To be honest, I didn’t wanted to write a blog post about my VCAP5-DCD exam experience, since there are soooo many good articles and posts already online. Anyway, a lot of people were asking me what resources I used to be prepared for this exam to achieve the ….

vcap5-dcd

First of all… thanks a lot to everyone else who has created posts about their experiences. I think I read all of the existing posts about the VCAP5-DCD exam.

The following content is structured in the following way. If you are just interested in real facts… please go directly to the resources part 😉

  • What type of ‘learner’ am I
  • Why I did the exam
  • What resources are useful to pass the Exam
  • Personal hints and tipps on doing the exam

What type of ‘learner’ am I?

I don’t even know if the expression learner exists in the English language. Anyway I believe that everyone who is extending his knowledge needs to find out HOW he is learning in the best way. I don’t just focus here on VMware, I try to be as general as possible in the following description.

My school career showed me, that I am not a good learner in a traditional way.  If I have to read book with pure theory where I don’t have any practical relevant relationship I cannot focus on more than 2 pages. Even if I read 50 pages out of the book my mind was only really active for the first 3 minutes.

So what does this mean? I personally need a practical relationship to some ‘issues’/’events’ I experienced in my life. This experience can derive from the following:

1. having experienced something in the real world (“live the challenge”) -> Maximum personal involvement, but pretty expensive (time/cost consuming)

2. talking and listening to someone who had an experience of something similar (“feel the challenge”) -> Medium personal involvement, but it might be hard to find the right people in the correct domain (e.g. User groups, conventions, tech talks, vBeer, …)

3. reading from someone who had an experience (“read the challenge”) -> personal involvement is low, inexpensive within the world wide web.

The more personal an information is absorbed by me, the more I realize the challenge, the better and more attentive I can read/learn new things.

This is exactly the reason why I love technical blogs. People are describing things more concrete and related to their experiences in a very personal way. This is something a technical documentation or book typically does not (of course there are exceptions).

Technical documentations and books are pretty good resources and very important as well, but in my case I need a personal experience first and afterwards I can read the technical documentation much more attentive with much more take-aways, since I am than aware and can think about concrete usage of the information.

Another important thing for me is the following. If I am confronted with a lot of new information over multiple days in a specific time (Web-ex, classroom teach, breakout-sessions) I personally need a few weeks to handle all this data.

When I am ‘attacked’ by a lot of information which I was not able to process (e.g. during the class) I need a break from those topics. Even though I am not mentally- and active working on those things my brain seems to make progress on the data subconsciously (‘excuse me for the non-scientifical correctness’). And in many cases suddenly something is happening with me that I call ‘illumination’ … everything out of nothing makes totally sense  from one second to another (‘no joke, from time to time some mathematical facts I have never understood in school are suddenly illuminated in my mind 😉 you see it might take a verrry long time…. next step…  find out to accelerate the illumination phase).

As a third thing important fact it is mentionable, that I need pressure. Without time pressure, my efficiency is typically decreasing a lot.

To summarize it all…. What do I personally need to extend my knowledge in the best way? Personal involvement AND time for the illumination….

So let’s see how this works all out for the VCAP-DCD exam.

Why I did the exam

The why is always important. During my career I have met so many people with all kind of environments, I worked in a lot of projects and talked to so many experts and there is one thing I realised pretty soon.

It is incredibly important to have a good architectural design of an IT system. And it is so easy to screw IT systems up if you don’t do it right. Since I am working in the IT field as a professional (and not only as a geek/nerd who loves technologies) I was always impressed about people working in a very structured/methodological way. Today (until SKYNET rises) IT systems are supporting people AND/OR businesses. This leads to the fact that an IT system needs to align to a business. If you only look at an IT system as a summary of technical best practice you will probably have a great technical solution, but it will not be the best solution for a business itself.

The idea of creating/collecting business requirements and design/transform these information (and probably even implement them) into a solid technical solution is in my opinion a skill every architect should be capable of.

I knew from several discussions, blogs, books that VMware’s highest certification (#VCDX) is exactly about approving this skill set. Since the VCDX is still a long term goal for me, the VCAP-DCD exam was the right one to take.

So I decided to take the VCAP-DCD exam in the beginning of 2013. And I found so many good excuses to postpone it month for month since than (Projects, Master thesis, …). Since I am only focussing on VMware in my job I have already read the most common VMware literature that is recommend for any kind of vSphere related exam (VMware vSphere Design, Clustering Technical Deep Dive, …). I was often involved in Design tasks/creations within my job (projects/trainings/discussions) so the exam preparation was kind of long-term preparation with many situations where suddenly the (knowledge-) illumination has kicked in (ILLUMINATION).

As time was passing in August 2014 I was giving myself a deadline that I MUST pass the VCAP-DCD until December 2014 (PRESSURE).  So I started to learn more concrete to the blueprint…and to be honest… it was a real exciting AND effective way of learning since I already had the personal involvement and practical relationship during all of these years.

What resources are useful to pass the Exam

Now I am getting concrete about the resource I used to learn and pass the exam.

  • Exam blueprint : First of all – as for each VMware exam, the exam blueprint is the baseline for each kind of certification. I decided to take the 5.1 version because of the fact that I have worked almost one year in a very large vSphere 5.1 environment and requested the exam authorization somewhen in 2013.
  • Clustering Technical Deepdive & vSphere Design : IMO those 2 books are a compulsory reading if you want to extend your knowledge in the vSphere field.
  • #vBrownbag VCAP5-DCD Video sessions : When I met Alistaire Cooke (a big contributor of vBrownbag), during the vRockstar party at VMworld I was not aware that 1 week later I the video sessions will have a large portion   of my successfully passed exam. In those video session very good experts are talking about every objective of the exam blueprint. A must watch for everyone who wish to take the VCAP-DCD exam. Nick Marhshall has collected all Video parts together on his blog . Personally I have only focussed on those topics where I thought that I have the least knowledge.
  • VMware VCAP-DCD51 Doc package: Jason Langer created a great document about VCAP-DCD relevant documents and structured them according the exam blueprint. Most of the files are official VMware documents, that are probably out-dated now if you want to take the 5.5 exam. But anyway since the design methodologies (Paper about differences of conceptual vs. logical vs. physical design) are not pinned to a specific version it is a really useful resource as well.
  • VMware Best practices Technical Whitepaper
  • Blogs Blogs Blogs about VCAP-DCD : I will not be able to mention all I have read, but just google VCAP-DCD and you will find a lot of entries. Everyone has made different experiences with the exam… some are focussing on the timing, on the technical challenges in the exam or how they have learned for it. Just a few links I had in my bookmark list:
  • Gather hands-on design and technology experience

I know a lot of architects, telling me that an architect must not know too much technical details about their solution. Honestly I agree to a specific point of the view that an architect MUST not know every configured item in the physical design by heart. But at the same time I believe am sure the more detailed knowledge an architect has, the better his design decisions will be. So it is a big advantage if you want to study for the DCD exam that you are professional on a vSphere Operational/Administrational point-of-view. I would recommend everyone to do the VCAP-DCA exam first. It makes life and the learning much easier if you are very familiar with the technical details of a vSphere environment.

Personal hints and tipps on doing the exam

Doing a design exam is hard to learn for, since this something where the personal experience plays an important role. If you have worked in the VMware design field for a specific time, you know the technology very well and you want to improve this knowledge, define a concrete time frame when you want to do the exam. One month before the exam, start to use the resources mentioned above. Read them, understand them, try to think how these design methodologies, technical best practices would have changed your past projects.  Try not just to learn those things, understanding and illumination is the key topic to successfully pass the exam. The DCD is an exam where you always will be up to a point that you do not know everything.

One more hint… stay calm…the technical implementation especially of the design parts where you drag and drop items into a logical design is pretty bad… The flash application was hanging up 3 times during my exam and I needed to talk all the time with the pearson administrator so that he was able to restart the system and test. Those things are pretty pretty annoying…but IMO if you can’t change things, make the best out of it…. stay calm..don’t get nervous and take a mental break.

Make sure that the items are connect to each other (if you move one item all other connected items should move as well) BUT DON’T try to mark all of them in the end… the system always crashed in my case…

I am not sure if that was an unlucky accident in my exam or is fixed in the 5.5 version… but I would not risk it anymore.

So everyone who is going to go the VCAP-DCD journey… good luck and if you want more information about it, feel free to ask me.