Name: Sean Howard
Twitter Handle: @showardvmware
Current Employer: VMware
VCDX #: 130
How did you get into using VMware?
I was working at a reseller in Seattle back in 2006 doing SAN implementations. The need to develop VMware skills was driven by fast growing customer demand for ESX. Once I had a couple of deployments under my belt, I was hired away by one of our customers where I was able to do it on a larger scale.
What made you decide to do the VCDX?
It was mostly a personal challenge, but also to help build credibility with customers in my pre-sales role at VMware.
How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?
3 years total. I did my VCP in 2011, VCAPs in 2012, then worked on my VCDX submission throughout 2013 on and off.
What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?
I am not in an architect role, and I know a lot of people thinking about the VCDX believe that is an absolute requirement. It certainly helps, but it’s not a necessity. Though I will say hands-on experience is.
I know everyone says this, but really, truly read the VCDX Boot Camp book, and try to fully digest what is being said in it. Also try to attend the VCDX Boot Camp in person before you put pen to paper.
Get in a study group that does mocks. I lucked into one that was organized by Brad Christian. I doubt I would have passed otherwise. Also, don’t neglect the troubleshooting and design scenarios either. Practice those.
Spend 30 minutes every day on the elliptical, going for a walk (or whatever) and listen to the brownbag sessions, VMworld sessions, VMware related podcasts, stuff like that. It’s a great way to slowly absorb information over a period of months rather than trying to cram.
Finally, create flash cards for yourself on a service like Quizlet. I made almost 500 and had my wife ask me them. This forces you to say the answer out loud and work on crisp delivery.
If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?
I made things a lot harder on myself than they had to be. For one thing, I could have just done a mostly real design, I had enough projects under my belt. However, I felt that the projects I had done weren’t “cool enough”. So I took a real project as a base, bumped the scale up, added in components from other projects, etc. So it was probably 90% “real”, but was a collage of designs.
Yes, this resulted in a more whiz-bang design, but was a far greater burden during my prep for the panel. I had to be able explain interactions between things that had never actually occurred in real life. Luckily, I had access to enough lab gear to mock things up so I could answer confidently, but this was a lot of work that could have been avoided.
Life after the VCDX? How did your company respond? Was it worth it?
I immediately received a lot of recognition inside my extended team and several layers of management up. Of course people outside the company take notice and my LinkedIn got red hot pretty quickly. It’s only been a couple of weeks, so who knows what the future holds.
For me, this was mostly about proving to myself that I could do it. To me, that is its own reward.