I was reading Josh Odger’s post on the VCDX Defense. Josh’s article can be summarised with the following part:
As a result, the candidate should be an expert in the design being presented and answering questions from the panel about the design should not be intimidating.
Having gone through the process myself, knowing many of the VCDX’s and having been on countless of panels I completely disagree with Josh. Sure, you do need to know your design inside/out… but, it is not about “who’s having an advantage”, the panel member is not there to fail or pass the candidate… they are there to assess your skills as an architect!
If you look at the defense day there are three parts:
- Defend your design
- Design scenario
- Troubleshooting scenario
For the design and troubleshooting scenario you get a random exercise, so you have no prior knowledge of what will be asked. When it comes to defending your design of course you will know your design (hopefully) better then anyone else. However, the questions you get will not necessarily be about the specifics or details of your design. The VCDX panel is there to assess your skills as an architect and not your “fact cramming skills”. A good panel will ask a lot of hypothetical questions like:
- Your design uses NFS based storage, how would FC connected storage have changed your design?
- Your design is based on capacity requirements for 80 virtual machine, what would you have done differently when the requirement would be 8000 virtual machines?
- Your design …
So when you do mock exams, prepare for these types of hypothetical questions. That is when you really start to understand the impact decisions can have, and when during your defense you get one of these questions and you do not know the answer make sure you guide the panel through your thought process. That is what differentiates someone who can learn facts (VCP exam) and someone who can digest them, understand them and apply them in different scenarios (VCDX exam).
As I stated, it may sound like that you knowing your design inside out means having a big advantage over the panel members but it probably isn’t… that is not what they are testing you on! Your ability to assess and adapt are put through the wringer, your skills as an architect are tested thoroughly and that is where you will need to do well.