TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCDX Spotlight: Magnus Edh

Name: Magnus Edh

Twitter Handle: @vTerahertz

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 140


How did you get into using VMware?

I started working with VI3 back in 2008. We were looking for a new way of deploying servers for internal use but also for our customers as the number of physical servers was growing fast, but the rack space remained the same.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

It was a personal challenge for me, to see if I had what it took to reach that kind of level. I also saw it also as a great learning experience as I knew that a lot of different areas needed to be covered in depth.

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

From start to finish it took around 10 months. And in parallel of doing the VCDX design I was also studying for both the VCAP-DCA and DCD exams, which in itself, was a challenging task. So in the end there was a lot for writing, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, some sleeping, and a lot of preparation/mock defences for the main defence.

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

Follow the blueprint, know all the “why” in your design, and say “Yes, I can!”

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

I would not do the VCAPs or the equivalent certifications at the same time when preparing a VCDX design that’s for sure.

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

A nice change after I got my number was that I didn’t need to set an early alarm clock on the weekends any more. And it was a very interesting feeling to know that I was the second VCDX in the Nordic. Was it worth it? Oh yes, it was absolutely worth it, every minute I spend doing it. You learn so much during the journey and quickly realize that it never stops.


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VCDX Spotlight – Alexander Thoma

Name: Alexander Thoma

Twitter Handle: @vcdx026

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 26


How did you get into using VMware?

It was during my time @Novell, when we had to deal with a lot of complex customer scenarios in PSO. We were using Virtual PC from Connectix those days. When they were acquired by Microsoft®, Novell internally switched to VMware Workstation – that was 2003.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

It was a logical step since it was a blueprint of what I was doing for my customers in PSO in those days. We were told to sit the beta version of the 2 required multiple choice tests with no notice during an offsite in southern France. Still remember Duncan sitting with me in the same room … and it was a real beta ;-)


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

Originally I was planned to be in the first group of 10-15 people doing the defences, but due to my busy schedule I was not feeling comfortable to be able to prepare my design in 10 business days. So it took me about 3 months to prepare.


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

The first and utmost important thing is to accept that this certification will require experience. It will be very hard to achieve with little or no experience in the field actually doing design work.

Secondly I strongly recommend taking your time to prepare, do not rush anything or spend all your spare time with the application. Better go for the next defence round then burning out on trying to meet unrealistic timelines.


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

I have been able to sit on more than 90 defence panels and the amount of knowledge that I have gained through this about different ways to design, think and communicate is endless. My new journey would be far better planned, organized and structured. And would take much more time.

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

I have not done a lot of things in my life that made such a difference for my career, but also for me as a person. In VMware PSO I was promoted to Consulting Architect (during that time it was a hard requirement to be VMware Certified Design Expert). In addition to that it has opened so many doors, enabled so many opportunities to influence the way the company would evolve that I can only strongly recommend anyone to pursue this certification.


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VCDX Spotlight: Jason Shiplett

Name: Jason Shiplett

Twitter Handle: @jshiplett

Blog URL: https://blog.shiplett.org

Current Employer : VMware

VCDX #: #183


How did you get into using VMware?

I started using VMware products with a VDI project at my employer, an equipment manufacturer with around 500 users, in 2007. I went to the VMware Infrastructure 3 Fast Track class, which was a 5-day course that combined “Install and Configure” and “Deploy, Secure, and Analyze” courses into one jam-packed week. This was definitely more information than I was prepared to absorb at the time – I was really just a helpdesk tech with no real server administration experience to my name. After the training, I hit the books and tried my best to learn as much as I could. After a couple of months, I took and passed the VCP3 exam in early 2008, which was my first technical certification.

A year or so after that, I took what experience I had gained during the design and pilot of that VDI system, and parlayed it into a full time VMware admin job on the east coast.

I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my first mentor, Rusty Hilim (@fordman_069 on Twitter). He provided leadership and oversight for me when I honestly had no business doing work at the level I was. I absolutely wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have without his mentorship in the early days. I’m forever grateful.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

In a nutshell, it was what was next. After completing the VCAP5-DCA/DCD and VCAP-DTA/DTD certifications, I was left with either looking at the CIA/CID exams or trying for something outside of VMware if I wanted to do any non-VCDX certification (and what am I going to do, not push forward? If you’re not improving yourself, you’re falling behind everyone else who is). Since I work for VMware, I decided to push forward with the VCDX.


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

I completed VCAP5-DCA and DCD certifications within a couple of weeks of each other back in August 2013. The DCA I took two weeks before VMworld 2013, and the DCD I took at the show. I took and passed the DCD on Monday and found out I passed the DCA a day later. At that same VMworld, I went to my first VCDX bootcamp, which was a huge wakeup call – I was nowhere near ready to take on VCDX defense.

I started serious work on my design in June 2014. By that time, I’d gained quite a bit more design experience both as a VMware-centric consultant at a partner and as a Senior Consultant at VMware working in the Professional Services Organization. After grouping up with some of the smartest guys I know (you know who you are <3), I put in over 500 hours over the next 4 months completing my documentation set, revising, reviewing, revising again, reviewing again, submitting, getting accepted to defend, prepping for defense, creating my defense presentation, revising, reviewing, revising again, reviewing again, doing mock defenses (over and over and over), and then finally defending successfully in October 2014 at the Palo Alto defenses.


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

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort it’s going to take. If you have a significant other, kids, a pet ferret that loves you, whatever, get their buy in before you think about doing it. You are going to neglect them for months if you want to be successful.

I can’t say that it’s for everyone, because with 190 VCDXs in the world, it’s obviously not. But if you are considering attempting VCDX certification, know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t look at someone who achieved VCDX, and say to yourself, “Hey, I’m smarter than that guy/gal. I should do that, too!” (Like I did). Do it, because it’s a goal of yours. Do it, because it enables you to do X, Y, or Z. Do it, because you want to validate your skills as a vSphere/View/NSX/vRA architect.


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

I absolutely would have started earlier. I didn’t feel all that great about my design when I submitted it and was pretty close to deferring to the next defense date. That could’ve been avoided if I had just started working in earnest a few months earlier.

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

Working at VMware, being a VCDX isn’t the biggest thing in the world (I’m 1 of 81 VCDXs working at VMware in all different sorts of capacities). Certainly there was a lot of congratulations, both from my peers, as well as my management chain, but that was about it.

In the end, achieving VCDX certification was more about improving and validating my architectural skills than recognition, financial reward, or whatever other reasons people do it. In that sense, it was absolutely worth the effort. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


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VCDX Spotlight: Joe Silvagi

Name: Joe Silvagi

Twitter Handle: @VMPrime

Blog URL: http://www.vmprime.com

Current Employer: VMware – Systems Engineer, NSX Specialist

VCDX #: DCV – 175


How did you get into using VMware?

Funny story… Back in 2003 I was working with a company who was going bleeding edge with ESX 2.1, which at the time I was a Windows admin in with a focus of data center workload migrations. They were virtualizing People Soft, Kronos, and a vast majority of the Active Directory servers. I was approached by my bosses boss to assist the group that was running the VMware environment, they had been experiencing serious performance issues for weeks.

After a couple of hours of research online I determined what the issue was ( Incorrect share settings ) and made the corrections, solving the performance problems. A short while later, I was running the VMW environment as the primary admin. I fell in love with the tech the moment I started to work with it. The rest is history!


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I was never much of a cert person before the VCDX. I had my VCP2 and that was it, but the way the certification worked, how it is defended, that challenge really spoke to me.

In the end it was really a personal goal, that mountain you climb because it is there. I am the type of person who is very driven and goal orientated, so I wanted to see if I had what it takes to be a VCDX.


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

I decided to do the VCDX in January of 2013, but with starting a new role at VMware I didn’t want to jump right into it. I had a new day job to learn and do, so I really didn’t start the journey until October of 2013 with prepping for my VCAPs. I picked up both my DCD and DCA in November and December of 2013, I then started working on my design in January. From VCAP to VCDX was 12 months, 9 months solely on VCDX with 2 attempts.


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

Do it for the right reasons. I have heard a lot of people say, “I want a raise” or “I want the bonus my work will give.” While those are nice, treat it like you would any college course or degree. It should not only be about getting the certification, but about how you grow and learn in the process. Do it because you not only want to prove what you are capable of, but that you also want to learn more in doing so.


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

Honestly, nothing. In looking back on how I did things, some of it I did the hard way, but I learned a lot in doing so.

Some people would think my answer here would be, “Not choke on my first attempt.” Though I would say that failure was a huge learning experience for me. It was a gut check for sure, but I learned a ton in that attempt that helped me to grow significantly.


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

I received a lot of recognition internally for it, both for the work I put in and the expertise that it represents. Not only that, but recognition in the community and with my customers. One of my favorite parts is now being a panellist and being involved more in the VCDX program itself. I never thought when I first started this journey I would be able to give back to the community as such. It is something I really enjoy.That being said, I would do it all over again knowing the work, pain, stress, and hours I put into it. The personal satisfaction in completing a goal and challenge that I set for myself was the best reward


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VCDX Spotlight: Thomas Brown

Name: Thomas Brown

Twitter Handle: @thombrown

Blog URL: http://www.thomas-brown.com

Current Employer: Varrow

VCDX #: 187


How did you get into using VMware?

I started out as a help desk intern at a civil engineering company in college. As I proved myself capable, the systems admins at the company Josh Atwell (@Josh_Atwell), Brandon Sabol (@bmsabol) and Jamey Westmoreland taught me a bit about VI3 and I fell in love with the technology. I started trying to learn as much as I could about it while I was there. Unfortunately the economy hurt that civil engineering company quite a bit and I moved on to greener pastures that didn’t involve VMware as much as I would have liked. I eventually went to work with Brandon and Jamey again as a Systems Administrator at another company where I really tried to focus on VMware vSphere. At this company they also introduced me to this cool technology called VMware View. I saw the huge benefits that VDI gave to the business and combined with my end user facing background, I saw this as a great intersection of two passions of mine: end user support and VMware virtualization. From there I moved to Varrow who is a VAR in the Carolinas where I narrowed my focus on implementing and designing VMware View and vSphere technologies. I was surrounded by brilliant people at Varrow who are always willing to invest time in others. These co-workers at Varrow significantly grew my abilities and pushed me to pursue excellence.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I really wanted to push myself and prove to myself that I could do it. It’s such a great process that really validates your architecture skills. Being one of the first few VCDX-DT’s was an added bonus J


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

I passed my first VCP in 2011 but when I really started focusing on the VCDX and told my boss I was going to pursue it was in January 2014. At that time I already had the VCAP-DTD I think. So I’d say about a year and a half from first VCAP to VCDX.


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

DO IT. It’s not an easy process but you learn SO much throughout the process. I now look at projects more holistically than before. Don’t worry about the outcome as much, just focus on the experience you are gaining along the journey.


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

I would do more mock defences and do them earlier. I actually had to go through the defence process twice before I passed. The first time around, I was told to wait to do mocks until after your design was accepted. In my opinion, this was bad advice because after my design was accepted, I started doing mocks and found holes in my design which I believe contributed to me failing my first time. Once you submit that design document, there is only so much you can explain during your defence. Do mocks before you submit to ensure that the design is solid.


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

Varrow strongly encourages us to pursue certifications and grow professionally so they were very pleased with the news. All of my co-workers have been very supportive and congratulatory of the certification as well. I would say it was absolutely worth the effort. Personally, it validated my skill set and boosted my confidence after not passing the first time. Professionally, I feel like I am able to offer a more holistic solution for our customers and the certification gives me instant credibility.


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VCDX Spotlight: Todd Simmons

Name: Todd Simmons

Twitter Handle: @trainingrev

Blog URL: http://nsxinsight.wordpress.com

Current Employer : VMware

VCDX #: 184


How did you get into using VMware?

Worked for Collective Technologies who partnered with Dell to deliver Infrastructure Consolidation Readiness Assessments – the goal was to help customers consolidate old hardware onto new Dell servers running VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

True story, I did it on a dare. See https://nsxinsight.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/preparing-for-the-vcdx-defense-panel-time-requirements/


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

10-weeks. See https://nsxinsight.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/preparing-for-the-vcdx-defense-panel-time-requirements/


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

When someone tells me that they are going to pursue the VCDX accreditation my immediate response is, Go for it! You can do it! Today is a great time to defend, there is a lot of support for VCDX candidates. This is not a task I would advise you to go at alone however. I secured a mentor from VMware, immediately established a VCDX Success Study Group, participated in several VCDX Mock Study sessions, and had 11 colleagues peer review my work.


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

Nothing. Honestly. After being a consultant for 15-years and working with VMware products for the last 8-years (including attending 686.75 hours of VMware training) I was well prepared.


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

 

First thing you do after you become a VCDX is sleep :) .I pulled far too many all-nighters preparing for the VCDX. I guess I could tell you that my company was incredibly excited about my achievement, but since I was self-employed, the reality is I gave myself a pat on the back. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I met a lot of great people during the journey that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.


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VCDX Spotlight: Andrew Brydon

Name: Andrew Brydon

Twitter Handle: @sidbrydon

Blog URL: http://sidbrydon.wordpress.com

Current Employer: Telstra

VCDX #: 139


How did you get into using VMware?

It was about eight years ago, I was working in a Datacenter in Scotland and customer was using ESX to run their infrastructure. I got an initial insight into VMotion and once I saw that I was hooked. I started working more and more with VMware, when I got to Australia in web companies, large financial organisations and now the main telco.

Working with VMware has given me a chance to work across all areas of infrastructure and with a large number of applications and has really expanded my architecture skills.


What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I actually met Frank Fan in one of my roles and three of us talked about his experience and we decided we should go ahead and do the VCAP exams and then try for VCDX, if the right project came up. Harsha Hosur and I successfully defended last July.


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

I had updated to VCP 5 in 2012, so it took a couple of years, mind you my second son was born and I put things on hold for a while, so in the end I was successful in just over two years, sitting (my second) panel defence in July 2014.


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

Be prepared to be patient, it is a long term project. Also make sure you get your family to understand how hard you will have to work, on top of your job, I talk about this in my youtube video. Above all get advice from good people, I was lucky enough to have Josh Odgers as my mentor.


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

I would have not sat the first defence, I was not ready, although it did give me good insight into what it is like, I should have listened to my instinct and waited.

I would also definitely have had more practice presenting. Ironically I now present multiple times a week as part of my new role, and if you are not used to it, it will definitely affect your nerves!

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

Actually the response was pretty amazing, I am the only VCDX in the company, my managers were really responsive and I feel it has really helped. I also spend a lot of time working with VMware and it always helps to have a VCDX in the conversation.

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