Tag Archives: career

VCP5 exam: Passed!

Today is August 29th, 2011. This also happens to be the day that the VCP-510 exam goes live, which is also known as the (VMware) VCP5 exam. My VCP4 number was in the 66000 range, and I really wanted a lower number this time around. I also wanted to get the exam out of the way long before the end of February 2012 “upgrade your VCP4 to 5 without taking any additional classes” deadline. After February 2012 you will be required to attend a “What’s New in vSphere 5″ class AND pass the exam in order to earn your VCP5 certification. People who hold the VCP3 were given a reprieve that allows them to take the shorter (read: less expensive) “What’s New in vSphere 5″ class and sit for the VCP5 exam. As with the VCP4, VCP3′s have until the end of February 2012 to take the “What’s New” course and pass the exam after which they will need to take the full vSphere 5 Install/Configure/Manage (or Troubleshooting) course before they can earn their VCP5 cert.

Side note: If you need to take a class JOIN VMUG Advantage! 20% off of classes and exams and you get access to official VMware coursework (visit the link for details). Yes it costs $200 per year but you don’t have to renew. If you are like me virtualization is becoming/has become integral to your career so you probably will renew when the time comes.

What can I say about the test? Nothing specific per the rules of course. I’ll keep my bullet points simple and ambigious:

  • Read the exam blueprint here (you will need to register for a VMware Learning account).
  • Read what “Andre” has to say about the beta version of the exam.
  • Remind yourself that much of what you know about configuring and administering VMware has NOT changed since 4.X.
  • Read the “vSphere 5 What’s New” documents that Duncan Epping has provided links to here.
  • Review the vSphere 5 documentation. Some of the PDF links don’t work but the other versions seem to. I think the VMware employees are all busy at VMworld right now and haven’t fixed the PDF’s yet.
  • The test is 85 questions total; it took me about 90 minutes to complete including about 10 questions I had marked for review.
  • If you passed the VCP4 exam, and feel you could still pass it today, I think you are well on your way to passing the VCP5.
  • The test is fair, in my opinion.
I think the exam is very similar in style, feel, and content to the VCP4 exam. I have about 3.5 years VMware experience, about a year of which is with ESXi 4 and the rest with 3.5. Most of that time was as an administrator of smaller VMware datacenters, but the advantage being that I worked with everything (VMware, Microsoft, EMC storage, Avamar backups) but the core switches (although I could handle what I needed to know for VMware if required). This means I got to do some vSphere setup and upgrades in addition to just administration. I think that it would be very difficult to pass the exam if I had nothing more than VMware administration experience, so if that is you I recommend going through some setups from empty standalone hosts to HA/DRS clusters.
What is next for me certification wise? Well the truth is the exam hasn’t been released yet, nor has the product for that matter. I should be able to answer that one after a few more press releases trickle out of VMworld.

Missing: the last 5 days. If found…..

Starting a new job is exciting, well it should be anyway. If you aren’t excited about it why would you have accepted the offer in the first place?

My first week at EMC was spent reading. Perhaps it is better described as an opportunity to learn what it is I don’t know, which is always more than you think. This is in no way a surprise or a source of frustration; I’ve come to realize that I work with some fairly unique (and highly skilled) individuals within the organization whose talents are in demand. The reading also helped prepare me to take an internal exam, which you must pass before you are given access to certain sources of technical information.

My immediate team is rather interesting. My team lead was at Cisco Live last week doing a variety of things EMC related and my coworker (peer if you will, although I wouldn’t use that term just yet) is going up to HQ (Hopkinton, MA) this coming week to perform a customer proof of concept demonstration. My purpose on the team is to be able to equal them as closely as is possible, and I can already tell you that it is going to be among the most challenging things that I have ever done in my career. My team is responsible for developing documents likethese, and I’ve been pouring over them and many like them as I’ll be expected to participate in exercises like that as soon as is possible.

Some things that have become obvious over the last week:

  1. If you paid any attention to the vSphere 5 launch this week and follow the top tech blogs you can’t help but notice that EMC employees that blog (particularly the vSpecialist team) were ready with article after article immediately after the launch. I use Google Reader (my feed list is linked in the left column of this page; EMC maintains a list here that is fairly accurate) and I was overwhelmed that day by post after post of analysis about the announcement. I don’t care if you like EMC or not; if you want timely analysis of virtualization news you should be following them.
  2. Hard work does pay off but luck never hurts. I busted my ass to get where I am today but it took an alignment of the planets to finally get me in the door at EMC. My advice to those who want in: network with employees (this is nothing new) and get to know recruiters (thank you LinkedIn). I had a very helpful recruiter who gave me some resume tips and then got that updated resume to who it needed to get to. I had applied to EMC at least seven previous times and I can assure you that getting an interview is not as easy as you would like. Oh and ifyou do interview and it went well BE PATIENT. Just trust me on that one.
  3. It is very cool to be among a very small number of people in the company who get to see or hear things first. I can’t really get into details but the fact that I got to learn something BEFORE people whose blogs I read religiously (and go to for news) is pretty exciting. For me it is just another reminder that much will be expected of me and that nothing less than 100% effort is going to cut it.
  4. When do all these people have time to write? It requires discipline that I do not yet have. Give me a few months though and I might be able to post some of that “Day 0″ news that is likely the biggest inspiration for them to author new posts. My closing thought: Great things lie ahead; I can’t wait.

July 11, my start date at EMC

First of all it needs to be said that living in Raleigh, NC is great if you work in IT. Within a 30 minute commute I have:

  • The company formerly known as Data General (developer of what is known as the EMC CLARiiON today. Head over to Apex (SW Raleigh) and you will find one of 3 EMC manufacturing plants in the world (ask your EMCsalesperson to get you an invite to “CLARiiON Days” if you want to see it)
  • A very nice NetApp campus that employs more and more people every day
  • Down the street from NetApp is a huge campus that houses this up and coming company called Cisco Systems
  • Someone called Red Hat; they employ quite a few people around here.
  • IBM, and bits of IBM that are now bits of Lenovo
  • GFI
  • National IT consulting firms such as Presidio, NWN, and at a reasonable distance from Raleigh Varrow
  • Tech heavy companies such as Cree, Allscripts, Tekelec, RTI, SAS, Siemens Medical, Nortel, and many others that I am only excluding for the sake of space

Getting back on point, I recently accepted an offer to be a Principal Engineer at EMC working on midrange storage solutions (technically my title is Principal Software Engineer but I think you would agree that is misleading). I’ll be working on integration and testing of current/future virtualization solutions (VDI included) with current/futureEMC midrange storage solutions (CLARiiON, VNX, VNXe). I wouldn’t be surprised if I test Microsoft platforms (SharePoint, SQL, and Exchange) as well given my background working with those products. I’m not sure what I could say that expresses how excited I am about this job. This is about as pure of an engineering role as I could ever hope for and I can only imagine that things I will get to work with and documentation that I will assist in creating. This job will absolutely require everything I have and then some and I absolutely cannot wait. Credit must be given where credit is due.

  • Mark McCullough (formerly of FHI) for moving me to your global infrastructure team and giving me to opportunity to work on an IT infrastructure that was about as bleeding edge as it can be (example: a 99% virtualized and coloed datacenter in late 2007 that supported multiple sites throughout Africa and Asia). Mark is one of those bosses who doesn’t have to tell you to do good work; you do it because you don’t want to disappoint him and make the IT infrastructure team look bad.
  • Pat Oliva (formerly of FHI) for being one of two people who combined to give me the most difficult technical interview I have ever seen; it has been my frame of reference when preparing for every interview since then. Pat also gets credit for teaching me most of what I know about a virtualized datacenters and high availability Microsoft platforms. Pat and Mark (and the next person on my list) worked hard to get FHI all the wonderful tech it has and truth be told it is the best setup I have ever seen. Pat also has this unique trick i dubbed the jedi mind trick; we used it many times for things such as a request to purchase an EMC Avamar platform for each of the two primary FHI datacenters. Very cool guy to be around.
  • Ken Rudd (formerly of FHI) for being the other half of my tech interview team and yet another key component of the development of the FHI IT infrastructure as it stands today. Like Pat he is a cool guy to work with and I’d work with them both again in a heartbeat.
  • Jon Rudol (FHI) for showing me what was possible with regard to a global international WAN. VoIP over 1000 msec latency links (including VSAT)? No problem. 2000 people coming into our Atlanta colo for Exchange, Sharepoint, and so on? Piece of cake. Global Cisco VoIP deployment? Easy, but I’ll need a helper. Those CME’s don’t configure themselves. Mix together good Cisco gear and Riverbed Steelhead WAN optimization appliances and suddenly anything is possible.

I truly feel that if you dropped the 5 of us in any company of (say) less than 20,000 people and we can make anything happen. We’ve all pulled out some major miracles over the years and when I describe them to people they come away truly impressed. I worked a lot of late nights and long weekends but I can honestly say that every minute was absolutely worth it and it made me what I am today. Credit must also be given to Ron Unger and Clay Harris at WorkSmart. They are a local IT consulting firm that serves companies throughout North Carolina as well as a few other states. The nearly 3 years I spent at WorkSmart exposed me to project after project and while most ofmy clients were smaller businesses I gained experience that enabled me to succeed at FHI. I recommend working for a company like that if you want to gain experience quickly; where else would you be able to do a major implementation or upgrade every couple of weeks and manage the entire project yourself? Learn the interfaces of the products you are deploying and when it comes time to work with platforms that are highly available (such as clustered servers like Exchange, SQL, etc) you will be able to adapt quickly. Consulting isn’t for everyone; if you don’t like being in front of customers (and the pressure that comes along with it) I would recommend another line of (IT) work. If it weren’t for WorkSmart and FHI I know that I would have had far less to offer EMC and would probably not have even been interviewed; I truly believe that.   – Jason

On seizing the moment…..

Earlier today Stefanie Gordon did something innocuous, she tweeted some cool photos (and video) she shot of the space shuttle launch as seen outside the window of the plane she was on. By now you probably know that her tweets went global, being retweeted by NASA and mentioned on news shows around the globe. Her twitter feed mentions that she is looking for work, and I’ll bet that an opportunity will present itself rather soon. Is she lucky? Yes. Will I be jealous if she uses the attention to further her career? Not in the least.

I’ve met a lot of people who like to blame others for where they are (or are not) in their life; those of you who work in IT know that the field is filled with people like that. The industry changed right under their feet (lots of examples of that over the last 5 years) and they lay blame on their employer for not helping them keep their skills current. I’m not going to get into a discussion about training/career development; lets just say that I see both sides of the argument. I’ve done my share of complaining about employers who put little or no effort into their IT staff personal development plans, but at the same time I took it on myself to keep current and even grow beyond the (then) needs of my employers. I’ve spent significant amounts of money on books, lab equipment, a training class or two, and a couple of degrees. Do I regret having to do that? Not really because I know that it will all pay off in one way or another.

What I haven’t remembered until recently is that which is the title of this post, that regardless of what I have done on my own I must always take responsibility for seeking out those opportunities that interest me. I tend to focus on goals that are “out of my reach”, so to speak, as those seem to be the only ones I find satisfying. That doesn’t mean they are unobtainable, just that you may need to do more than just read a few extra books to close the gap. It means getting your name out there alongside some nuggets of information that your “target peers” might find interesting, keeping the bar raised high because you know that what you want requires it, and learning everything you can that might benefit you when your name is called (thank you LinkedIn!).

I am fortunate that I have always interviewed well (assuming I have had the necessary sleep that is). My challenge has always been getting in front of the people who make the decisions; once that happens (and assuming I have prepared) I can usually make things happen. For me it is about showing my passion for what I do; a lot of people like to see that. I feel sorry for those in my field who are not inspired; what a miserable existence that must be. Take this behind the scenes video from the vSpecialist team at EMC World 2011. The entire video is worth watching, but skip forward to the 16 minute mark if you want to see something cool (to me anyway). Need another example? How about this video by the same team shown at VMworld 2010. No it isn’t my life long dream to mimic scenes from the Oceans 11 movies, nor do I want to be an (amatuer) singer, but when I read about what guys like this do and (in some cases) meet them in person I am reminded that there are a lot of things I have yet to do within my field.

IT is not a forgiving career choice; to be the best requires a commitment to lifelong learning and the understanding that 40 hour work weeks are nice in theory but uncommon in real life. That being said, I can say with absolutely certainly that I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else for a career. Where am I going with all this? My point is that we must all make our own luck using whatever means necessary and never expect anything to be handed to us. Sometimes we get lucky and small decisions bring us huge payouts (see Stefanie above); more often than not achieving our goals requires a sustained effort and a willingness to step outside our comfort zone from time to time. I can’t stress enough that you must find your inspiration, and in my opinion that doesn’t come from reading books and websites all day. My technique is to seek out people who are “smarter” (or more senior) than myself and get every last bit of knowledge I can out of them while doing everything I can to make a lasting impression. I’ll settle for the transfer of knowledge, but my real goal is to get this person to think of me when they hear of an opportunity I might like.


First post of many…..

Why am I doing this?

It is an odd combination of things that have led me to start a blog. First and foremost among them is that I need a way to stay more engaged in the happenings within the technology arena, something which is critical if I am going to continue to “climb the ladder” within the field. I should clarify something first, when I “happenings within the technology arena” I am referring primarily to storage, virtualization, and backup/recovery. Technically Microsoft products should be included on that list but the truth is that most of their products change only once every few years, and as I move away from administrative tasks all I really need to know are the architectural changes (which there are fewer of when compared to administrative differences).

If I were to step back and say what keeps me most on my toes it is the “disruptive” changes, which just happen to be the three areas I mentioned in the previous paragraph (storage, virtualization, backup/recovery). The best example I can make? These technologies are obsoleting most of the projects I was doing as recently as 3 years ago (small and mid size IT consulting). I would hope that some day this blog will be a source of (original) technical ideas; that is my goal. As it stands today I can contribute greatly to a team and/or conversation BUT I am not a leader within my field. I can assure you that I really want to be, and that I am working towards that end, but I need a few lucky breaks (along with a lot more self study). For now my posts will likely be random technical observations combined with what I see as the problems that many mid-size businesses face (hint: it isn’t all about budgeting).

- Jason