I received some questions from VMware and thought that it would be fun to write this blog as a mock interview, but first let's begin with learning a little about VMware certification tracks.
VMware offers certifications in cloud management and automation, data center and network virtualization, and desktop and mobility. As a leader in the virtualization space, VMware certifications are a must-have for many IT professionals, especially those who work in data centers and/or support virtual environments.
VMware certifications are based on a version of the associated technology, which means VMware certifications change in response to technology changes. Be aware, though, that certification updates lag behind the release of new virtualization technology.
VMware Version certifications fall into four categories:
Associate certifications typically require passing a single exam to achieve certification. Candidates for Professional and Advanced Professional certifications must either take a training course or earn a prerequisite certification and pass an exam. To obtain a VCIX, candidates must earn two VCAP credentials.
Achieving a VCDX certification is more involved. Candidates must first obtain multiple prerequisite certs, then create a production-ready VMware solution and defend it in front of a panel.
Now that we have discussed the certification tracks let's jump into the interview about certifications from VMware and AdvizeX.
This interview is held between VMware and AdvizeX employees Chris Miller who is a Principal Architect and Brandon Seymour, a Virtualization Architect, Patrick Stasko, a Solutions Architect, and Jamie Carlson a Principal Networking Lead. You can find out more information on Chris and Brandon from a previous blog on being a vExpert that I wrote.
VMware: Why did you decide to take your first test and what was your motivation?
Chris Miller, AdvizeX Principal Architect: The first certification test(s) I took was the MCSE NT 4.0. My motivation at the time was enhancing my resume, gaining knowledge from the associated training, and giving my early career a boost by obtaining a certification that was in high demand at the time.
Brandon Seymour, AdvizeX Virtualization Architect: I wanted a career in IT and so I pursued my MCSE in NT 4.0. This also included training and certifications in Novell, and A+ through a technology school after the military. My first VMware certification was VCP-DCV5.0 and was taken to enhance my career in virtualization while working as a Enterprise Systems Administrator for a local University.
Patrick Stasko, AdvizeX Solutions Architect: Career Advancement.
Jamie Carlson, AdvizeX Principal Networking Lead: In 1998, it seemed one of the best set certifications out there was a combination of having the Novell Certified Engineer and being a Cisco Certified Network Professional. It was a great combo. It opened a lot of doors as I was leaving the Navy in 2000. My first exam was a Certified Novell Administrator.
VMware: What was your journey for the first test?
Chris Miller, AdvizeX Principal Architect: My journey for all of the test, involved a 4 week boot camp in Atlanta, GA. It was very interesting to me because I had not traveled out of state much up until that point (I was only 21 years old at the time). My employer at the time, an Internet ASP (I think we call this SaaS now :) ), offered to pay for boot camp training since we had big plans and our application was built on Microsoft technologies. Having certified folks on staff also helped lend credibility when we attempted to secure funding for future growth. We had an opportunity to receive a big discount on the training and I took it.
Brandon Seymour, AdvizeX Virtualization Architect: My journey was similar to that of Chris in that I also attended a boot camp for my MCSE and for my VMware certification I started with my employer at the time sending me to a local VAR for a week of training.
Patrick Stasko, AdvizeX Solutions Architect: A lot of book studying. Cramming. Memorizing port numbers and other facts that you would normally reference anyways.
Jamie Carlson, AdvizeX Principal Networking Lead: I had a lot of experience managing a Novell network that ran on Cabletron and later Cisco switches. It didn’t take much for me to self-study and take the Novell exam to start me as a CNA.
VMware: Were you nervous, how did you study?
Chris Miller, AdvizeX Principal Architect: I wasn't nervous but mostly because I've been a good test taker throughout high school and college. In the boot camp, the format was 3 or 4 days of 10-hour-per-day training and taking an exam the morning of the 4th/5th day. I believe there were 5 total exams and most of the evenings were spent studying further, so I didn't get to enjoy my trip very much outside a day or so on the weekend. Throughout the boot camp training class, I focused very hard on the material and payed close attention to the instructor. Outside of class there were attempts to study, but the friends I made while there the first week and I moved our study sessions outside to the hotel pool and productivity took a dive w/ the rest of us.
Brandon Seymour, AdvizeX Virtualization Architect: I put in a lot of time studying in groups with others pursing the MCSE certification. My VMware certification journey was a bit different in that I utilized a lot on online communities like vBrown Bag.
Patrick Stasko, AdvizeX Solutions Architect: Read. Highlight. Write important facts/figures I needed to memorize down on a notebook to commit to my internal.
Jamie Carlson, AdvizeX Principal Networking Lead: I was really nervous. I was doing it all on my own. A test was like $65 at the time. No one reimbursed me for their cost, and if I failed I’d have to take it again. The funny thing was that Novell at the time used exams that gave weighted questions based on previous answers. So, if you could answer a couple of hard questions, you could breeze right through. The shortest Novell test was five minutes long and it consisted of eleven questions. The Microsoft test takers would be crying as the Novell test takers would come in and leave. The joke eventually was on the Novell folks. After all, “what’s Novell?”
VMware: How did it benefit your career as well as your community?
Chris Miller, AdvizeX Principal Architect: The impact on my career wasn't immediately obvious. I returned home to the same job, spent a year working until like many other dotcoms we went bankrupt, and began looking for another job in a saturated market. The certification played zero role in finding my next job as I took a position with a bank where I knew folks in the IT department based on a past business relationship w/ the bank's IT group (the dotcom hosted some services in their data center). However my personal knowledge swelled considering my background was mostly networking until I attended the boot camp. The training helped tremendously with my daily job responsibilities, especially troubleshooting, but since I spent 7 years at the bank and didn't keep the certification current, I don't feel the certification had much of an impact on my career. The lesson here is that training and knowledge is more valuable than the cert once you get the job, and for most people it would help you find a job provided the entire technology economy didn't just crash and burn 4 months earlier.
Brandon Seymour, AdvizeX Virtualization Architect: I was hired right out of school by a internet provider and it wasn't what I had imagined. I was responsible for troubleshooting internet connections issues for dial-up customers and also built websites for customers. I will always remember this one call in which the customer kept dropping calls whenever his wife used the bathroom, which shared a wall with the computer and modem on the other side. When she would run the hair dryer the modem would lose connection. My VMware certification help change the direction of my career which at that point was just enterprise systems administration. My journey into virtualization led to me becoming an evangelical for VMware in my community. I currently serve as the local Rochester VMUG Leader and of course I blog.
Patrick Stasko, AdvizeX Solutions Architect: It solidified knowledge as internal IT worker that I was the VMware guy. In a sales role now, it’s a required check box. I believe it had more benefit to me when I was internal IT than in pre-sales.
Jamie Carlson, AdvizeX Principal Networking Lead: I would never had been able to obtain my first position at UUNet in 2000 if I had not received my CCNA and CNE. I quickly moved up and received my CCDP and CCNP in 2001. I never re-certified any of my Novell certifications going heavily into Cisco Systems networking. I later moved out to Juniper Networks, Meru Networks wireless, HP Networking, and finely Aruba Networking. It became apparent that understanding a set of vendors in a focus area was much more advantageous than being a vendor expert.
VMware: Knowing what you know today, what are some of the pain points in this certification that you can share with your audience?
Chris Miller, AdvizeX Principal Architect: The biggest pain point IMO with at least the MCSE (at the time), and my understand is this problem is greater now due to the algorithms involved with the test, is dealing with an adaptive test. It seems when you are doing well the test pulls questions from the deepest, darkest corners of the training material and can prove challenging. Also the sheer number of trick questions and questions that are worded such that multiple answers really would apply makes testing difficult. Be ready for anything and if you are testing for a technology you can obtain and practice with, do not hesitate to do so. Also never give up. Failing a certification test should be considered a $200 practice round, do not let it demotivate you. Later in my career my #1 testing strategy was to take a test without studying, see how well I do, try to remember what I struggled w/ the most, and to study in this context. It also gives you a good idea how "tricky" the creators of the exam are with respect to content.
Brandon Seymour, AdvizeX Virtualization Architect: I agree with Chris in that if you fail the first time don't be discouraged and remember that others have gone before you so reach out for support. A lot of these certification tests are progressive in that they change up depending on how well you are answering the questions so you need to know the information. Take advantage of communities like vBrown Bag because they put on study sessions to assist.
Patrick Stasko, AdvizeX Solutions Architect: You will need to memorize what I would normally consider reference-able material which is a pain in the butt.
Jamie Carlson, AdvizeX Principal Networking Lead: Know the exam and also know the job or technology. In the Cisco Systems world, and I assume there are many vendors like this, there are three answers to every test question. There is the wrong answer. There is the correct answer. But, most importantly, there is the correct Cisco Systems answer. Some vendors are worse than other. Instead of testing you on how to implement and manage the technology, they also want you to know how to increase their market share and lower others. Cisco Systems was always very good at that.
For more information on certifications with VMware please visit MyLearn.