Back on the Certification Train: VCAP6-DCV Design

Do certifications matter? When talking about the industry, that’s a subject for a blog post (or series) all on its own.  When talking about myself, the answer is “it depends” – where the dependence is on time period and mood.  For the first 1/4 of my career I simply didn’t think about certifications at all. Then for the next 1/4 I was quite dismissive of certifications after having seen too many certification holders who displayed little or no competence in the areas in which they were “certified.” My opinion changed after my experience with the reality of the recruiting-HR complex, for whom certifications are often first-line filters, and after seeing first-hand the business value of certifications for value-added resellers (VARs).  After achieving a handful of certifications, I then became practically addicted to them for several years – so much so that at one point I sat & passed seven certification exams in less than a 3 month period (4 of which were 3hr+ VCAP exams).

But then, somehow, I stopped. It wasn’t a deliberate decision for me – it just sort of happened.  Similar to this blog, my attention simply seemed to go elsewhere and before I realized it a fairly long period of time had passed by without my having achieved any new certifications. In fact, I realized a few weeks ago that it had been so long that my VCP certs were actually about to expire (on September 4th) – and that’s not something I wanted to have happen. Luckily, passing a VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) exam has a side benefit of also renewing/extending any of your existing VCPs – and since it had been so long for me, there are now quite a few VCAPs I need to obtain.  I decided to start with what I would consider the cornerstone advanced VMware certification: VCAP6-DCV.

I won’t try to list all of the available study materials out there for this exam.  Many people have already done a good job with this and I’d much rather let them have the credit.  One of the more comprehensive and useful ones is by Andras Herceg (@Konflikt_) on his vThing blog:  https://vthing.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/vcap6-dcv-design-study-resources/comment-page-1/ 

Ultimately, despite all of this good work that had been done collecting relevant background material for the exam, I wasn’t going to have time to review all of it. I decided to review just two things:  the exam blueprint (the one essential resource for any exam, obviously) and the courseware for the VMware vSphere: Design and Deploy Fast Track which the VMware Certification page recommends as a pre-requisite before sitting the VCAP6-DCV.  For the courseware I was lucky: as a VMware employee I was able to review it without actually attending the class. I’ve attended older versions of the vSphere Design class in the past, and while the v6 release is clearly improved and updated for vSphere 6, the core fundamentals of vSphere design have not changed.  If you’ve taken a vSphere Design class in the past, reviewing that courseware along with the changes specific to vSphere 6 would be a good starting point.

So how was it?  Really good, actually – in fact, the best VCAP design exam experience I’ve had.  The reduction in the number of questions greatly reduced the focus on time management and let’s you focus strictly on the questions themselves – this is probably the single best improvement over older design exams.  The user interface, though, has also been greatly improved:  while the basic look & feel appears unchanged, the responsiveness and speed of the UI is massively better – it was a night & day difference.  Add in the little UI enhancements discussed here, particularly the + trick to repeat canvas elements in the diagram questions, and the exam has managed to remove most of the frustrating issues I’ve had with it in the past.  Great job by the VMware Education team!

Happily, I passed the exam on my first try so the pressure’s no longer there on the VCP expiration issue.  The exam experience has also reminded me of how much I enjoy taking these technical exams – yes, I know that’s strange and unpopular, but oh, well… After VMworld I’m looking forward to buckling down and getting all of my VCAPs updated, as well as the newer VCPs (I am sad that passing the VCAPs no longer also gets you the associated VCP; I may enjoy taking tech exams but I’m not a masochist!).  I’m also overdue for some non-VMware exams – most likely something “cloudy”.  After a (relatively) long time, it feels good to be back in motion!
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