Getting Your VCDX Is Not Life Or Death


Okay, maybe for some it FEELS like it is when you are standing in front of the panel.  I did want to just write something from a personal perspective though about nerves and the pressure of the defense.  I realize everyone handles stress differently, but as I have gotten older I guess I view stressful situations in varying degrees.  Let me explain.

It’s no secret that many of us in the community were not always fond of public speaking.  I even touched on this in some recent keynote presentations.  It takes time to overcome a fear of speaking or any other kind of fear for that matter.  However, when it comes to a VCDX Defense, I guess I view it differently.  The VCDX panel is a group of peers asking you about a design you did.  Yes they are VCDX holders themselves, but I’ve said this before, they are human beings like you.

So many people actually falter simply because they lock up when the first question comes out.  The information is up there in their head they just can no longer ARTICULATE it to the panel.  Why is that?  I know fear gets the best of us sometimes, but as a VCDX you are assume and expected to have been in front of customers before.  Personally I don’t view a VCDX panel of three people any less stressful than some high pressure angry customer situations I have been in.  Compared to some of those, the panel is a cake walk for some people.

What you have to do is put things in perspective.  Yes, getting your VCDX is a lot of work.  So is many customer projects as you work on them, and I assume you’ve done hundreds of customer meetings both good and bad.  You are not holding the life of someone in your hand during this process.  Although it may feel like that, think about something else that’s WAY higher pressure to ease the feeling on yourself.  Imaging what that doctor goes through the first time they perform surgery, or the standoff situation for a police officer and a barricaded suspect.  Yes these are extremes, but my point is, lives hang in the balance.

You’re striving to get your VCDX, not pull someone from a burning building.  It’s a professional certification, treat it as such, relax and have fun during the process.  We put more stress on ourselves than anyone else, and if you do so you will be one of those that lock up when the first question is asked.  Remember, it’s your design, you know it inside and out.  Be confident but not cocky.  Stand tall and take the questions, process them, and critically answer them.  get out of your own head about it.  Always think, “would I be this cracked up in front of a customer?”.  I hope for sure the answer is no.  Call it a little “tough love”, but seriously folks you are not launching the space shuttle, you are defending a design for a VCDX panel.  I’ve yet to see someone’s job be dependant on getting their VCDX, but maybe that will be the case someday and my tune will change.  Call it me getting older, but I guess I just view things in life in very different perspectives and sometimes you just have to realize that something is not in fact the end of the world as we know it.  Now the Zombie apocalypse….that’s what I worry about so I need to stop watching The Walking Dead, but putting that into perspective there is nothing my VCDX is going to do to save my ass then!

The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don’t have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it. – Chris Pine

About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.


  1. A very good read and I agree with most of it but unlike people who work for VMware or big companies a fair amount of people have to pay for part if not all of the travel,accomdation,leave,defence costs etc to defend and forego possibly money that could cover a family holiday to attempt the certification. So I do agree it’s not the end of the world but when you feel you can only afford the defence fee and associated costs once a year it does add a lot of pressure. I bet if the VCDX defence fee was the same price as the VCP and there was one every month in all continents there would be hordes of people applying and people would be much less stressed. Obviously i know VMware actually losses money from the defences due to four people per defence not billing nevermind flights,accomdation etc so prices cant be dropped.

    • The money aside my point is that I see people get SO nervous in the defense and so pent up about it when the first question comes it is as if their whole life is hanging in the balance. The money expense aside that’s got nothing to do with it once you are there and in the room and go into lockup mode when you get asked a question. I am just saying, perspective is everything. You go into it KNOWING you will get questioned on things, so it should not be a surprise….so relax a bit.

  2. Joseph Griffiths

    As a person who had to pay for his VCDX himself I understand Gregg’s perspective. It’s really about how you approach the challenge. I hate to say it but VCDX is not about technical knowledge it’s about aligning customer requirements to technology. It’s also about presentation skills. You have to treat it like a customer meeting and you are the expert. You interpersonal skills will get your very far in the defense. You have to remember if you are invited to defend you have already proved the technical part. It’s a lot like a job interview: first the phone interviews which test technical knowledge and personality, then the interview in person to make sure you don’t pick your nose or dress like a 70’s disco star. VCDX defense is about not looking like a 70’s disco star. You become a brand bearer for VMware and they have to protect that brand. I had a great time in my defense it was the easy part for me. The hard part is all the long VCDX writing sessions. Once you get to defense enjoy it.

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