VMware Certifications - First steps

Full Disclosure: This blogpost is written for and part of the VMware vExpert NSX Certification blogging campaign.

A long long time ago when i was still making my first steps in the wonderful world of IT, my role was that of the go-to operations guys for small-medium businesses. The main focus of my work at that time was on system administration, primarily around linux, windows and networking.

Since that time, i've gone through many roles and worked with a variety of products, but one of the vendors that's always been in the picture has been VMware. I've started with virtualisation quite a while ago actually, first with Mac-On-Linux and KVM, a VMware GSX and later Server machine running some workloads for a non-profit organisation, all very basic. Later on, i got to touch the earlier releases of the VMware products more and more often as part of my daily job, and relative late during the vSphere 4 release i finally took the plunge and certified myself as a VCP (we didn't have any of those fancy suffixes back then), starting off a long journey of learning something new every day...

Why did you decide to take your first test and what was your motivation?

To be completely open and honest, at first did not really care that much about VMware certifications back then. I was a Linux and networking guy, and vSphere was mostly a means to an end. But as i was working with it more and more and getting more enthousiastic, combined with the need to get more VMware certified employees, my certification was actively encouraged and sponsored through my old employer OGD and a colleague (Joep Piscaer, thanks for getting me involved ;)). As i was also slowly getting involved in more projects as opposed to operations, i noticed my virtualisation skills were still lacking when it came to more than just operations, and as such, i was sent off to the VCP 4 ICM training.

What was your journey for the first test?

Most of my experience with vSphere came from just hands-on experience. I had zero knowledge on how to actually design or implement the product, but by trying something new every day you slowly get more and more familiar with the product and comfortable performing changes, upgrades and even suggesting improvements to the current implementation.

As well as the hands-on experience, as i wasn't certified i still had to take the mandatory ICM training. While not all subjects of the course were on a VCP-level, it did teach me a lot about all the features that you're usually not touching during normal operations.

Were you nervous, how did you study?

Obviously, since a full week of ICM training is not cheap, i was slightly nervous. The VMware VCP exams are not known as being extremely easy, and back then my certification-fu was not as strong as it is today. Being only familiar with Microsoft, LPIC and Cisco certifications, VMware's examination style was completely new for me. My typical study plan was to get as much hands-on experience during the ICM as possible and go through the course material at home. Since i didn't have a homelab back then i was dualbooting my desktop at home, running ESX as a virtual machine on my employer's desktop, and occasionally in my old employer's lab and demo environment.

How did it benefit your career as well as your community?

My VCP-DCV ultimately set me on a path towards achieving my VCDX-NV last year. In between those two, there's been a long stretch of passing the VCP-DCD and VCP-DCA exams and starting a job as a fulltime VMware consultant at a new employer (ITQ). Then, with the acquisition of Nicira, i learned that - even as a VMware consultant - networking was still in my blood, and i fasttracked myself towards doing more with NSX. I passed the VCP-NV relatively soon as it was released, went for the VCIX-NV, and as VMware NSX sales were finally gaining traction i managed to pass my VCDX-NV defense in Palo Alto a bit over half a year ago. These days, i'm mainly workin as a SDN architect - still for the same employer - and am regularly involved in NSX projects, both for VMware PSO as well as my own employer. I'm also active on the vExpert slack and like to help people out with questions related to NSX and provide advice to those that need it.

Knowing what you know today, what are some of the pain points in this certification that you can share with your audience?

My only real major issue with the VCP-DCV certification is the DCV-ICM training. While it is required to pass your first DCV, the skill levels required to pass the VCP-DCV are in no way relatable to the skills you learn during the ICM. While obviously you'll need some real-life experience as well there is a noticeable discrepancy between the ICM and real life. If you've already got the skills to pass your VCP exam, the ICM is just an expensive hurdle on the way to become a first time VCP, and if you don't have the hands-on experience the ICM doesn't provide enough to pass the VCP-DCV. My experience with the ICM training for DCV is pretty dated though, so this may have changed, and i have noticed that VMware is providing much more guidance to pass your exam, including hands on labs, blueprints, documentation and mock exams.