VCDX – to defend or not to defend

I recently received an email from an individual who is considering applying for, and defending for, his VMware Certified Design eXpert (VCDX) certification.  It is a trying process where you submit a design for a solution to be implemented, document the process, its operations, and justify your choices throughout the design.  Once you submit the design, and are approved, you are then invited to defend the design in front of a panel of those already certified.  A trying process…it was for me anyway…

I have promised this individual that I would assist him, when he was ready with his design.  It has been almost two years since we had that first conversation that I would assist him.  He recently sent me this email (which I asked if I could publish).  It shows what went on in his mind, and what sparked his renewed commitment to submitting his VCDX design.  My hope in posting this online, is that other people will see it, relate to this in some way, and have confidence in themselves to tackle this certification if they feel they are ready.

If you do get something out of this, can relate in some way, or are encouraged by the content of the email posted below, PLEASE…. post a comment.  It would mean  a lot to those whom we do not yet know who may feel the same way….


I missed yet another submission deadline last night, this one for October, 2012. The big difference this time was that I wasn’t sitting around “stirring ice cubes in my drink” watching the clock tick by. I was up until 3:00 AM furiously typing before I finally admitted that I didn’t have things ready to submit. I haven’t been that pissed at myself for a long time.

This whole process has left me with an unfamiliar feeling. I usually am very confident in myself, but for some reason I had a mental block against doing this design. I guess that my lack of ‘large’ customer design experience and a lack of ‘canned’ documentation had me thinking that it was to much for me to do on my own. I wasn’t concerned about my design skills, but more my documentation skills. As a result, I have had several restarts to the process I’ve spent more time ripping and replacing versions than I have actually producing content. For me, it wasn’t my game skills that were in question, but a lack of knowledge about the rules and field dimensions.

I’ve had a framework for what I wanted to do all along, but couldn’t grasp the structure. Was my documentation up to snuff? Would I be laughed at for submitting a design like that? The sheer number of pages was huge. I have never produced over 100 pages of documentation for a single project design. In my defense, I’ve never had a customer that has required that much work for a project. No need, no effort. I started at Acme Inc. 4 years ago as the 2nd engineer on staff. Within a month, I was the only guy there. I had no documentation or templates left to me other that a single SOW. Since that time, I have cobbled together all of the documentation at Acme Inc. myself. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it sprung from my head. Is it ‘industry standard’? I doubt that, seeing how I have not seen any other competitor documentation and have had nothing to compare it to.

Things changed this week. I built (yet again) another project template, trying to incorporate all elements into a viable framework, and started porting over some of my information. Then a strange thing happened. One of my twitter followers asked me to review his design, as he is defending this week in SF. I agreed, and he send me a copy. After reading his design and giving him feedback, all of my doubts faded away. I found several holes in his design that seemed really obvious, but apparently were not to him. Additionally, seeing his documentation framework gave me validation that I was on the right track, and that my ‘template’ was not only as good as his, but possibly better.

And more importantly… This was a design that had been accepted as a possible passing design and he was defending it! Clearly (in my mind) my design was better than his. My documentation framework was better than his. I know that my defense skills, presenting and defending to the panel, are better than his. Why was I doubting myself so much? I needed to get my ass in gear!

Well, long story short… and looking back at this, it isn’t a short email (sorry)… I have been cranking furiously on my design since Monday night. Several late nights later, I spend all yesterday trying to wrap things up and get it ready for the Midnight (Pacific) deadline for submission. Down to the wire, I finally had to stop at 3:10 AM and admit that I might have been able to submit the design, but wouldn’t have completed all of the accompanying documentation such as Delivery and Installation, Testing and Acceptance, and such. I would come up short yet again.

For the first time in the whole process, I was driven to complete. I disappointed myself by not closing the deal. I have nobody to blame but myself, and it took about 30-40 minutes of walking around the house alone for me to cool down enough to go to bed. This morning, I realized that I’m not really that upset about missing the deadline, because I will be ahead of the game for the next one in February 2013. I am ready, I focused, and I have a plan to complete.

Why am I sending this to you instead of packing to head to Boston in an hour? Because I want to say thank you for not giving up on me. All of the gentle (and not so gentle) nudges to get working on my design were appreciated. You have been there waiting for me to get on the ball and weren’t judging me. When I was ready, you would be there to help me on the path. I appreciate that you are there as a friend, advisor, and a mentor through this whole process.

I just wanted you to know that I’ve finally gotten my “Design Mojo” back and I’m ready to rock this thing. And I wanted to say thanks for being a friend through the whole thing. Catch you later tonight in San Francisco.

Joe Admin

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