I drafted this post approximately thirty seven times to try and minimise the amount of time that I spent on the soapbox. I’ll let you decide if I succeeded or not.

It’s a little over two weeks since I opened my email and discovered that I had passed my VCDX.
As the cert gains momentum in the community, there are a lot of theories about what it takes to pass. Study groups, mentors, flash cards… You name it, someone has written about it. For someone who is considering going down the path of VCDX I can imagine that it could look rather daunting.

I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be.

Many years ago I played Age of Empires II. It was a hobby, it was a bit of an addiction. AOE had two main strategies – rush or boom.
The rush was almost a guarantee of victory for those who could do it will. Over time though, the rush went from a fine art to a formula of the optimal approach to micro-management of your first seventeen peasants. Those who had uncovered the mechanics of the game were now seeing their understanding shared with the masses in easy to consume instructions that could be followed step by step.
I was never a fan of the rush… I was the guy who accumulated resources, built and overwhelming force and then attacked. Often I would be beaten, but over time I refined my own strategies and was able to win more often than not.

My approach to the VCDX was very, very similar to my approach to AOE. Not by conscious design, but by nature.

I sat the vSphere Design Workshop back in 2011 with Travis Wood (coincidentally one of my panelists) and Richard Arsenian. I sat my VCAP-DCD in 2012. I moved out of delivery and into presales with VMware at the beginning of 2013, and didn’t take any of the engagement materials that I could have used as the basis for a submission with me.

As an SE, I looked for an area of technology in which to specialise. I began with vCD, and soon after moved to vRA. I pursued the vCD VCAPs with Nathan Wheat and Josh Odgers in 2014, all the while accumulating product knowledge about vRA.

My VCDX journey was delayed by a year when Nick Marshall offered me the chance to work on Mastering vSphere 6. It was a great opportunity, and I figured that the VCDX would be waiting for me when I was done. Spoiler alert: it was.

Roll forward to 2016 and I was invited to join the CMBU team at VMware, working as part of the engineering organisation. To be fair, this had minimal impact on the process, but is interesting for me as I was now in a role that provided me with some serious technical challenges, and I wondered for a time if I wanted to pursue my VCDX at all. In no small part, the fact that my book deal with Jad had come to naught gave me some serious motivation to get this done – the idea of starting something else and not finishing it drove me to complete it.

I successfully defended a vRA design, and a CMA design scenario to achieve my VCDX. I did it after accumulating a significant amount of product knowledge and marrying it to my experience in architecture. I did not use a mentor. I did not have a study group. This does not make me any more worthy than anyone else – it just means that I prepared “my way”.

Don’t feel obliged to follow my path, or the path of anyone else for that matter. Prepare in a way that suits how you learn, and roll with that. If you need a mentor, get one. If you don’t think you need one, don’t feel obliged to get one. Make your VCDX your own.