My VCAP5-DCA Experience

Like many people who go through the process of attempting to achieve VCAP (VMware Certified Advanced Professional) level certification, I’m going to share some of my journey. To summarize, for those who are mostly curious about the result, I passed on my first attempt after being 100% convinced there was no way I would pass. Since this site was down during the earlier stages, I’ll also include my VCP and VCA experiences.

VCP
VMware’s VCP certification requires that you attend one of their classes. This set the barrier reasonably high from a cost perspective. Since I have worked with vSphere for over 5 years, I opted to do the Optimize and Scale class because it has the most relevance to my current role. During the week of the online class, I used the many breaks to read Bill Furguson’s “The Official VCP5 Certification Guide” published by VMware Press. I scheduled the exam for a week after my class to ensure what I learned was fresh.

The testing center PC was pretty antiquated and slow, but I completed the test within the allotted timeframe. I didn’t really pay attention to the official blueprint prior to the test, otherwise I would have known to dig deeper into some areas. I won’t mention the specifics, simply because of the NDA around the test, sorry. Just know that you need to know everything on the blueprint! This test gives you the score immediately and I was surprised to have passed. I credit my many years of working with various operating systems for giving me the ability to make educated guesses when I wasn’t sure of the answer. This was the hardest test I think I have ever taken–even compared to the VCAP test.

I scheduled the exam for late in the afternoon, which also happens to be one of the times I have the least amount of focus. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be allowed to have my phone in the room with me. I’m sure that was an oversight on my part with some of the communication. Being on a rotating on-call schedule makes availability very important so it is worth noting, especially for scheduling any future exams.

VCA
I didn’t pay much attention when VMware announced the VCA entry level certifications at VMworld. I had completed my VCP at this point, so it didn’t make sense to spend any money on the tests. Then they started giving out free testing vouchers… I opted to go into the VCA-DCV cold and passed with a very strong score. I went through the online class for the VCA-Cloud and then did that exam, and got a passing score… definitely not a stellar score, but passing. I’m planning to spend some time playing the vCloud stuff soon.

VCAP
On to the main topic… After passing the VCP5-DCV test, I wasn’t sure how far I wanted to take the certification process. And I don’t know that I have that answer yet, either. I started to research the VCAP5-DCA exam since that was the next logical step with my hands-on admin experience. It was during this process that I came across the many VCAP exam experience posts that walked people through the process of taking the exam. During VMworld Europe, a 50% discount code was available and I took that opportunity to register for the exam. The exam had to be scheduled for no later than Dec 31st, so I scheduled it for Saturday, December 28th in the morning. I wanted a weekend so that I didn’t have work-related stress knowing that I can’t have my phone in the room with me. After retrieving my phone, I had a message about some problems and I spent the drive home discussing them with a colleague.

The DCA (Data Center Administration) exam has 26 multi-part tasks testing hands-on administration and troubleshooting skills. The single biggest factor in this exam is time management. The approach I used was to write 1 through 26 on the dry-erase board, then go through all of the tasks to determine if they are creation (C) or admin (A) tasks and make a note of the type of task (DRS, Networking, Storage, etc). Most of the tasks are fairly independent, however, there are some admin tasks that build on creation tasks. For example, you might have a creation task that sets up DRS and then an admin task later that has you configuring DRS rules. I went back to the beginning and started moving through the exam as quickly as I could, focusing on the ones I knew the subject matter the best. By the end of the allotted testing time, I still hadn’t started on 5 or 6 of the questions, if I recall correctly. I thoroughly enjoyed taking the test, and simply chocked it up to a good experience that I would have to redo. I just didn’t think I had finished enough of the questions to pass. At the end of the exam, you simply get a message stating that the exam will be scored and that you should expect the result within a few weeks (I think they say 15 business days).

Well, I got my results on January 6th. I was nervous opening the attached PDF even though I was sure I didn’t pass. I opened it on my phone, so I had to scroll down to see the score and grade. I was practically jumping for joy when I read my score and that I actually passed! And then a certain level of disappointment set in… I was looking forward to taking it again!

For studying, “The Unofficial Official VCAP5-DCA Study Guide” by Jason Langer and Josh Coen was my primary go to guide. They link to a number of other sites, whitepapers, and reference materials that dig fairly deep into the topics. I also did a simply Google search on “VCAP DCA exam experience” and read just about every post I could find.

Thanks to the wonderful community that has put together all the resources! Now on to the VCAP5-DCD…

Site is back…

I had to pull the server from the data center a while back and never got things fired up elsewhere. Digital Ocean to the rescue. I’m planning to post more as a learn and grow, particularly in my VMware journey and long range shooting.

That’s it for now… post about my VCAP5-DCA experience coming soon.

-David

It works!

The IT realm is filled with lots of promises from vendors. They always have the perfect product that will rarely fail and when it does, of course, it will do so gracefully, within the expected high availability (HA) specifications. I’ve had the displeasure of working with some Cisco PIX firewalls that would stop passing traffic and not automatically fail over. The Cisco RPS units also leave a lot to be desired, but that is another story–short version, hit a button, reboot your switches. My experience over 18 years of IT work tells me to plan around any advertised HA scenarios as much as possible.

This story is about VMWare. I have been spearheading a large transition to a virtualized environment, replacing a number of aging physical systems. At this point, we are up to about 150 virtual servers, mostly spread across 8 servers in 2 clusters. The promise of VMWare’s HA is that if a physical node goes offline, magic happens and the virtual machines restart automatically on another node in the cluster. Well, it worked as advertised! (Just in case you hadn’t guessed from title) A node in one of our clusters decided to lock up hard, and the 9 or so virtual machines running on it restarted immediately on other nodes. We ran into other issues of our own doing–some services don’t autostart–but the HA functionality was a success. I still need to write up a formal incident report, though, since our only non-load-balanced web server was running on that node and has a non-standard startup mechanism, which resulted in about 10 minutes of downtime. The only consolation there was that it was late in the day and the sites on it are used in the mornings.

-Geek

Management

I’ve entered a new realm in my professional career. I’ve jumped from just a geek to a geek with sub-geeks. I was recently promoted to “IS Director” for the company where I work. This is definitely a challenging position, where I am responsible for a fairly substantial budget, technical direction, and overall uptime of the 150+ systems, along with making sure the 3 people on my team are effective at what they do each day.

I’ve had the privilege of working for a few really good managers, as well as some that shouldn’t be in management. The one thing that stands out to me for the better ones is that you always know where you stand. Consistent feedback on performance is important. I’ve personally been blind-sided during annual reviews with things that should have been brought up 9 or 10 months previously–I don’t want to manage like that. I want my team to always be striving to perform their best and knowing where they need to make improvements. I also expect them to share their feedback about my performance.

Micro-management is also one of the problem areas in the IT world. There are many ways to accomplish the same thing. The end result is the primary goal, not always the way we get there. This is something that is going to be hard for me. My personal style is to want to do things my way, unless someone can show or describe to me a better way. The company hires some of the best talent available and they should be treated as such–this is decidedly an area they will need to provide feedback to me about how I am doing.

I see this as a significant challenge, provided by God. He knows my future and this is an opportunity to learn and grow, and lean on Him more over the next chapter in my life.

-Geek

Serving God

I’m sitting at church right now, behind the sound board, listening to my pastor teach. I am simply awed by the privilege it is to serve, to help people worship the Almighty Creator.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with serving under certain people’s leadership. I have to serve. God has wired me this way. I haven’t always had the right attitude when serving, and I apologize to those I have offended or hurt over the years.

I feel so blessed to serve with so many people talented, giving people. Service is so much easier when everyone has a single goal of bringing people to the throne of grace. We all need grace, and it is only by the grace of God that I am sitting here.

Thank You, Lord