Conquering Your Fear Of The VCDX Panelists


I wanted to say I had such a great time at the Atlanta VMUG, and most of all the conversations with all the people about this new role.  I cannot believe the support for the program, the renewed excitement about it, and I am humbled by the personal support from all the people who I’ve talked to in the last two weeks.  My first goal has been to gather feedback from current VCDX holders, future candidates, as well as partners.  The awesome part about this role is I just get to absorb all the feedback, ponder it, and then try to figure out a way to address it and put potential things in motion.  One thing that I heard this week was something interesting and it was not the fear of the defense itself, but fear of the actual people, the panelists themselves.  Let me provide some short personal thoughts on this from my own experience and maybe through the eyes of someone who wants to help all of you.

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. – Rosa Parks

I think this quote is great and will allow me to set the stage for what I am about to say.  I understand fear.  I am afraid of many things, including failure, letting people down, death, you name it.  What many don’t know is I was for a long time afraid of public speaking.  Not speaking in a room of 5-6 people, but VMworld style stage speaking.  Fear is a natural thing, it’s what makes us human.  With that in mind let’s take a moment to think about being afraid of the panelists themselves.  In some conversations this week, it seems to come from a few places.  I think it comes with name recognition, and in talking to many they are afraid that the panel simply does not respect them.  Let me take a stab at trying to address your fear.  As always this is my personal take on it, so please by all means start a discussion below!

Those very panelists, regardless of their name, background, notoriety, or number of books they’ve written, without a doubt in my mind DO respect every candidate that walks into a defense for a number of reasons.  Most of all the simple fact you made it that far earns you the panel’s respect.  I cannot tell you of any panelist that does not feel this way.  The simple reason is they all had to do it as well!  We all stepped through that door, the same as you with the same feeling in our gut.  Many candidates respect the people on their panel because of who they are, but also respect them simply for the fact they respect you for getting to that final stage in the process.

This however, does NOT mean that they will not ask you the tough questions.  That’s their role in the process is to validate your capabilities as an expert.  Part of mutual respect is the ability to be able to ask tough questions, and also be able to address them without feeling “attacked”.  Your panelists are human, they have families, lives outside of work.  They are good people just like you that give back to their jobs, community, and the program.

Many of the people I talked to would not be afraid of a meeting with three or four CEO’s, but they fear the names on their panel.  Turn that fear into confidence in yourself and your design.  After all you have made it this far in the process, and maybe knowing that panelists respects you as much as you respect them is just something people needed to know.  If you start off there, maybe your fear will subside and you can focus on “Knowing what must be done” is the task at hand discussing your design.  I also wanted to point you to some videos I found out about of some of these very people and I am working already to get more of these filmed so you can get to know these people on different level, not just as an author or community person.  I did not even know these existed, so check them out and I will work on getting more of them done!  I guess I should start with myself getting a video done!  Of course not all of the people in the list of videos does panels, but you get the point, it’s a way to meet some of these folks.

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About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.


  1. Well said Chris. I especially thought your second last paragraph was well pointed:

    “Part of mutual respect is the ability to be able to ask tough questions, and also be able to address them without feeling “attacked”. Your panelists are human, they have families, lives outside of work. They are good people just like you that give back to their jobs, community, and the program.”

    The panelists put in a lot of time (as you well know, you did your time on the panel) in order to be able to properly support a candidate through the application process into the defense itself, and many are involved in mentoring activities as well. Most of this is outside their normal roles and responsibilities to keep the program going. They do this to support the program they love and want to see all candidates, when they are ready, succeed.

    Please everyone keep this in mind. From my observation the panelists do not get the thanks that they deserve by the community.

    • James, thanks for adding to the context! I’m excited to get people pumped up again about the program and for me it all starts with communication and insights. My feeling is a little transparency where needed is a good thing and I believe a good evangelists role is to provide some of that communication.

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