX will definitely open up doors which would have been shut previously but for now I’m just catching up on sleep.


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Blog Sponsor – Pluralsight

I am pleased to announce the second sponsor of my blog: Pluralsight . I am really excited by this sponsorship as I have been a massive fan and user of Pluralsight’s and previously Trainsignal’s videos and online courses for years and they  have helped me pass all of my certifications within the last 7 years so you can understand how fond of the courses I am.

Pluralsight

Pluralsight’s purchase of Trainsignal has enabled the videos to now be available via your tablet and gives you the ability to download videos to your tablet so you can watch them without needing Wi-Fi like on a train or plane. I honestly can’t recommend them enough and would highly recommend you give them a try and sign up for their no obligation 10-day free trial. They have videos ranging from VMware technologies, learning programming languages from scratch or advanced courses , Windows technologies,hacking, A+ N+ , leadership courses and Scrum fundamentals to name but a fraction of the courses. For some of the certifications I have recommended and personally used Pluralsight courses for and will be using again in the future have a look at the following study resources pages and blog posting:

http://thesaffageek.co.uk/vsphere-5-study-resources/vcp5/

http://thesaffageek.co.uk/vsphere-5-study-resources/vcap5-dca-dcd/

http://thesaffageek.co.uk/vsphere-5-x-cloud-study-resources/vcp5-iaas-and-vcp5-cloud/

http://thesaffageek.co.uk/vsphere-5-x-cloud-study-resources/vcap5-cia-and-cid/

http://thesaffageek.co.uk/2014/04/28/vcdx-prep-round-2/

 

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight: Joseph Griffiths

Name: Joseph Griffiths

Twitter Handle: @Gortees

Blog URL: http://blog.jgriffiths.org

Current Employer : IBM

VCDX #: 143

How did you get into using VMware?

I came into IT when virtualization was just getting started. The more time I spent on call in the middle of the night the more I became motivated to find solutions. Application clustering was too costly for the developers and no business unit would agreed to it. Then came VMware it provided a live solution to hardware failures and great manageability benefits. At first chance I encouraged a proof of concept using VMware. Within the next two years we were 90% virtualized.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

At some point every technical person is faced with the choice to specialize in their field. When I looked at my possible options I was faced with some tough options. I have to choose between operating systems (Linux), Storage or virtualization. It was the same year I had the opportunity to attend my first VMworld (2012). While attending the conference I really enjoyed being surrounded by such a great eco system and company. I was able to have some great technical discussions with people and I love the conference. It became clear to me that I wanted to specialize in VMware. I needed to learn a lot more about VMware. I have always found that certifications make me learn with purpose so I started setting certification goals for myself. Since I had been in a technical role the VCAP-DCA made sense. Once I passed that test I just kept going.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

I got a VCP5 on Feb 2012. The certification journey really started with VMworld 2013 when I passed the VCAP-DCA and IaaS exams. This was followed up by the VCAP-DCD in Oct. 2013. I started on the VCDX on January of 2014 and submitted the design May 2014. The VCDX is not really a destination it’s really about becoming something not achieving it. I feel that my life’s experiences from a young child are part of my VCDX journey. I spent two years as a missionary for my church knocking on doors in Michigan. I like to think that really prepared me to stand my ground in a design defence better than any mock defence ever could. At the same time I feel like I am still trying to become a VCDX, I have a lot to learn.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

I have lots of advice and there is a write up on my blog (poorly written). The three largest pieces of advice I can give are the following:

  • Don’t kill yourself, set goals and keep them but keep balance don’t sacrifice the world for a cert. Lots of people think they are going to get it done by pulling all nighters… don’t it’s not going to end well.
  • Your design does not have to be perfect.. it’s not about perfect, nothing is perfect.
  • The key to school is figuring out what the teacher wants… read the blue print figure out what the teacher wants and do it… don’t try to outsmart the teacher.
  • Find a format for your documentation and stick with it.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Spend less time trying to figure out the format and more time on content.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

LOL… well I switched jobs the week before my VCDX defence so the new employer was happy. I am still getting used to life after and a new job. Was the VCDX worth it? Yes, in fact even if I had not got the VCDX it was worth it. I learned so much about design… preparing for the VCDX forced me to learn more in six months than the last two years. If your desire to become a VCDX is purely in order to get a new job or more money you may not be on the right path.

What is next for you?

Great question. More certifications just don’t tell my wife… I already have the VCP-Cloud and I just finished a massive vCloud project and I am moving into a VCAC and NSX project so VCDX-Cloud might be in the future. Short term I think it’s time for a CCNA to help smooth over a rough bit in my knowledge.


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VCDX Spotlight: Magnus Andersson

Name: Magnus Andersson

Twitter Handle: @magander3

Blog URL: http://vcdx56.com

Current Employer : Nutanix

VCDX #: 56

How did you get into using VMware?

I start using VMware Workstation back in 2001 and the reason was to lower the number of physical desktops i had to use at the office. Worked for a service provider and different customers required different images when joining their network for administrative purposes.

I started with server virtualization about 10 years ago.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The reason for giving it a try all comes down to the personal challenge to see if i had what it takes to:

· Master the technical aspect of the VMware software, Virtual Infrastructure 3 at the time I started the VCDX journey.

· Putting my thoughts and decisions on paper in a structured way.

· Stand in front of a couple of very skilful persons and explain what i have done and why.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

From the time I decided to give the VCDX certification a try it took 18 months before i completed the VCDX defence. I had already completed the VCP 3.0 so my first leg was the Enterprise-Level Systems Administration Exam, which is the VCAP-DCA these days. This was back in August 2009.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Don’t rush and be prepared to put a lot a hours into this certification. In addition, take time to get experience in all the areas included in the VCDX path you’re interested in. Include as much customer facing activities as possible.

It’s not about creating the best design, it’s about showing you understand the customer needs and being able to explain why you chose one kind of component over another,”

Have fun!”

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Don’t think I would change much in the actual process but obviously in the design choices because other alternatives are available today. I would try to connect with other VCDX candidates, which I didn’t back in 2010, and join study groups or at least find someone to discuss my design with. Now, VMware also offers a VCDX mentor program, which I would definitely sign up for.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

The VCDX journey was totally worth it, no question about that.

I think I’m a better architect now and during the certification I improved my skills to document, present and defend my thoughts. The VCDX certification was not that known in Sweden back in 2010 when I completed my first VCDX so it actually didn’t impact my daily job that much in terms of customer assignments. My company benefited from my VCDX certification a couple of times when a potential customer requested it.

After my second VCDX (Cloud) certification there was a lot more recognition via social media e.g. twitter and I was also interviewed by VMware Certification regarding my double VCDX.


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VCDX Prep Round 2

As some people may or may not know I attempted to defend my VCDX design two and a half weeks ago at the Frimley UK defences. Unfortunately I was lacking in certain areas as well as I let stress cloud my mind temporarily in my design scenario but I really enjoyed the experience and blogged about this in my Extra VCDX Experience achievement unlocked posting which received an unexpected amount of attention and even caused current VCDX Michael Webster to put out a blog posting around VCDX Candidate Tips.

As a child of the 80’s and 90’s I spent untold amounts of my time playing street fighter two, honing my skills and continually getting killed in the second round by M Bison. Now this posting isn’t about my misspent youth but very much like then, after loads of practice and hours spent in front of a screen I became quite the fighter on SF2 so I see how my VCDX prep has been battle hardening me for my second round against my equal (in this analogy Ken) and all those hours spent practicing will hopefully make me have the knowledge and skills to “defeat” the VCDX this time.

So I have started listing all the books,podcasts,videos and labs I feel I need to do to obtain it this time. I received a really good amount of feedback last week from my defence , although the “We urge all reapplying candidates either to submit a new design or to substantially enhance the previously submitted design” portion certainly needs a rewrite or review as it does make you question if you ever had a chance. Anyhow here is my list so far and my plan is to change my VCDX-DCV page to include these and it will allow me to continually update it very much like I did for my VCP and VCAP resources pages. *Warning* I am going all in this time so this is going to be a serious amount of stuff but it will be everything I think is necessary and hence why I’m also going to be doing this over time as I am taking this as a steep but very necessary learning curve and I don’t want to reach near burn out like I did a few times during my last attempt.

Reading:

Podcasts

  • vBrownbag. I’m probably biased but the vBrownbag’s are amazing and we have covered all the VCAP-DCA and DCD objectives which I will be watching again to freshen my mind as well as having covered the VCDX with John Arrasjid. All of these have video so you can watch them on your tablet of choice or just listen to the audio on your way to work and back.
  • VMware Communities Roundtable. The roundtable runs every week and always has amazing information in it. I listened to loads around SIOC,SDRS,HA+DRS, vSphere networking and clustering to name but a few before my VCDX and i’m going to be listening to a lot more of them and also going to try stay up to date with them.
  • Packet Pushers. I have to be honest I have never listened to this podcast before but I recognise I need to strengthen my networking knowledge a fair amount and this podcast was recommended to me for this exact reason.

Videos

For videos I’m actually astounded how many there are and actually even more so how many have been added since I did my DCA and DCD. It looks like i’m going to get my full value out my vExpert access to the Pluralsight videos!

Well that’s my list so far and when i find the time i’ll update my VCDX page to have this listed. If you feel i’m missing things then do let me know please.

Gregg

 

Pluralsight


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Extra VCDX Experience achievement unlocked

Yesterday after ~450 hours of blood,sweat and daily mock panels I defended my VCDX design at the Frimley United Kingdom defences. The experience was much more pleasurable than I thought it would be and my panel were all really nice guys and I could tell they were asking me questions to try help me show my knowledge and strengthen portions where possibly my design was weak. Unfortunately when I woke this morning and checked my emails and after asking my wife to open the attachment due to being too nervous myself to do it ,it stated I was unsuccessful in my attempt.

I was certainly hoping I would crack it first time and be able to prance around like a pony at the next London VMUG with my VCDX shirts,caps,blazers and new tattoo (I’m joking on the tattoo but the rest I can’t deny I may have done Winking smile ) But all jokes aside I really learnt a substantial amount and can say without a doubt that I’m a much better architect than when I started the journey and it showed me where my knowledge needs strengthening for my resubmission in the future. I don’t think i’m going to resubmit this year for a few reasons, one being that you have to pay the entire submission fee again and I just don’t have $1200 lying around to do this but more importantly I am just looking forward to spending time with my family as I’ve been spending all my evenings and weekends for the past 6 months working on my VCDX. I will however resubmit and give it another go as I didn’t think i was miles and miles off and with more prep and strengthening in certain areas I could get it the second time around and there are numerous super intelligent current VCDX’s who only passed the second time.

There’s loads of great advice out there but i felt there wasn’t a large amount of portions from people who have failed and I can certainly understand the desire to crawl under a rock after finding out your result but i wanted to put out something around what I felt helped me for the defence yesterday as well as what I’m going to be starting to slowly go through in the next few months for my resubmit next year. However Rene van den Bedem one of my study group buddies and a newly minted VCDX #133 from the Frimley defences (without a doubt deserved) beat me to the punch on most of them in his posting this morning. So I’m going to list additional portions and complimentary portions around resources and things i felt are needed:

  1. Try put in a design that is as real world as possible. I know this isn’t easy, especially as most companies are now 100% virtualised but there are loads of projects around creating a new environment for a new exchange environment or a new department in your company and how you designed it which i’m certain can meet most of the VCDX blueprint requirements. Also if you are going to fictionalise portions don’t try and put in too much as real world customers need to operationally maintain this after you leave and if you have done some no doubt amazing custom configurations but they mean when an upgrade is due you have to change half the environment then you will be called up on this.
  2. Eat,sleep ,VCDX ,repeat. As you can tell by the hours I estimate I put into my submission ~450 and the hours Rene put into his two submissions ~1000, the VCDX is an all encompassing goal where you have to be willing to spend your evenings and weekends for months and months working on the design and there will be loads of points where you feel like giving up and you question why you decided to do this (mine normally came when it was warm weather outside and I was sat trying to decide on VMware security settings). BUT the amount I have learnt from it I fully believe and have already noticed tangibly has made me a better architect and forced me to gain new skills.
  3. Join a study group ASAP. For this submission I had it planned in my head from almost the middle of last year when i passed my VCAP-DCD that i was going to go for the VCDX. I coaxed a whole bunch of guys I know from the London VMUG to put in their interest to defend this year at Frimley which partially resulted in there being two defences in the UK this year Smile Unfortunately due to time blurring by I ended up being the only one to submit for the April defence but I created the EMEA VCDX Study Group after getting the idea from the guys who defended at PEX and was able to gain loads of feedback around my design from people with various backgrounds and thereby strengths in different areas and had a few trial by fire mock defences. I also had a core study group of Rene and Bobby Stampfle who were both also defending at Frimley and so we worked together and did webexs almost daily for three weeks and really learnt a substantial amount from each other and even did a face to face practice this past weekend to calm our nerves and try make the defence not as scary.
  4. Gain help from the best. I’m fortunate enough to know quite a few current VCDX’s and as is the case with the VMware community everyone is really happy to help out where they can. I got a few current VCDX’s to review my design and not hold back on the  feedback as what these guys will find you can bet the panellists will find also.I know there is a plan by John Arrasjid around the academy X program and how this will help people nearing the end stages of their VCDX designs to gain some 1 on 1 help from current VCDX’s and I was getting ahead of myself and planning to ask to be part of this when I passed my VCDX as I knew the sheer benefits this has. I will certainly be working with as many top people as possible as well as my EMEA VCDX Study group.
  5. Go to a VCDX bootcamp and watch the online videos and the vBrownbag VCDX videos. These are really helpful and I attended the bootcamps at VMworld Europe last year and the one last week here in the UK. the one at VMworld was certainly a lot better possibly due to the amount of VCDX’s in the room and so the role playing for the two scenarios was much more beneficial than the one I had last week. I’ve refrained from ranting about why as I don’t think it was as helpful but I would encourage the time keeping of the VCAP bootcamp prior to be much better so that it doesn’t severely impact the VCDX bootcamp.
  6. Keep your knowledge up to date and start your design right now. For the VCDX i submitted a design I worked on over two years ago and so with a lot of my current work being around vCloud and vCAC I was rusty on some areas and needed to refresh them. Rene listed loads of top books and I did a selective few of these due to time constraints to refresh my memory on advanced HA and DRS portions and storage. I think if I had slowly kept my skills up around reading tech books like I used to the sheer amount of things I had to refresh on wouldn’t have been as much and possibly made a lot easier. Also I got asked by quite a few people about if their older designs were good enough. I’m certainly not the expert around what is and isn’t VCDX level but what I would highly recommend is getting started on your design even if you still have VCAP’s to finish as it is a very long process and the more you spread it out over time and the amount of times you go through the better design you will have in my opinion.
  7. It isn’t as scary as you think. I was a bundle of nerves for weeks before my defence but once I got in and met the moderator (i’m not sure if i’m allowed to make public the names of my panel etc so I’ll refrain from it in case) who I knew very well as well as almost my whole panel so it really felt like another VMUG or customer meeting but in front of my peers who were all really friendly rather than these levitating vBrains who sit on great thrones. The panel are there to tests your skills and will ask questions to try help you to prove your skills where maybe you haven’t scored very well and are certainly rooting for you to pass whilst being very professional. They will challenge your knowledge but the thought that they are out to catch you out with crazy abstract questions is a total myth (maybe it’s just something I had in my mind)
  8. I’m disappointed without a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t pass it this time but I’m certainly glad I did it and I would recommend the journey to anyone looking to try force themselves to the next level. As I’ve stated I’m going to take a breather to recharge and spend time with the family but I will give it another go and fully believe that with more planning I can do it next time.

Good luck to all of those defending this year and hopefully you have a better result than me.

Gregg

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