I was very pleased to receive news on Friday morning that I had been awarded a second VMware certified design expert (VCDX) certification this time for Cloud Management and Automation.
Recently a coworker asked me my secret to career achievement. I told him outright it was a lot of hard work. It takes work every day. It’s not a one time achievement and you reach the end. It’s work every day. I am lucky my hobby and my job align. A lot of days I get to do what I really enjoy as a job. I can be found in my free time doing lots of the same things I do at work… without deadlines. It makes the work easier when you are having fun. Without purpose I find it hard to learn… so I started setting goals each year and promising myself I will achieve the goals the easiest goals were around certifications.
I had not planned on working toward a cloud certification this year but when they removed the advanced certification requirements in March I tried for the one month challenge. A VCDX cloud application in one month. I produced a lot of documentation and lost all my weekends and vacation days to complete the application. Ultimately I was not happy with the results but fearing it would be my last chance without the advanced certifications I went for it. The result was a failed submission. I figured it was worth the gamble and it had not paid off. I expected the new VCIX certification to be announced by May removing all chance to submit again without taking the design and administration exams. They were not ready leaving the door open for another run at submission. My wife and I determined that we would take another run at it given the opportunity. I determined that this attempt had to be different from the last… it needed to not effect my family.
VCDX Game Plan
I had a solid submission for cloud it just lacked details. I needed to apply my thoughtful approach and magnifying glass to the submission. I needed to find a time that would not effect my family to work on the VCDX. My children are getting older and they notice me hanging out in the basement all day with the computers. I determined that the best time would be 7:30 – 8:30 Monday – Thursday and I would submit the application again when I was ready. This time was after my kids retired to their bedrooms and was traditionally my email and internet browsing / blogging time (mostly browsing as blog history will prove). I had to give it up… at 8:30 – bedtime it was my wife’s time. I had to shove the VCDX work into one hour a night. It was awesome. Every one of those hours produced meaningful results.
An Advocate for Balance
I have long been an advocate for balance in our lives. More hours does not mean more quality work. We need to have balance. For me it’s a challenge between work, career improvement, marriage improvement, being a father and personal time and hobbies. I have come to understand that the most important titles I will ever hold is husband and father, not VMware Certified design expert or something else. I have gained my knowledge one day at a time via hard work and will continue to learn but in thirty years my career will be over. The daily investment in my wife and children will continue to pay off. In the desire to provide and achieve we each need to grasp on to the most important things and make sure they are part of our life. Incremental investments in family pay off just like the hour at a time does. We all can be found doing many good things but perhaps we only have time for the best things. Choose carefully the best things. This is one of the main reasons I have not taken a new job since getting my first VCDX, I refuse to travel away from my family for long periods of time. I became a VCDX to force myself to learn for personal development, not for the job. I got my current job before I was a VCDX, it’s an awesome job working with people who teach me new things every day. I got my second VCDX without any plans to change jobs, it was about forcing me to learn and an opportunity. In both cases the journey to VCDX has taught me about hard work and infrastructure, but mostly about myself and the things that matter the most.
Advice for VCDX Seekers
There is a lot of advice on the internet around this topic. Everyone has tips, tricks and plans. As more people get this certification and the market for people with the certification grows information will just increase. Here is my advice:
- Set goals but if life gets in the way adjust
- Set time to work on the certification and time not to work on it… work only during your time frame assigned
- Be sure you want the VCDX for the right reasons…. if it’s for a new job there are a lot easier ways… trust me. If it’s about fame… there is very little of that… do you really want to be hired because of your certification instead of merits?
- Make sure you family understands and goal and agrees to it (my wife is happier about the second VCDX results than me because it was a family goal)
- VCDX is not about perfect infrastructure … it does not exist it’s about aligning business requirements with design
- Read the blueprint and use it… ignore most everyone else just follow the blueprint
- If you are defending get some practice speaking in public… I recommend VMUG presentations
- Spend some time helping others along their path
- Get a VCDX mentor by visiting the vcdx.vmware.com page and locating mentors they cannot design it for you but they can help move you along the path (you might even see me there as a mentor)
Thanks for reading my rant. Please take it as advice to not kill yourself getting a certification or anything in life. Balance is the best approach. You may have to sacrifice your fantasy football, twitter, facebook or drinking buddies to achieve your goals but don’t sacrifice the most important things. I remember when I made the choice to become a missionary for two years when I was twenty, the life style required I not touch a computer for two years. I worried that technology would change too much in that time and I would be far behind everyone else, nothing was further from the truth. I learned a lot of life lessons while being a missionary including better work ethic and study habits. My ability to learn had increased along with a lot of other things. Sacrifice is an important life habit to happiness but don’t sacrifice the wrong thing though neglect.