Milestone Achieved: VCIX-DCV

Backstory

At VMworld 2018, I sat and passed both the VCP6.5-DCV Delta exam and the VCAP6.5-DCV Design exam (immediately prior to announcements that exam titles were changing). I had originally signed up to attend the VCAP6-DCV Deploy Workshop at the event – it was cancelled as I was the only registrant. For some reason, this discouraged me and I put the idea of taking the Deploy exam out of my mind.

Last month saw VMworld 2019. During registration, I promised myself that I would take the VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam if it were offered. During registration, I found it available at 50% of the normal $450 cost and immediately added it. An email only a day or so later informed me that there would be no lab-based exams offered at VMworld 2019. I was a bit let down because I didn’t know whether I would be able to force myself to sit the exam outside of the event. I envisioned that my purchase would be refunded – I was wrong. VMware Education Services gave me a voucher to be used within two weeks following VMworld 2019. The voucher could only be used post-VMworld which I found to be oddly strict, but nevertheless – I booked my exam for 9/13 at 11am.

There are two reasons that I like to take Beta and VMworld exams: First, they’re typically half-off  the cost of the exam. The second is that it gives me an opportunity to sit an exam to learn exactly what it might be like. Should I need to take it again I’ll have not completely broken the bank.

I have been afraid of this exam for the better part of a year. The VCAP-DCV Deploy exam is a lab-based exam where you are to act in a “live” environment. My exam was made up of 17 questions and I was given 3.5 hours to complete those questions.  The purpose of this is to simulate “real world” scenarios. Which is exactly why I had been afraid of the exam – I’m afraid to find out that I’m not as good as I think I am in the discipline which has built my career. Because of this, I opted to sit the exam without brushing up on concepts. This was a really personal exam for me.

Note: I did perform a HoL or two as it is said the environment is very similar. I wanted it to feel almost natural when taking the exam.

Another note: It looks and acts like an HoL, but feels nothing like one.

Exam Experience

The VCAP-DCV Deploy exam is almost legendary at this point. Not at all because of how fun the exam is, but instead because of how difficult it is to successfully sit the exam. I say that regardless of what the score is – the exam itself seems to be very difficult to even launch. I follow countless people on Twitter who had to reschedule exams as a result of failures related to locations successfully launching the lab environment… I was no exception.

After the exam proctor left the room, I sat staring at a blank monitor for approximately two minutes before the exam “started.” What launched for me initially was an advertisement for the VMware Learning Zone. I’m all for plugging the Learning Zone – except that I couldn’t exit the advertisement and no lab loaded. I sat for five minutes before I clicked the Privacy Information link on the page. This brought me to www.vmware.com where I was still stuck in a web browser without any way to proceed. I retrieved my exam proctor who promptly powered off the system and restarted it.

In my second attempt, the exam started! Almost. When you boot a Hands on Lab, you generally get the message that it will take only this handful of seconds to boot the lab.

HoLStartup

I found myself staring at an image much less crisp than the one above for almost ten minutes before I reached the desktop of the Control Station VM. Mind you – this was while my Time Remaining counted down from 3:30:00. At the desktop of the Control Station VM, I launched a browser and found the bookmarks for several different vCenter Servers – all of which took another five minutes to be available for login.

Eventually, I successfully find my way into vcsa01a.corp.local and begin looking around at the infrastructure. At this point, I’m poking around because my lab manual (re: where the exam questions are supposed to be) is still stuck loading. I attempted to change Consoles several times to see if I could jar the manual alive. I could not. I retrieved my exam proctor who gave me an unscheduled break (which still eats away at your time).

My proctor was very apologetic. I wasn’t angry with him. After all, I’ve heard how difficult this exam is. It was still a nice sentiment that he just wanted me to be able to sit what he surmised was a long, arduous exam. He placed me at another computer and sat with me while the lab environment booted up again. This time was successful. After all was said and done, I had 2:50:00ish left on the clock. After this, it was mostly smooth sailing as far as the lab environment was concerned. The proctor was sure to get some feedback to share with Pearson on the experience. He wished me well and hoped I’d hear results soon.

Lessons Learned

In all honesty, I found the exam to be quite enjoyable. It was challenging at times to determine what information may or may not be important to a question. It was enjoyable to use some troubleshooting to solve problems that I just don’t see in my environment.

Lesson 1: This exam was based on vSphere 6.5 Update 1 which was released some time ago. I’ve been running vSphere 6.7 Update 2 at work for almost six months. I wasted roughly ten to fifteen minutes looking through the HTML 5 client for settings which I knew were there but couldn’t find. It took me a while to remember that the HTML 5 client was not yet complete in vSphere 6.5 Update 1. The Flash client had things right where I thought they’d be.

Lesson 2: Time management! I read some blogs about exam experience from a handful of different people – time is of the essence in this exam. I found myself going down a rabbit hole for a question or three and needed to stop myself. I forced myself to move on, wrote down the question I was working on, and came back to it after I did everything else. I ran this exam down to the moment where it shut me down (I submitted for grading with 10 seconds left for fear that auto-logout would fail me!) as a result of lost time. Had I had the extra 40 minutes or so, I’d have felt a lot more comfortable.

Lesson 3: Don’t take an exam of this stature on a Friday if you don’t want to worry all weekend about the silly things you might have missed in hindsight. I wanted my exam results but had read that it would take 4-6 weeks to receive them. That didn’t stop me from logging in every night checking www.mylearn.vmware.com to see if a new certification was available. I was pleasantly surprised to receive favorable results only two business days after I took the exam!

Outcome

I received my passing score at 8:41pm the following Tuesday. At 3am on Wednesday, VMware issued me digital badges to share with everyone! By passing my second VCAP, I’ve earned the Milestone of VMware Certified Implementation Expert – Data Center Virtualization 2018! I’m very proud of myself – this was a deeply personal journey for me.

Why VCIX-DCV 2018 and not 2019?

While VMware Education has yet to release an updated VCAP-DCV Deploy for vSphere 6.7, they’ve already released a new VCAP-DCV Design 2019 exam. Were I to upgrade my VCAP Design, I would likely receive the VCIX-DCV 2019 Milestone instead. I’m not sure it’s worth another $450 to me.

Stay tuned for some next steps… !!

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