For every VCDX round, I normally run unofficial face to face mock as the last hurdle and prep for all those defending the VCDX that round in the UK and for anyone wanting to come to assist with the mocks and learn from them. I have run these for a number of years and have got really great feedback from them but this year alike to so many things I was unable to run any due to Covid. So I thought now I have a chance to catch my breath after my first year as a VMware employee I would do an updated series of postings around the advice I normally give in these mocks, advice I give in the VCDXPrepGroup slack channel I founded and run and link to postings where I summarised previous advice. I will break the series into distinct areas along the path to VCDX to try help people wherever they are along the path *NOTE* All advice here is keeping within NDA’s and despite me now training to become a VCDX panellist it is the same as when I hadn’t gone through the training.
I don’t know where to start
Building your VCDX submission can seem a massively daunting task and the more you work on it the larger it seems to get but my first piece of advice I always give people is to just get started as soon as possible.
- Start with the conceptual design and ensure your requirements are clear and concise and verified. Far too often I have done reviews for people and sadly they haven’t recorded the requirements very well and have built their design around these but because they aren’t clear it can make their design fall apart fairly quickly with very simple questions. One example I see often is people not recording availability and recoverability correctly where they have a requirement of 99.99% availability but it isn’t clear what this applies to and when. You need to ensure of you have SLA’s, RPO’s, RTO’s and MTD defined that it is very clear where this does and does not apply.
- Once you have completed the conceptual design get it reviewed before moving onto logical. Like above I see it far too often where people don’t have their requirements clearly defined and to then change it at a review a week before submission deadline is nigh on impossible. Getting someone to have a quick review of them will then help you ensure you have them defined well and is something I see far too often in real life where requirements are defined clearly and then the customer isn’t possibly happy as you misunderstood their requirement. For this, I did a Requirements Traceability Matrix for my defence and I use one on all major projects I work on to ensure that the requirements I have recorded and got approval for can be tracked all the way to the verification tests at the end of the project. This RTM is one part I changed about my design after my first VCDX failure as blogged about here: What Changed Between My Two VCDX Design Submissions
- Get yourself a mentor and into a good group of people also aiming for the VCDX. When I did my first VCDX I didn’t have a mentor and I built the whole design “alone”. By chance when I had to pay for my VCDX design review the link to pay didn’t work and when they sent a new link they included the other people also submitting and even though I knew Bobby Stampfle was submitting I didn’t know Rene Van Den Bedem (Quadruple VCDX) was going for his first. Out of this, we three built a study group that became the basis of my now pretty successful VCDXPrepGroup slack channel. The amount I learnt from those two in that first defence is why I made the channel and the number of people who have benefited from all the help those in the channel provides from NDA permitting advice to mocks to design reviews I personally feel is invaluable. I know there are people who have passed without a prep group but why not use a good group of people who have gone through the process already to soundboard off of and who understand the grind and can show you the journey you are on is worth it (in our opinions). If you are really looking to defend within the next twelve months then please contact me and I will add you to the Slack channel. (realistically is if you at least have your VCP and one VCAP in your planned track and are planning to do the second VCAP and start your design very soon if not already)
In the next posting, I will cover off something I hear often and have heard from numerous people over the years of “I am waiting for the right project”. If you want me to cover something then please do leave a comment or message me on Twitter @greggrobertson5 and I will try to incorporate it into this series.