Crazy that is. Certifiably crazy. Not quite straight jacket lock me up at Arkham though it may go criminal before long.
[Note: This post was scheduled to upload before VMworld US and somehow I managed to screw it up. As such VMware has made some cool announcements about their certifications which I’ll go into my thoughts on an upcoming post. I still find most of the items valid in this post so I went ahead and posted. Thanks for reading!]
Ok, that was a bit of a harsh opening but hopefully this post will serve as some relief and provide some valuable and actionable feedback to VMware. While working on this post I talked with my VMware TAM (greatest in the world BTW) and outlined some of my issues. He was kind enough to connect me with Erik Ullanderson, the new Director of Certification at VMware. Mr Ullanderson’s new to the job after serving several years managing certifications at Cisco so my gripes are not really much under his watch. This did not prevent him from being very receptive, engaged, and encouraging of blunt feedback. For that I am very appreciative because that’s one way I communicate. :)
Here’s my beef in a nutshell. VMware is making great strides to provide meaningful training and certifications. I think they have some great things going to meet the needs of specialists on their technology and I think this is only going to get better. Unfortunately I have found myself facepalming on a regular basis lately when mapping out my own certification path.
Facepalm 1: VCP upgrade timeframe.
Thoughts: I am very familiar with VMware’s penchant for providing a buffer for upgrading the VCP without any additional requirements. I’m not against this and I’m not going to give them too much of a hard time. The v3 to v4 migration had to be extended due to limited scheduling opportunities at testing centers but I do not recall hearing much problem with the deadline this year so this may have been addressed. There will be some overlap on this in an upcoming section. The v4 to v5 provided a good 3 months to upgrade. Notifications went out pretty widespread. All good there.
Changes: I’m an advocate of providing a 6 month window for the upgrade from the time the exam is made available, NOT from when the exam has been announced. This is a small matter really, just a thought. Much of my thinking on this is related to providing overlap with VCAP release as mentioned in upcoming sections. In my conversation with Mr. Ullanderson I also pointed out that my expectation of a longer window spawns primarily because there are now over 125,000 VCP holders and the number of people achieving VCAP certification is growing at a good pace. It may be time to re-evaluate this period to provide more scheduling flexibility.
Facepalm 2: Make it Official. Earlier.
Thoughts: It appears that it is common knowledge that if you have your VCDX on a version you will have that certification upgraded by passing the most recent VCAP-DCD (DataCenter Design) exam. This is completely fair and I’m glad to see this continue. My question though is, if the DCD is good enough to upgrade a higher level certification why is it not a given that it will do the same for the lower graded VCP?
It was “RUMORED” in the fall that by passing the upgraded VCAP-DCD exam you would also update your VCP to v5. This was NOT confirmed prior to the February 29th deadline for VCP upgrades which meant that all VCAP holders were left wondering if they needed to upgrade their VCP before the deadline or not. Unless I’m mistaken, even with the VCAP5-DCD Beta running during February I do not recall any official announcement on this. Since the Beta results didn’t arrive for several weeks later it was still a risk most VCP holders couldn’t take.
Who is supposed to be looking at the calendar? This put an unnecessary extra effort on existing VCAP holders and demonstrated lack of vision and communication on the part of VMware. This should have been a no brainer, yet the announcement of the upgrade option wasn’t announced officially until well past the February 29th deadline.
Changes: I’m advocating that VMware make it standard policy that a VCAP upgrade exam be all that is required to upgrade your VCDX (with VCAP-DCD) as well as your VCP on a technology. I am making this broader since I’m sure we’re going to see more VCAP/VCDX certifications evolve. Clearly if someone is functioning at this level the additional effort is redundant and of little value to anyone involved. . While it appears that this is the case from the blueprints, I don’t think that this option is being properly emphasized in a timely manner. No commitments on new certifications from Mr. Ullanderson, but in truth I didn’t expect any right now. I did ask of course. :)
Facepalm 3: VMworld Testing
Thoughts: VMware misses opportunities to save their customers money and provide those seeking their certifications fewer challenges. I do not necessarily think this is intentional, I simply think people aren’t really looking at calendars or making phone calls.
VMworld: It’s been announced that certification exams will be available during VMworld at a 50% discount. This is a fantastic opportunity for people to save money while at the conference. In addition some people will be traveling in for the conference who do not have a testing center in their area, especially VCAP facilities. Win Win! Bravo VMware!
What baffles me is that the deadline for the VCAP5-DCD upgrade path without VCP5 (since it now updates your VCP) is August 17th. This is two weeks prior to the end of VMworld. Would it have really been so difficult to extend the deadline to August 31 so that those looking to upgrade could have done so at VMworld at the reduced rate? A little look at the calendar could have provided a nice opportunity to VCAP holders looking to upgrade.
The same goes for the VCAP-DCA and Barcelona. The upgrade period ends on October 9th while VMworld Europe STARTS on October 9th and runs through the 11th. Seriously, this could have been extended a few days. Even better, make the deadline the same for both to better accommodate customers who must travel far for a testing facility.
Changes: I’d like to feel that VMware Education/Certification/Pearson are thinking about these things and making it work to improve the access to these exams at a discounted rate. Some folks (myself included) have had to shell out personal expense to attain these certifications. As mentioned many have to travel great distances so let’s make it easier for the customer here. In fairness I do not have quantified numbers on how many people who certify have to travel great distances. I do know I have read what I feel to be quite a few “My <insert cert> Experience” blog posts where this has been the case. If you had to travel more than 50 miles to get to a testing facility please leave a comment and your thoughts.
Facepalm 4: VMUG Advantage
Thoughts: I love the MyVMUG VMUG Advantage program. Love it. It provides great discounts, access to great content, and pays for itself pretty quickly…except if you want to schedule one of your VCAP5 exams. The VCAP exams are $400 each and that 20% discount would certainly help demonstrate the value of VMUG Advantage. I wanted to schedule my VCAP5-DCD upgrade and use a discount code. Uh oh. The exam was not listed. An email to MyVMUG yielded the following response:
“Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, we currently do not offer a VMUG Advantage discount for the VCAP5-DCD exam, and we have not received news from VMware on whether a discount code will be made available. We apologize for the inconvenience, and please let us know if you have any other concerns.”
OK, so it seems that they do not offer discounts on the VCAP5-DCD exam. Bummer because there are codes for both VCAP4 exams. This clearly isn’t a monetary exclusion so what gives here? Based on this email it would appear that VMware dropped the ball and perhaps VMUG didn’t think to ask. Mr. Ullanderson assured me that he’s looking into this and I’ll post an updated note if I get word that these codes are being made available and when.
Changes: If you’re going to offer the discount on certification exams, oversights like this just make it overly complicated. It also undermines the value of VMUG advantage and appears sloppy. I think a quick phone call could have resolved this issue. See, something like this:
VMware to VMUG and PearsonVue: “Hey guys, we’re going to be releasing the next VCAP exam soon. Let’s get it on the discount list for VMUG advantage. We want to make sure all subscribers can take advantage of that discount on day one.”
VMUG to VMware: “Awesome! We’re on it. We’ll make sure it’s available on launch day”
PearsonVue to VMUG and VMware “Sure thing, here’s the discount codes. They will be good effective the launch date”
Customer: “Sweet! I love VMUG Advantage! Great job guys!”
VMware: “Sweet! I love VMUG Advantage! Great job guys!”
VMUG: “Sweet! I love VMUG Advantage! Great job guys!”
Pearson: “No problem” :)
I want to be clear. I think VMware is doing some great things with respect to their certifications. I do not think VMware is working against us so much as not always thinking “about” us. As Mr. Ullanderson put it, “Education is personal.” He is quite right there. Many people I know work to gain certifications on their own without out much in the way of employer support. Preparation often takes tremendous amount of time, effort, and money. Sounds like a relationship to me!
I invest a great deal of energy in helping people prepare for their VMware certification exams, including my own. It was excellent getting to talk to Mr. Ullanderson about my thoughts and I was very appreciative of his time and receptiveness. He has agreed to further the discussion with me and the vBrownBag crew at VMworld if we can align our schedules. He wants to know your thoughts. He wants to know of ways to make the program better. I’d wager good money that he’ll be reading any and all comments to follow this post so please make sure to share. Perhaps next exam cycle I can spend less time with my face in my hands shaking my head and more time preparing for VCAP6-IaaS or something like that. :)
My goal is always to point out opportunities of improvement and provide potential solutions to problems. I’m confident that the comments to follow will let me know if I succeeded or not. Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing from you!