Today in the morning when I opened my e-mail, I could not believe my eyes when I got the congratulation letter for being VCDX#89 after defending two weeks back in Toronto. My trip running for VCDX has spanned over three years. I have completed the per-requisites for VCDX3 before the last VCDX3 defense, but I could not defend as it was held in the US and I failed to obtain the Visa on time back then. After that I have upgraded my design to vSphere 4 & passed VCP4 & VCAP-DCD and was looking for the opportunity to defend when the defense come close by & here its right in my town in Toronto two weeks back. During my VCDX Trip I have changed companies once, Changed position 3 times, changed countries three times, & even change continent from Middle East(Asia) to Canada(North America). It was a hell of a trip with all these busy moves, but it was well worth it. If things go all around again, I would still for sure run for it.
For those of you planning to attempt the defense I am going to give you some free tips below that I wish I would have followed before the exam. I believe they might be some where out there, but I just did not get across them while preparing.
- What should be on your defense presentation? To be honest I am still not sure my self how are you graded for your presentation, though the first recommendation I would give you is to keep it as short as possible. Try to shoot for 12 minutes presentation. I know the blue print say 15 minutes, but hey while practicing my presentation at home I was able to complete it in about 16 minutes where in the front of the panel with a couple of questions it took me over 30 minutes. Having many slides in there and having to speed up through it got me a bit shaky when the panelist started to ask questions. I believe your best interest will be to keep the presentation as short as possible where you only cover your project background and top decisions you have made. Though keep all the slides with tons of your logical and physical design diagrams after the questions slide. Trust me you will need them, but you only want to bull them when asked about them. I have felt the purpose of the defense part was more about the panelist asking you questions about your design rather than you presenting the design.
- Try to get your presentation to cover a decision or so on each scoring criteria as per the blueprint. This will help you to score in each area of the exam as panelist might remember the questions they had about that particular area.
- Make sure you know every components in your design. If you have used anything beside vSphere (Ex: vCD, SRM, Storage, Network gears, and anything else you decided to use) make sure you know that product as good as you know vSphere. Anything in the design is a fair game for the panelist to ask you about. Trust me if you have a weakness in a particular product or arena, the panelist will ask about it. As you have 3-5 VCDX panelist normally with each of them specialized in a different arena you can bet your pain point will vary and if you have a weakness in anything included in the design make sure its covered before you head to the defense as I am sure you will find some weakness that you have never thought off on the defense day so don’t make these adds to the one you know about. I have been caught at two occasions in the defense where I had to admit that I was not sure about specific item and explained to the panelist where I would find the answer. Its much better to admit it in these situations, rather wasting your defense time getting in a deeper trouble of showing ignorance.
- Try to practice the scenario part & the trouble shooting part before heading to the defense. Its tough to figure out what scenario will be facing you, but you can at least practice what questions would you use to speed up the process of getting to the solution.
- If you are working on submitting your design, make sure your operations & installation manuals are highly customized for your customers. Example if you are setting up certain port groups setting for the customer in your design make sure how to configure these are covered in your installation manual. This is buried some where in the blue print, but it can help you get few extra point I believe else would not be mentioned in the blue print.
Congrats for all those who passed the VCDX defense in Toronto, & hope the above tips help more of you pass your upcoming defense. At last I would like to thank my family (Mom, My wife, Kids) on their patient with me during this period as well my manager support. Thanks you all for standing by me during the full process.