Name: Sam McGeown
Twitter Handle: @sammcgeown
Blog URL: www.definit.co.uk
Current Employer: Xtravirt
VCDX #: 204
How did you get into using VMware?
I used to manage the IT and web servers for a charity, so the budgets were extremely tight – I had one physical server for development to replicate the live IIS and MSSQL environment and I stumbled across VMware Server. It was like magic – two servers running on one! Later that became a stand-alone ESX server and I went on from there!
What made you decide to do the VCDX?
Well Gregg, can you think of anyone who twists people’s arms into going for VCDX?
I was never sure that I could defend VCDX! I did my first VCAP (the DCA) in August 2013 which is the first real step of the path to VCDX, and I did the DCD a few months later at VMworld. Once I had those under my belt I started felt a bit more confident and that maybe it wasn’t unobtainable!
How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?
Somewhat foolishly, I swapped track from datacenter to cloud at the beginning of 2015. I had been working on a DCV design, but it wasn’t great and would’ve required a lot of fictitious components. A huge vCloud Director project landed and it was perfect for VCDX so I started study for the cloud VCAP exams. Then the CIA and CID were retired with no replacement and I was left hanging for a few days before VMware announced they would waive the VCAP requirements for anyone submitting for the CMA.
The project I used started in January 2015 and ran for about eight weeks, it was finished with two weeks to the submission deadline for the June defence that year – I managed to submit it but it was a rush! I failed that first defence and spent a bit more time preparing for the second attempt this October, which I then passed – so on the face of it 10 months.
What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?
· Just do it! Don’t put VCDX on a pedestal – it is achievable!
· Read the blueprint…repeatedly – it tells you everything you need to cover
· Build a small study group of people who you can meet with regularly – online is fine – and review, practice and study together.
· Get regular input from a VCDX mentor – they’ll help keep you on track and discover strengths and weaknesses.
· Don’t wait to find out if you are invited to defend – start working towards it as soon as you’ve submitted.
· If you get invited to defend don’t just practice your presentation – practice the design and troubleshooting scenarios too.
· Talk to your partner/wife/husband/family and make sure they are with you – you will need their support and their patience!
If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?
That’s a tough one – as you say, it’s a journey, so the whole experience builds toward the end goal. I think I needed the experience of the first defence to be able to pass the second. I did rush my first submission, but I don’t think it would’ve made any difference if I had waited and taken my time.
I think I should’ve engaged earlier with a study group on my first attempt, but I honestly don’t know if that would’ve helped me pass first time.
Life after the VCDX? How did your company respond? Was it worth it?
Ask me in 6 months? It’s a bit too new to really say, it hasn’t really sunk in for me yet!
The journey has been hugely rewarding – I am a *far* better architect now than I was at the start of the journey. On a personal level, setting huge targets and then achieving them is a massively rewarding process – I think it gives you a huge amount of confidence to do so. Dealing with the failure of the first defence was tough, really tough, but moving past it, trying again, and succeeding – well that was flipping awesome!