Swing and a miss my first VCDX defense failure

Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Certification, VCDX, VMware | 4 comments

I was not sure if I would write up anything about failing to pass my first VCDX defense panel, but since you don’t hear much about misses. I wanted to let people know that it happens more than you think. Anyway these are some of the things that I encountered in my journey.


In effort to not waste any opportunities I applied and was accepted to defend my panel in Sydney. I did not want to waste any opportunities since there are a limited number of chances each year to defend your VCDX. This is a major goal for me in my job and a personal one to achieve VCDX certification. So I wanted to allow myself another opportunity this year in case I did not pass on this attempt.

Since I live in the US the travel to Sydney would take up a lot of time. It was 20+ hours of travel each way and a 15 hour time difference. I found that this did add extra stress to the already stressful process and I would definitely need to look at the options before making the same decision. I do not travel much and never internationally so many things were new and added to the anxiety that I was already feeling about standing in front of VMware experts to explain my decisions.

Design documentation:

After going through the process I feel that it has been a big learning experience for me and I think just getting my design prepared and accepted was a huge win. I work as an architect in a consulting role already so having been exposed to a large set of customers and doing designs for them made the process a bit easier.

What I did learn is that the gap between what a typical customer might require for a design and what the level of detail that VMware requires for a VCDX design is different. Now this does not mean that you did not consider all the same options and choices, what I do mean is that many customers do not need to be crushed under the level of technical details you need to explain for your application. These details are likely to come out in a later state of your customer project when you are planning or implementing, of course this all depends on the customer and how your projects are run.

So I guess the point I’m trying to make is that after going through this VCDX process I have improved my design documentation abilities and feel like I am able to better communicate my vision to customers. This will continue to improve over time but I feel like all the pain was worth it. The process of trying to communicate your design to someone that has no exposure to the customer or you and have them understand it was a great learning process.

Defense Panel:

I have to admit that this part is one of the more scary parts of the process. The idea of going in front of a panel of your peers to be judged can be scary for many people. I must admit it caused me some stress, but now that the process is over. I have to say it was one of the parts that I enjoyed the most. Sure you are up there in front of 3 VMware employees that are experts in different topics and current VCDX holders. They are going to ask you difficult questions that a customer may not typically ask you, but I found it to be a challenge and learning experience. While I did not pass this part of the process, I think that I learned a lot and will be much better prepared for my next attempt.

I prepared for this in advance by having several mock defense panels. I work with a bunch of very talented people and they were very willing to help with these mock panels. By practicing in the panels you get used to answering questions about your design and I found that as others read my design they looked at things differently. This lead to questions that I did not expect and help me prepare for the real defense panel. I go in front of customers to presentations, briefings, design sessions and design presentations on a regular basis so I figured it would be the same. While this does help greatly the experience is a bit different so I cannot tell you enough how important it is to have at least one mock defense panel with your peers.

In closing I was really disappointed to have failed my VCDX attempt, but I am motivated and will continue to try and improve before my next attempt. There are others in the same boat that are looking for help in these challenges so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I would also like to thank the VCDX team at VMware for the opportunity. They are running a great program over there.


About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design


  1. Brian. Sorry to hear about your disappointment in Sydney. Don’t let it get you down. I had 3 attempts before I was successful.
    Use the feedback you were given as a guide as to areas where some adjustments could be done. I found all the feedback I got, while not specific, was enough to highlight the areas that I could focus on in preparation for the next go.
    And good luck for next time!

    • Thanks, I have taken the feedback and be using it to improve for my next attempt.

  2. Good luck in your next go Brian, I’m going to apply early next year (hopefully) and quite looking forward to the experience

    • Thanks, Good luck on your VCDX journey.


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