Apologies in advance if this is post is a jumbled nonsense, I’m still way too excited!
This morning I woke to the news that I have passed my VCDX-CMA!
This was my second attempt at VCDX and although the first failure was a painful experience, the lessons learned from it were invaluable to take into the defence the second time around. Failing doesn’t have to be a negative experience – if there is one thing that I will take from the VCDX program it is that there is ALWAYS more I need to learn, and I can always do better. Learning has to be a way of life (in this industry especially!) and the minute you stop, you start falling back.
My defence went better than last time (clearly!) but I still wasn’t confident that I’d pass. In fact as the wait went on I started thinking more and more like I’d failed, but I think it’s easier to remember the bits you struggled with than the questions you answered effortlessly!
According to the VCDX directory, and it looks like I’m only the
3rd 5th person in the UK to hold the VCDX-CMA! *Edited: There are some additional CMAs for double VCDX’s added now*
My #VCDX-CMA defense experience
Yesterday, I received the dreaded email
We regret to inform you that your attempt to achieve VCDX certification on June 09-11, 2015 in Frimley, UK was unsuccessful.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but somehow I still hoped my assessment of the defense was pessimistic and so it was nonetheless disappointing. It’s a big hit to not achieve something I have been focusing on for months and it is hard not to feel embarrassed that I didn’t make the grade. I am looking forward to receiving some feedback from the panelists and will be gearing up for another attempt in October.
Attaining VCDX is a step on a long learning journey and from the start I approached this defense as that – a learning experience. It’s an opportunity to focus and set a goal, and to push myself to reach that next step.
I felt that I defended my design relatively well – although the panelists exposed some issues, I felt that I was able to present explanations and reasoning behind each issue and I had anticipated a lot of the questions they did pose. Going in I felt that the defence of my design was something I should be all over, it was written from start to finish by myself. I may be wrong, and if the feedback is that I didn’t defend it well then I’ll need to reassess this.
What will I do differently?
- Plug the gaps – where the panelists exposed an issue in my design I will re-work the solution to close that gap. Where something needed explanation I’ll expand it.
- Not “over answer” questions – one of the things I learned from doing mocks was that I wasted time explaining things that I didn’t need to. I’ve seen advice to have a high, medium and low level explanation prepared for everything, and I think that’s a good approach. Give the minimum explanation unless pressed for more.
I had not anticipated how nerves in the design scenario would affect me. The design methodology is something I do day in, day out – it’s not something that would normally cause me to stumble. What actually happened was that I panicked trying to do a whole detailed design in 45 minutes and lost the structure and method that I normally use. Normally, I would have a couple of weeks to work through the design process. Instead, I started to pull out the Business Requirements and then jumped ahead to a conceptual diagram and then moved back to start the use cases and then jumped to a physical design. Not following through the design method stopped me from moving through the design in a logical manner and I think that’s where I came undone.
What will I do differently?
- Follow the methodology – clearly the panelists are not expecting me to produce a low level design in 45 minutes, they want to see me work through the method. They can’t do that if I don’t! Not following the method led to a random jumping around, no structure, and I doubt showed the panelists the confidence required.
- Don’t rush in – stop, breathe, think – not for too long, but I started talking and ran down random avenues because I didn’t take a beat and calm myself.
- Mock scenarios – I didn’t spend as much time doing mock scenarios as I did preparing to defend my design, certainly not with the time and pressure of the real defense. I’ll be getting as many mock scenarios together as I can.
Troubleshooting isn’t something that you end up doing as often when you’re working as a consultant/architect but it is something I do a lot in my lab. Having panicked in the previous scenario I tried to recover my composure somewhat for this one, but once again I think I rushed in too quickly. The scenario is not about the solution, it’s about the method – a structured, logical approach is key. I found it hard to judge how I did in this one, I did rush headlong down one particular avenue on more of a “gut feeling” than I should have, but we shall see what the feedback is.
What will I do differently?
- Go slower – establish the facts and the basics before focusing in too quickly on what I think the problem is. The CMA troubleshooting scenario is 30 minutes long and after 20 minutes I had run out of ideas in the narrow field I had focused on.
- Mock scenarios – again, the focus of my mocks was on the design defense and not the scenarios, something I should have prepared better for – with the timer.
All of these things are my reflections on the defense, and why I failed. I could quite easily be wrong and have completely missed the reasons I failed – hopefully the feedback will confirm my thoughts and help me re-focus on the right areas. It has been a huge learning experience, from getting my design ready to submit, preparing to defend it, and then defending. I will continue to learn and develop and push myself for this next milestone, and beyond.
People say it’s a huge achievement just to be invited to defend, and I don’t disagree, but I am more determined than ever not just to get the invite, but to successfully defend VCDX.