VCDX – I FAILED, now what?

You have recently defended and received the message: “I regret to inform you that your attempt to achieve VCDX certification was unsuccessful.”  What should you do next?  Do you immediately submit for the next defence, wait and recuperate or just abandon it altogether?

It all depends upon your personal circumstances and what you are trying to achieve.  What is motivating you?  Maybe you have moved into R&D or Senior Management and this skill-set is no longer applicable to your career path, ie. the “juice is not worth the squeeze.”

List of articles in my VCDX Deep-Dive series (more than 70 posts)

If your intention is to re-defend then you should consider the following:

  • Do not beat yourself up.  It takes most candidates two or three attempts to pass.  Recognise that this is a difficult journey and what does not kill you just makes you stronger.  Just getting to the defence is an achievement (VCP, VCIX/VCAPs, Completed documentation set, Invitation to defend).
  • If you have not already done so, write down your thoughts and impressions of the defence.  What questions did the panelists ask?  Did they spend a lot of time on one area of the blueprint?  Did you feel weak in certain areas?  Where were your strengths?  Were you able to finish your slide deck and cover the entire blueprint in 75 minutes?  What was the design scenario?
  • Once you get your official panelist feedback, check that it correlates with your impressions of the day.  If there is a big disconnect between your impressions and their feedback, then a serious amount of work is probably required.
  • Update your VCDX Skills Matrix to quantify your strengths and weaknesses.  Maybe you had serious misconceptions about your knowledge in specific areas.
  • Honestly assess your current energy levels (including those of your family) and the amount of work it will take to be ready for your target defence date.  It may be worth skipping a defence period and planning for a later time.
  • Make a Plan!  Create the list of tasks that you need to complete to be ready for the target defence date.  This includes books/blogs/whitepapers to read, training courses to attend (instructor-led, Pluralsight, etc.), podcasts to listen to, study guide, study group, mocks, mentors, etc.  Mr. VCDX#205 (Gregg Robertson now prefers to be addressed like this – just joking) did a great job of this on his second attempt and published the list for all to use.
  • Your preparation schedule should be broken into two parts: correcting/updating your documentation for submission and building your skills/knowledge for the actual defence.  Some people have a knee-jerk reaction to failing and believe that their design was the problem, not their soft-skills or knowledge.  The fact that your design was accepted means that you had a reasonable chance of passing (assuming you were a significant contributor), so correct the issues with your original design and resubmit.  If you have submitted the same design three times, then you will be required to submit a new design as a matter of policy.
  • Be prepared to spend a few hours everyday on your preparation.  As you enter the final month, this will increase to 8-12 hours a day to peak on the day of the defence.  Do not treat it as a hobby where you spend a few hours a week on it, it needs to be integral in your daily schedule.  Incorporate rest-days into your schedule, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Make no mistake, you need to immerse yourself in the process; imagine walking from the shallow end of a swimming pool to the deep end, by D-Day your feet cannot touch the bottom and you will be swimming.

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Chief Enterprise Architect and Strategist, 4xVCDX#133, NPX#8, DECM-EA.

2 thoughts on “VCDX – I FAILED, now what?”

  1. No it’s true I do like to be called Mr VCDX 205 😉 Or just 205. Thanks for the mention and to agree with you around the “Honestly assess your current energy levels (including those of your family) ” part I decided to take a breather as I burnt out after my first defence and knew I didn’t want to run straight back in even if it was tempting. I also had aimed to defend this year july but was on a very busy project and didn’t feel I could dedicate the time correctly but seeing the meeting invites Larus had created for the July defences did make me realise that some evenings I should have been reading or preparing for October rather than out with work colleagues.

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