My ramblings about all things technical

VCDX Spotlight: Jonathan Kohler

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Name: Jon Kohler

Twitter Handle:  @JonKohler

Blog URL:

Current Employer : MSN Communications

VCDX #: 116

How did you get into using VMware?

I started using VMware ESX 3.x and Workstation in late 2008. The more I started to use VMware’s products, both personally and professionally, the more impressed I was with their functionality and direction. I worked at a VMware partner at the time vSphere 4.0 came out and deployed it internally for their production environment and externally for customers as part of PS engagements. I decided then that VMware virtualization is where I wanted to maintain my professional focus and haven’t let up since.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I decided to go after the VCDX after I changed jobs a few years ago. I moved from Vermont to Colorado after finding a VMware Infrastructure engineering job at a large national health system on Twitter. The person who got me in the door was Nate Raper, VCDX 85, though not a VCDX at the time. I had both of my VCAP4’s at the time, and hadn’t really given much thought to the VCDX. That changed when I saw what Nate brought me in to work on. The environment at this company was massive in both complexity and size. To give you an idea of the level of VMware engineering at this particular establishment, the enterprise both Nate and I worked in has produced 3 VCDX’s (Tom Ralph, Nate, and Myself). That scale, as well as Nate’s encouragement, is what got me hooked and on the right path.

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

I started with the VCP4 in January 2009 and finished up with the VCDX5-DCV in August 2013, so holistically the better part of five years. In terms of hours, I probably spent over 600 hours over the last year working on everything associated with the VCDX deliverables. This was over the course of three application attempts and one defense attempt.

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

Approach all of your work like it was going to be compared against the VCDX blueprint, this will get you in the right mind set to succeed on whatever design you choose. I know the blueprint can be kind of vague, but try to use it as a checklist when you think you are done with a project, and literally go down the list and point out where you have those items in your design. Also, get and read the VCDX boot camp book.

Have confidence in yourself and give yourself a LOT of time. No matter how good of an engineer or architect you are, trying to rush to put together a world class deliverable simply doesn’t work, which I learned the hard way when I didn’t allow myself enough time for proper decompression, peer review, etc and failed the application stage twice.

If you get invited to defend, no matter how confident you feel, get SEVERAL different peer reviews on your presentation, practice frequently, and KNOW YOUR DESIGN INSIDE AND OUT. This means know why you made choices (very specifically), what you didn’t choose to implement (alternative design choices), and why you did what you did.

Past that, keep your hands in the dirt, as you will need to be sharp for the troubleshooting and design sections. I got lucky on my troubleshooting piece, as it was a problem I had actually dealt with in the real world before, which made me much more confident when engaging the panellists.

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

I would have given myself much more time the first go around, so that I didn’t have to stress over this for the past year. Smile

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

Life has been much less stressful for sure. My employer MSN Communications and manager Colin were supportive throughout the entire journey, and have responded well. No change in positions or anything, but as fate would have it, Nate and I left our healthcare IT jobs last year when we got outsourced, and both went to MSN. He just left MSN to go to VMware’s Global CoE, so I am going to step up and fill some of that gap with our customers, which I don’t think I could have done without going through the VCDX process. Lastly, I do think this journey was worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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