My VCDX journey

Friday 30 October 2015, 9:30 in the morning. I’m in the middle of a lesson talking about SRM and recovery plans, I see a popup on the top right of my screen: “VCDX Defense Results”.
Me to my students: “Sorry, this is not what I normally do. But I have to check this email”.

Michael Wilmsen,

Congratulations! You passed! It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the VMware Certified Design Expert community.

Your VCDX number is 210.

My journey started about 1 year ago. I was contracted by a program for a city in the Netherlands to architect a 3800 Horizon View Solution. I already passed the VCAP DCD and DCA exams, so this was my opportunity to go for VCDX.
After 6 months, the technical design document was at version 1.0 and the implementation started. At this time I really didn’t had the time to go for VCDX. After 4 months the project was at his end and the VCDX was back on my mind. But how to go from here?
First I asked permission from the customer if I could use the design for my VCDX defense. This was no problem as long as I anonymize the design. Ok, no problem of course. My design was in Dutch, so I had to translate it anyway.
In June I attendant Nutanix .NEXT (my design was based on Nutanix hardware). There I had a conversation with @repping. Nutanix was willing to help me out with a mentor and they arrange @vcdx026 Alexander Thoma for me. Alexander is also know as the Iron Panelist has he did more than 100+ panels when he worked for VMware. Now that he works for Nutanix he can mentor me, but is still restricted by the code of conduct.
After I came back from Miami I looked at the defense dates for 2015. These where in October but the application had to be submitted before 25 of august. This gave me about 3 months but my holiday with the family was about 3 weeks in august. This limited my time.
At this point I said to myself: “Either you go for it, or you probably won’t to it again for the next few years.”.
I had a good conversation with my wife because this is going to take a lot of free time and late working. You probably heard this before, this is really important! If you don’t have the support from your family, and you don’t want a divorce, don’t start. I’m lucky enough to have a great wife who supports me al the way, although this isn’t always easy for her.
Just before my holiday I had a concept version the design ready. My collogue and friend Joop Kramp offered me to do a review. In my final week of my family holiday he provided me the necessary feedback. As I wanted to know what his feedback was, my wife agreed that I could spend a morning in Italy going to his comments.

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When I was back home, I spend the last to day’s before sending my application to VMware finalizing my documents. On the 25 of august 2015 at 4PM I clicked the send button.
At this point I was more relaxed. This ended a few weeks before the defense date. These weeks friends and family often asked where I was with my mind. Easy, going over and over my design. Thinking about possible question I could get.
My defense date was on the 22 of oktober in Stains-upon-thames, UK. My wife wanted to go to London for a couple of years to go to the Phantom of the Opera. So I looked at possible flights and dates for the Phantom. The only possible option for the Phantom was the night before my defense. This made me a little nervous. Didn’t I have to go over my design one more time the night before. But when I thought it over, I said to myself: “Your defense doesn’t depends on 1 evening the night before. If that’s the case, you are not ready to defend.”
So I went to the Phantom of the Opera with my wife and really enjoyed it. The next morning we drove to Stains.
At 2PM my defense started. I thought I would be nervous, but this wasn’t the case. Actually, I was really relaxed. Looking forward to the defense.
The defense part I really enjoyed. This was more a conversation between equally minded people. Although I was stated that you don’t know how the panel thinks about your answer, I felt they understood me. In my case I had some weird assumptions as the where political. For this I had good answer why this was.
The design and troubleshooting part was more frustrating. You’re constantly thinking: “Am I not forgetting something?”
After the defense was over my wife asked me how it went? My response: “Ok, I think. But I really don’t know if its enough. Did I give the correct in-depth answers the panel was looking for?”
The rest you know. I’m VCDX number 210!

Do I have some tips that you haven’t found already Googling the internet? There is one thing I can think of.
If you’re allowed to defend, your design is technically approved. The defense part is about knowing your design and that you can defend yourself. This is not about knowing how for example Host Isolation Response works. You have to explain why you made the decisions to go for Power Off. In other words, you’re not tested about your technical knowledge. You have already proven this by passing your VCAP exams and being allowed to defend.

Of course I want to thank a few people
First of all, my wife, Marjolein. Again. Thanks honey! You made this possible for me!
Alexander Thoma, The Iron Panelist! Thanks for our late night Webex discussions and clear DMs when I asked you a question. They where sort and clear. Just the way I like them.
Niels Hagoort (VCDX212), Rutger Koster (VCDX209) and Leo Scheltema. My VCDX study buddy’s. We had some good discussions and a nice mock exam in my pub.
Raymon Epping. Thanks for your support and that of Nutanix by providing me feedback and a mentor.
Michael Webster (VCDX066). Thanks for the mock exam. Although you couldn’t give me feedback if I did ok, it helped me out allot how a defense goes.
Duncan Epping (VCDX007) and Frank Denneman (VCDX029). You guy’s made me believe that I was able to go for VCDX. This was the real first step for me. Frank, Thanks for the tips so I was more relaxed the day’s before my defense.

A few day’s ago I read a tweet asking: “I’ve I want to go for VCDX, what is the first step?”. My response: “This tweet is your first step.”.
If you want to go for VCDX, go! It’s better failing in trying than not to try at all.
And if you need a mentor, you can contact me.

About Michael

Michael Wilmsen is a VMware training/consultant (no specific order) with more than 15 years in the IT industry. Main focus is VMware vSphere, Horizon View and Site Recovery Manager with a deepdive to performance.
Michael is VCDX 210, VCAP 4/5 certified, has been rewarded with the vExpert title from 2011, is a PernixPro, Nutanix Tech Champion and a Nutanix Platform Professional.

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