Why I gave up attempting the VCDX

Note: I’d like to preface this post by stating that I have utmost respect for any individual who’s achieved VCDX-level certification or is in the process of doing so.

I wrote this post here a while ago on why I will become a VCDX, and why it’s worth it.  I feel that I need to write this post out, if anything, for myself so that I can finally move on from the VCDX and not feel so guilty about dropping it!

I’ve been working in the background on a design to submit, despite having a very busy life with my fair share of issues to deal with, all the while still doing my usual day job of consulting. I’ve really found that doing documentation the VCDX way has helped me become better at my job. People around me that I’ve been following in the community were all becoming VCDXs, and it spurred me on even more.

I’ve heard of people getting their VCDX after submitting designs and defending them without much preparation, and I’ve heard of people failing after multiple attempts. There’s so much about it that’s unknown – who will be on the panel that day, whether you’re able to keep yourself together to defend your design etc etc.

Then I changed jobs. I went from a role where I was generally only working with VMware, a hybrid consultancy type role where I did design through to delivery to a role where I stopped being hands-on altogether. The problem with the VCDX I found then, is that it requires you to be hands-on as well. You need to be able to do things in a lab environment or in the real world – if not to screenshot things for your documentation just to be able to understand things better. You can, of course, use the HOL but you won’t be installing ESXi onto a bare-metal server that way or troubleshooting real-world issues.

What I had to do was reassess myself. I’m now in an environment where I don’t believe that being a VCDX will help me as much as doing a vendor-neutral certification like TOGAF or CISSP will. I used to get into conversations with people and tell them I was going after my VCDX – the problem is that 60 seconds out of the 75 seconds I spent telling them was actually telling them what it even is.

The CCIE is ubiquitous in the arena of networking, regardless of the vendor. The CCIE examination process is clearly gruelling, requiring a “written” exam and a lab test with only a few places to actually do the 8 hour lab. CCIEs are regarded as experts in networking, in design through to implementation and support. Not many people know that Cisco’s architecture certification is actually called the CCAr, and thus not many people have their CCAr status. Therefore let’s look at them side-by-side:

Certifications

We all agree that the VCA is where you’d start, and the VCDX is as high as you can go!

Note: Cisco actually has a different track for Design / Architect certifications, CCDA, CCDP, CCDE. However, the CCAr process is actually very similar to the VCDX itself.

So why does the CCIE have such a good reputation yet the VCDX or VCIX does not (unless you’re in the community or follow VMware certifications of course!) ? The answer is simple – VMware does not market its certifications and their value well enough. Hell, I get emails all the time from recruiters who state things like “Certifications desirable – VCP, VCAP, VCDX.” Look back up at the table to see why that makes me laugh.

I know a lot of CCIEs, and they truly are extremely knowledgeable and capable. Of course, if they’re out of practice, then it’s a different story. Just like with any skill, if you stop using it you lose your edge. I think this is the crux of my problem here, and why I’ve dropped out (and it’s not the first time I’ve dropped out of something – University for one – or changed my goals to align with my career strategy, it’s not fixed after all and never will be). I’m not hands-on anymore, and to be a VCDX, you need to be on the labs often or work with it every day. I know a CCIE who works in a design role like me, and he actually sits mock exams in his spare time to stay sharp. Respect! It’s the only way to be an expert in the technology, it really is.

Now it’s no secret that I love VMware. I love most things about them, but I don’t like the way they keep changing their certifications all the time. Of course that’s their prerogative, but they really should take a leaf out of Cisco’s book when it comes to certifications. I do still love you though VMware.

The VCDX process itself is extremely demanding, and to any bosses out there who read this, if you do come across a VCDX you should treat them like a rockstar. I usually do!

Will I ever go after any top tier certifications again? 

Maybe. I think that the MBA (in tech management for me) is more relevant to where I currently am and where I’m going. As you move away from technical architecture towards solution and enterprise architecture, coming from technical stock will only help however you need to have a high degree of business acumen, more so than technical knowledge. You need to be able to get into a room with C-Level management and talk about acquisitions and the stock market. You need to be able to develop long and short term strategy. The more I realise this, the more I realise that being in a VCDX defense explaining why I chose a certain feature over another really doesn’t matter. It’s a technical certification, and so it should be!

I hope my view on this is at least refreshing to a few of you.

I’ll continue doing VCAPs, VCIXs, and CCNP-level qualifications without a doubt! Maybe one day in future, I’ll attempt the beast that is the VCDX once again.

Graeme

2 Comments on Why I gave up attempting the VCDX

  1. This is brilliant, it is important to take keep in mind where you want to be in the future and how you see yourself progressing.

    • Thanks Milan! That’s true, nobody can see into the future. Of course we can try and predict which way it’s going as professionals, but the only way we’ll know is by getting there.

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