TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical

VCDX Preparation Advice

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Yesterday I ran  face to face VCDX Mock sessions for three people defending their VCDX at the Dell EMC offices in Brentford. During the NDA permitting discussions a number of questions came up around the outlines of VCDX designs,advice for the design scenario, things to read/watch from others who attended who are looking to submit soon and I thought I would put out a quick posting around the advice given to hopefully aid people also looking to submit soon.

  • What does a VCDX design look like?
    • I get this question often and I know a large number of other VCDX do as well. People might not have seen a “VCDX Level” design before and so are unsure what they need to produce. It is highly unlikely a VCDX will send you their submission as with the invested time as well as the high likelihood of their customers name and information being in the submission. But one portion that is possible to share is the table of contents so people can possibly understand the flow (in my personal opinion) a good design should have. I have pasted screen shots below of my table of contents from my actual VCDX-DCV submission and there is also the blog posting Derek Seaman posted a while ago around this exact topic. Every person and design is different but outlines like Derek and I’s are relatively the outlines most DCV designs follow that have a good flow from conceptual to logical to physical and cover all the pillars.

imageimage

  • How do I prepare for the design scenario as I’ve spent 98% of my time preparing for the design defence portion?
    • I’ve seen this ALOT and depending on your experience this can be where a lot of people fail their defences (I base this on having done design scenario mocks with people but obviously have no actual proof in the real defences). I made this mistake in my first VCDX attempt and even though I had done ones at customer numerous times before, due to the time constraints a relatively unusual way you don;t know anything about a customer and design before doing a design workshop this can be a new skill to learn but one I now use for most customer engagements I have. The way I learnt and prepared for this for my second attempt was:
      • Have a “script” you plan to follow to ask the right questions early on to gleam the information you need and how to manage you time to cover all the pillars in the time allocated for the design scenario. The best method IMO is one blogged about by Rene van den Bedem. Rene created this when he was preparing for his second VCDX attempt and i was preparing for my first.  The questions and whiteboard layout are a great idea and allows you to collect and record information whilst allowing the panellists to see your thinking and your very important whiteboarding skills.
      • Stemming off of Rene’s method above Larus Hjartarson who had Rene as his mentor took the method one step further and blogged about it here. I used Larus’ method in my second defence preparations and recommended it highly yesterday as it allows you to really show your skills and get your diagrams logically drawn up on the whiteboard by the end.
      • Get yourself a whiteboard and practice it again and again and again. there are a number of example design scenarios out there that you can use and adapt. I would use some as a starting point but would change the answers i was expecting the panellists were giving me or changing the answer they gave me half way through to practice how I could look at what i had written down and drawn and change it due to that requirement change. Certainly practice talking about what you are doing on the board and continually ask questions to try gleam out information but make sure you have good reasons to ask those questions as sometimes the panellists who are role laying as customers might have to email someone to get the answer to your question.
  • VCDX’s are floating brains and I’ll never be that good
    • Some people think that to obtain the VCDX you have to be an unachievable rockstar who can provision via mindcontrol and whilst there are some big names from the community who are also VCDX certified what I tell people is that all these people were in the same place they are but with work and dedication they learnt and practiced and proved they had the skills and knowledge to obtain the VCDX. From yesterdays mocks a number of the guys who are looking to defend over the next few defences said what easy going and normal people the four VCDX were and whilst that’s very nice of them to say I feel it lends itself to the point that people who have passed the exam are no different than anyone else and that anyone can pass it with time and effort. I give the same advice to those defending that they have to remember that they belong in the defend room and that the panellist were at the same place they are and to think of them as their peers. 99% of VCDX are really nice humble people who are really happy for more people to join the ranks and try with what spare time they have to share the knowledge and help those looking to pass it realise that it isn’t an insurmountable mountain. But no one will carry you and what might come across at points as someone not being willing to help is that for you to learn the most and really get value out of the journey (more about my feelings about doing it for the right reason here) you need to do it yourself and by someone carrying you it won;t help you nor the program to have “paper” VCDX even though the defence should make this pretty clear.
  • I’m waiting for the right project to come along before I start working on my VCDX submission
    • I hear this one often and certainly see it quite a bit on slack channels I’m part of as well as twitter. I don’t believe a perfect project will ever come along, there are certainly projects that can cover a good portion of the bases but I know a number of VCDX including myself who supplemented existing designs they had done to fit the blueprint or to show their architect abilities and a number of VCDX who merged a few projects together as if it were one so that they could still speak to real experiences they had around the designs and not have the challenge of remembering a fictional story. There are also a number of people who passed with fictional designs but even for these they state they related back to previous project they had been on where customers asked for the portions. I recommend getting started right away especially due to the timeframes it might take you to build a design if you are doing it in your spare time.
  • I’ve got a wife/young kids/I travel a lot/I have a full time job/all of the above
    • I hear this often and I do hear where people are coming from but for me it is like anything people state they want, how badly do you want it as if you realistically want it bad enough it’s amazing what time you can find to do it. When i was preparing for my second VCDX attempt i used to watch two different YouTube videos https://youtu.be/scr2PrcDxEo https://youtu.be/Ofo2lv9-nVY to remind myself and question myself how badly I wanted to pass it and also due to my having failed the first time and that I couldn’t bring myself to not complete what I had started. When i did my first defence i had a six month old daughter who would only sleep 3-4 hours a night, I have a wife, I had a full-time job on a challenging project and I needed to do things for myself so I didn’t go insane but i found the time to submit and for my second time I was flying to Rotterdam and was out there for three days a week on a high profile project but I made the time to study on the plane and trains back and forth each week and studied in the hotel room. I studied and worked on my design an hour before work started and after my daughter went to sleep. I’m not saying I’m anything amazing at all all I am saying is if you realistically look at your time you’ll find opportunities to do it and lie the Eric Thomas video I mentioned above you question yourself do I want it more than X and very often you’ll work out what’s really important whilst still spending time with significant others in your life, working successfully and not burning yourself out.
  • The more I learn for the VCDX the more I realise how little I know
    • Welcome to the club. As I covered above about doing it for what i believe are the right reasons the VCDX journey will expose you to so much technology and options and people who have experience in so many things you might have little to no experience in. You will learn LOADS along the path to VCDX and I will be honest with you even after passing the VCDX I realised how little I still knew and how much I still had to continually learn. The below image explains this for me perfectly

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    • I have massive imposter syndrome around being a VCDX and I have spoken to numerous others who say the exact same thing. I’m not sure if it will ever go away and I think it’s a very common thing so if you think being a VCDX means you know everything and don’t experience the feeling of having to “fake it until you make it” then it just is not true, no one can know everything and everyone is having to continually learn new things and there will always be people who know things better than you do, it’s the profession we’ve chosen to be a part of. A great piece I saw recently about imposter syndrome from Neil Gaiman is the below:
    • imposter

If you are looking to do the VCDX then I would highly recommend it, certainly speak to your significant other around the work that needs to go into it as it does take dedication and depending on your progress for a submission package and your skillset can require you to spend time learning but with dedication and work it is certainly achievable.

Good luck on your journey and I hope some of the advice above helps.

Gregg

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2 thoughts on “VCDX Preparation Advice

  1. Thanks for the great advice Gregg!

  2. Pingback: #VCDX Design Scenario “Tips” | TheSaffaGeek

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