I made it fairly public when I failed my first VCDX attempt that I was going to go all in for my second attempt and set myself a serious list of resources I was going to go through for it. I’ve received a lot of messages from people asking did I use all those resources and is all of that really necessary to obtain a VCDX number? There’s a few answers to this so I thought I’d write up this blog posting to cover it:
- Did you use all those resources!!?? Honestly yes and no, yes I used each of them during my preparations but I didn’t read and watch every single one from start to finish due to time constraints and also deciding at a point that focused preparations was a better method. Now this focused method was still fairly wide and I even used resources that were not even on the list, one of the biggest was the soon to be released “The Art of IT Infrastructure Design” by John Arrasjid @vcdx001 Mark Gabryjelski @MarkGabbs & Chris McCain @hcmccain.
- Which of those resources helped you the most?? Hard to say as each of them filled gaps in my knowledge. What I will say though is that for some of them they went into details I knew I would never remember but for ones like the 5 different HA states I made sure I learn them by adding them to my quizlet to test myself so they would be burnt in my memory ( Running,Partitioned,Isolated,Failed and FDM Agent Down in case you were wondering). I knew I had gaps in my knowledge and after speaking to colleagues and peers and asking them about their area of expertise I would then be able to see how far I had to go to learn. A few of these came from mock sessions where people would ask me about for example “How would your design have changed if the customer asked for FCoE?” or ” What mechanisms did you use to span the VLANs between the two sites?” , these showed me I needed to learn about not just the storage mechanism in my design but how it would have looked if they asked for something else and that I needed to T Skill on networking and truly understand why certain things were done.
- How did you find the time to go through these!!?? A few methods helped me do this:
- I would watch Pluralsight videos at 1.5x speed. I’ve been doing this for ages not just for CBT videos but also podcasts and you get used to it really quickly.
- Pluralsight lets you download a certain amount of videos to view offline on your tablet or even phone. I would watch the videos whilst at the gym on the bike, on the plane back and forth from my current project in Rotterdam as well as the train and metro back and forth to Rotterdam.
- As mentioned above I would watch CBT videos, read books, read blogs and listen to podcasts whilst commuting back and forth each week. I also would read and watch them in the hotel most evenings before going out for dinner or even get room service and just spend the evening doing that.
- I’m still trying to perfect this but after reading so much I seem to be getting closer and closer to being able to speed read whilst still retaining what I read. If I went to school now they would possibly diagnose me as ADHD so it certainly took me a fair amount of time to focus my mind and block out external noise (my wife isn’t too keen on this new skill 🙂 ) For this to work I’ve found a certain font and size via my kindle works best and I would ask myself after each page if I could explain what I had just read to someone and if I couldn’t I would reread it until I felt I could.
- What about new versions for example vSphere 6.0? True none of the resources I listed were even 5.5 per se nevermind vSphere 6. My design was a 5.0 design so I needed to ensure I remembered what was possible then but I did relatively keep up to date on the latest versions and what was possible. As rob Nolen mentioned in a vBrownbag we did around the VCDX, a good architect should know about the latest versions and what decisions you may have made in your 5.0 design that you would have changed now knowing where the newer versions have gone to ensure ease of upgrading (I paraphrase here). It was hard to try not get mixed up between new features and what was possible in 5.0 so one bit of advice I would give is try submit a design for VCDX as soon after designing it as possible or upgrade your design to the latest version of vSphere 5 or even vSphere 6.
For the resources like most of the things for the VCDX it’s all about making time for it and realistically looking at how you spend your time and how you can use it more efficiently. I was catching the 6:50 flight to Amsterdam every Monday morning after waking up at 3:30 am to make it to the airport and through Heathrow in time to board and 99% of the time I looked around the cabin everyone but me had their eyes closed and was trying to get another hour of sleep. It’s not easy at time but you have to ask yourself how badly do you want it.