TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCDX Spotlight: Hersey Cartwright

Name: Hersey Cartwright

Twitter Handle: @herseyc

Blog URL: http://www.vhersey.com/

Current Employer: ABS Technology Architects

VCDX #: 128

How did you get into using VMware?

I started using VMware back in late 2006/early 2007 when I was working for a community Credit Union. I was really impressed with HA. Prior to VMware getting the same level of availability was costly and complex, HA greatly simplified this. By the time I left the Credit Union about 85% of the environment was virtualized on VMware.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I saw it as a learning experience. I learned a tremendous amount about myself and my abilities through the process of designing the solution, preparing the documentation, and participating in the defense.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

I completed the VCAP-DCD in December 2012. I made the commitment to pursuing my VCDX in February 2013 and set a goal for defending at PEX 2014. So a little less than a year of actually preparing.

I started the design I submitted in October 2013 and it was implemented in November. I had somewhere between 120 and 180 hours of preparation for the VCDX defense outside of the work that was done directly for the customer. This included preparing the design documentation, studying, and participating in mocks.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Set a goal and work towards it. I think that setting the goal on defending at PEX 2014 helped me keep focus. Attend the VCDX boot camp if you can, or at least watch the ProfessionalVMware.com vBrownBags on it. This will give you a lot of insight into the defense. Sign up for one of the study groups and participate in as many mocks as possible.

During mocks don’t forget about the Design and Troubleshooting scenarios. Be sure to practice these also!

Another piece of advice I would give is to choose a design you find interesting. The design I submitted and defended was for a 911 call center. It was a small environment but I found the availability requirements for the solution interesting. I also really enjoyed working with the customer to meet their requirements. I was very involved through the entire project, from design to implementation, and that definitely helped me defend the design.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

More mocks!

I did a bunch of them but they were all with the people I worked with. The “unfriendly” mock defense I participated in the day before my actual defense, with people that I did not know (other than the occasional tweet), was extremely beneficial. During the “unfriendly” mocks the participants dug much deeper into my design decisions than the folks that I worked with on a regular basis did.

There was a lot of benefit in both the “friendly” and “unfriendly” mocks, but the “unfriendly” mock really helped to prepare me for the defense panel.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

Preparing for and successfully defending the VCDX was definitely worth it, especially for the learning experience. In a short period of time it has benefited both me and my company.

If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would!

A little more on my VCDX experience can be found here: http://www.vhersey.com/2014/02/vcdx-cxxviii-128/


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VCDX Spotlight: Garrette Grouwstra

Name: Garrette Grouwstra

Twitter Handle: @VirtualCanadian

Blog URL: vCanadian.ca

Current Employer: Long View Systems

VCDX #: 127

How did you get into using VMware?

I was working for a small ISP in 2009, and began a consolidation project to go hand-in-hand with their upcoming infrastructure refresh. As soon as I started using ESXi 3.5, I thought that the whole idea of virtualization was something I needed to focus on professionally.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

For the past 2.5 years, I have had the privilege of building and architecting a public cloud offering to help diversify the services that the company I work for offers to clients. VCDX-DCV had been on my mind at the time as I watched others in the organization (@vcloudmatt and @DavesRant) go through the process. Once the Cloud track was announced, I knew that would be my next goal.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

That is a tough question, as the VCDX-Cloud certification is still brand spanking new. I had to complete all of the prerequisites first, I received the VCP-Cloud in August of 2012, followed by the Beta’s of the VCAP-CID, and VCAP-CIA, which I received in February 2013.

I started writing my design documentation in March of 2013, putting it aside while I planned a wedding and went on a honeymoon, and picked back up in August 2013. With the help of my design Co-author, Matt Vandenbeld (@vcloudmatt), I was able to complete the application by the end of December, and was fortunately invited to defend in February 2014.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

1. Get support from your family, and work. I was lucky that both my husband and Long View Systems gave me time, and supported me on this journey. I could not have remained sane without them.

2. Set milestones to complete sections of your design doc, and within all supporting material. Keep to the deadlines.

3. Don’t work in a vacuum. There are many great resources out there, both blogs and people (Inside and outside of your organization). Use them

4. Know your design inside and out. Really, I mean it.

5. Accept that you may have submitted a design with mistakes. Own those mistakes and call them

6. Practice, practice, practice! Find others in the community that are able to assist you, and do mock defences, design and troubleshooting scenarios. Brad Christian (@BChristian21) organized mock defences between most of the candidates defending at PEX. The group ripped my design apart more so than they did in the room, and were amazing help preparing.

7. Breathe. Take a time out before the actual defence to compose yourself.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

The only thing I would do differently is more mocks. I saw myself grow so much as a consultant and VCDX candidate during the weeks leading up to the defence, and the mocks were a LARGE part of that. I wish I would have done more troubleshooting and design mocks.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

The VCDX is a certification I achieved for myself, not for my company. They have been supportive along the way, and all congratulated me, however I did not, and do not expect much to change from a company perspective.

The biggest change personally, is that I have free time again. I’m still trying to come to terms with that and debating how to fill the void that VCDX prep has left.


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VCDX Spotlight: Derek Seaman

Name: Derek Seaman

Twitter Handle: @vDerekS

Blog URL: www.derekseaman.com

Current Employer: Nutanix

VCDX #: 125

 

How did you get into using VMware?

In 2006 I was a Sr. Unified Communications Consultant and used VMware Workstation on my home computer to try out various software products. By 2008 I had some customers wanting to virtualize Exchange and other services, but my exposure to the ESX platform was still limited. In 2009 I started a new job as a Lead Systems Engineer for a U.S. Government project and took my first vSphere 4.0 install/configure course. After that course I was truly fascinated with the technology, breadth of skills needed, and the wicked cool features like vMotion. Ever since then I’ve focused on virtualizing enterprise services and VDI.

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

Through my blog came to know several well-known bloggers and virtualization geeks. By 2013 nearly all of them were VCDXs and I told myself that I could do it. VMworld 2013 in San Francisco was a turning point and lit a fire to knock out my VCDX. I also figured it would professionally open up doors that might not otherwise be as open.

 

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

I took my first ever VCAP exam (VCAP5-DCD) the day before VMworld 2013 San Francisco, and passed. A few weeks later I took the VCAP5-DCA exam, and was also successful. All told it was a six month effort from starting the VCAP pre-reqs and getting my VCDX congratulations letter.

 

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

The certification takes a lot of time. How much time depends on the complexity of your design, and how much may already exist in terms of documentation that you can use. Not much existed for the project I chose, so I spent literally hundreds of hours writing everything to make sure it met the VCDX blueprint requirements. Also, get involved in a study group early on, so you can do peer reviews and support each other throughout the process.

 

 

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Overall I wouldn’t change anything, except getting connected with more candidates prior to the initial application submission. I had connected with two others, but didn’t know there were a dozen more on the same track. Definitely get on Twitter and find your peers.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

 

Social media blew up (in a good way) after getting my certification. After being accepted to defend for the VCDX but prior to my passing I had accepted an offer from Nutanix as a Sr. Solutions and Performance engineer. That team already has two VCDXs, and I couldn’t be more excited to join them and other VCDXs within the company.

The entire process was totally worth it. I feel that I’m a better architect, and made great professional connections with both existing VCDXs and those that went through the PEX 2014 process.


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VCDX Spotlight: Sean Howard

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.


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VCDX Spotlight: Kalen Arndt

Name: Kalen Arndt

Twitter Handle: @KalenArndt

Blog URL: www.vmrage.com

Current Employer: World Wide Technology

VCDX #: 132

 

How did you get into using VMware?

When I was working as a customer I had to do a rip and replace of ESX 3.5 to ESXi 4.1 with new hardware. I learned a ton about virtualization and when I first vMotioned a VM I said “Wow this is awesome and I have to work there.” I moved across the country to work for VMware where I worked commercially in networking/storage/fault support for about a year. After that I moved onto the Federal team at VMware where I was a TSE , Research Engineer, and then Escalation Engineer. I finally decided that I wanted to architect environments and I left for WWT where I implement large scale environments that leverage VMware.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

It was a challenge! I did the same thing with my VCP and then my VCAPs for DCV and View and finally hit the point where I felt I would be comfortable defending.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

I initially planned for defending for 4.1 and then 5.0 came out and I switched teams. I would say the initial 4 submission was about 6 months. After I left VMware I spent about 8 months working on getting my VCAPs and submitting my defence for 5.5

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Be honest and know your defence. I wrote an entire article about helpful things for future candidates can do here : http://www.vmrage.com/vcdx-dcv-overview/

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I would have tried doing more mocks and additional proof reading of my design prior to my submission. I do plan on submitting for VCDX-DT with a totally new design from a previous implementation. So I guess you could say that I get to do over half of it over again Smile

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

A lot of people followed me on Twitter now which is pretty awesome. I am currently making a huge effort to mentor future VCDXs throughout the process. We had a few mentors and it was a HUGE help to the group.

My company was extremely excited that I had obtained it.

It was worth it to me because it was goal that I set and I finally did it. I loved the product enough to uproot my life to work on it and I am glad that I mastered one of their certification tracks. I plan on advocating it even further in the future


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VCDX Spotlight: Josh Coen

Name: Josh Coen

Twitter Handle: @joshcoen

Blog URL: valcolabs.com

VCDX #: 129

How did you get into using VMware?

In 2006, when I was active duty in the U.S. Air Force, we had a project to stand up a lab for testing patches and other projects. A server was bought and VMware Infrastructure 3 was purchased, but no one had training. I was brought into the project and sent to San Diego to take the VMware Infrastructure 3: Install and Configure course (coincidentally, Rawlinson Rivera was my instructor). I was immediately hooked and knew that my professional future had to include virtualization.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

After I started doing the VCAP5-DCA I decided I wanted to go for VCDX. The two biggest drivers for me was the challenge it presented and the doors it might open; professionally and monetarily

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

It took me roughly 12 months from the time I completed the last of the VCDX prerequisites (VCAP5-DCD) to the time I defended

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Don’t give up. There were plenty of times during the process that I questioned “why am I doing this” and even contemplated quitting. These questions came when I got stuck on a particular part or section in the process and was unsure how to move forward. If that sounds familiar, take a break, clear your head and keep at it. Eventually something will click and you will break through

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I would have tried to complete it sooner. I had the potential to defend sooner than I did had I got off my butt and completed the required documentation. Don’t procrastinate.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

I’m not sure what’s next professionally, but I’m keeping an open mind. Personally, I’m going to focus on continuing to learn Spanish as well as Python. My company didn’t support what I was doing. All time and money associated with VCDX were my own. It was definitely worth it. A very rewarding experience and I’m glad to have went through it.


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EMEA VCDX Study Group

As some people may be aware, I am looking to defend my VCDX design at Frimley in April (tech review pending) and so wanted to follow the great example the guys from PEX set and try get some study groups going for VCDX for those people looking to submit and for people like myself who have submitted and are looking for mock defences for my design but also for the design and troubleshooting scenario.

Brad Christian posted a blog posting covering what the US guys did here for their mock defences and how beneficial they were. Everyone is welcome to join the EMEA VCDX study group (Current VCDX’s are especially welcome!!) although if you don’t even have you VCP yet then possibly waiting until you are further down the line is a good idea. I am hoping to link people up who are on the same level and path and create a “circle of trust” so that these people can share their designs for review and after submission for mock defences. 

I have created a form for people to fill in (I admit i copied the idea of James Bowling and his US Study Group form) and have listed the VCDX-Cloud and VCDX-DT as if people are aiming for these then there isn’t likely to be loads of people able to review and help.

So if you are interested and very importantly feel you can make the time (4-8 hours for a review) to help people looking to submit and defend then the sign up form is below:

SIGN UP HERE FOR EMEA VCDX STUDY GROUP

Gregg