Monday, November 21, 2016

#vDM30in30 11-12-2016 IT certifications - my 2016 results so far

I realize this post is not something to proudly announce to the world, but I also feel that I get enough questions from people just starting out that I thought I would share my experience - if nothing else, so others can learn from it :)

So far since I started with the goal of attaining IT certifications, I've only been able to successfully pass one relatively tough cert per year - and all have been VMware certifications (VCA doesn't count, that was a free voucher for an entry-level exam). 

When I started this year, I really wanted to "level up" my resume in regards to IT certifications. When I planned out 2016 back in January, I wanted to achieve at least two more VMware certifications, a Cisco certification, and a Linux Foundation certification. You can see the original plan from this post (which will be edited for 2017 in January again).

Results so far

The results so far fall in three categories:

1) Failed to even sit

There was one exam that, although I tried to study, I failed to cover the material in time and thus didn't even schedule it before the version was upgraded:

August 20, 2016 (last date exam was active) - Cisco CCNA 200-120 - only covered 30% of the material by exam due date - did not sit.

2) Sat (with mixed results)

I've sat three exams this year - all were taken at that time because of the discount offered, not because I had actually prepared properly... And you can tell they were taken at different times from my original plans:

June 26, 2016 - VCAP6-DCV deploy exam - half price during beta of $200 - passed!
August 29, 2016 - VCP6-DCV in VMworld 2016 - half price during VMworld of $113 - failed! 
September 22, 2016 - VCP6-NX for NSX 6.2  - super discount during beta of $50 - still hasn't been scored but I'm not sure I will pass it.

3) Still have to sit

In Black Friday 2015 I purchased a Linux Foundation bundle that included video training and the exam voucher. Last date I can take the exam for it to be valid is December 1st (in roughly a week). I just remembered that I hadn't scheduled it yet, so I've just done so

To note - my current employer does not provide incentives or pre-pay for certifications exams taken, so all risk is mine if I don't pass an exam. I'm almost sure that they will pay me back for a passed VMware exam since that is my main job - but that is the reason why I've taken exams in these dates, rather than actually preparing and paying for them until I felt ready, like I did my first few ones.

Actually, that's not entirely true. The VCAP5-DCD I was halfway through preparation when a voucher fell into my lap, to take the exam that week. I was very lucky to pass that one. And the LFCS exam, I've had a full year to prepare for, so there's no excuse there.


(ノ≧∇≦)ノ ミ ┸━┸

I think anyone can agree that my results have been terrible so far. There was bad planning, bad execution, and definitely no real commitment. With the excuse of "reach for the starts, if you fail you will land in the clouds" I've basically spent more money than I could have, while attaining only one new certification for now.

Clearly the time to take cheap VMware certification exams is around fall. I spent valuable time studying for CCNA in the summer that I should have focused on preparing for the VCP6-DCV exam that I failed (from overconfidence and little preparation). I should have tackled the CCNA in the first few months of the year, which was going to be the same cost no matter when I did it, and then focused on the VMware certs.

What was different with the exam I did pass? One reason why I passed the VCAP6 Deploy is that it maps much closer to my day-to-day job. This was an exam that I could lab, there were active HOLs that I could use to practice, and that tests tasks which I'm very familiar with. The rest of the exams, including several topics of the VCP which are not in use in my job, don't map as well to my job description and thus don't get the benefit of me needing and using the knowledge 8 hours a day.

For the VCP6-NV beta, I won't feel bad if I miss it. I took it on very short notice because the price was cheap (even for a beta), I have genuine interest in NSX, and I had just bought Elver's excellent study guide, which had been released during VMworld. I didn't have enough time to prepare for it, but I can live with a fail that pushed me to study and cost only $50, as this is an exam that I do want to pass for the long term.

Next steps

Clearly I have to invest this remaining week on my LFCS studies so that I don't add another failure to these results. I believe that the future is in Linux/BSD and that if I don't address this ASAP my relevance as an IT professional will go down.

I've already committed publicly to doing VCDX5-DCV by March, and I'm coming to the realization that I'm probably setting myself up for failure. If I'm going to submit a VCDX5 design document that I'm not ashamed of, I need to find a way to concentrate and dedicate hours to it - much more than I've been doing for everything else. That submission is $1200 or so by the way - not something to do halfheartedly.

If I don't pass the VCP6-NV, I will still want to do it; and I still want the CCNA and VCP6-DCV in 2017. The fact of the matter is that I won't feel satisfied until I pass these exams, since I don't feel I'm very far away and they are still relevant to me.

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