How Learning Styles Have Changed The VCDX Defender

This is a guest post by Julie Colotti who asked if she could use my blog to put down some of her own personal thoughts on the recent VCDX conversations.  Who am I to say no?

The past 24 hours have been an interesting in my home, and I felt it was time that I weighed in on the VCDX process. I’ve met and chatted with many VCDX’s. I’ve traveled with Chris when he was a panelist and sat at dinner with others that have discussed the program and the defenders. I’ve been on the periphery of this process for about 5 years, so these are my thoughts – take them or leave them.

This post is not the ‘spouse’s point of view’. It’s a view of how the learning process has changed and how I think (from an outsiders view) it has changed NOT the VCDX process, but the VCDX defender.

When I was in college in the early 80’s, for the most part I was on my own. My classes, my grades, my projects…. mine. When I moved on to my Graduate program, my classes were moving more toward ‘team projects’. I worked at the same college and watched as the learning process was beginning to change at the undergrad level as well. It made sense at the time. Having come from the IT industry, I’d seen what it takes to get a product/project off the ground – a team of people working together. So listening to all of this VCDX process discussion, I completely understand where the idea of study groups and mentors comes from. For many of you, your entire educational process was done in a group. You prepared for tests in groups, your final project was in a group and your Advisor guided you every year for every class choice. Hopefully all of that preparation makes you a better employee, a better team member and more well-rounded. Well, that’s what we hope and what we are taught to say in Education.

One small detail I’ve failed to mention – the reason I worked at the college and not at the IT Company, was because I got laid off. I was devastated and when I went to my manager, that I had worked with for 8 years, by the way, for help or guidance or maybe some kind of consoling – here’s what he said: ‘Julie, I’m sorry this happened to you. It happened to me too. The only advice I can give you is this: ‘No one cares more about what happens to you, than you.’ Crap…this is actual-factual real life. No teams, no groups. Just me.

Say that again. No one cares more about what happens to you than you. That’s right. So as adults, we can be on as many ‘teams’ and ‘groups’ as we want but at the end of the day it’s every man or woman for himself or herself. If I expect to advance my career, it’s up to me. If I expect to advance my education, it’s up to me.  Sure, I can hire a Head Hunter, meet with a College Counselor, but no one is going to go on that interview but me. No one will get that job but me.

So why am I reminded of all of this listening to all of the VCDX stuff? Because, frankly if you want this, if you want to advance your career – figure it out. Study groups are awesome, mentors are great – but at the end of the day – it’s you and only YOU standing in front of that panel. And if you are not ready, that’s on you.

Here’s a question – say you go, you defend the hell out of your design and you pass, who earns the number? Is it you or is it you and your group?

Exactly. This isn’t college; the whole group doesn’t get an A.

One quick note from the spouse’s point of view… Chris wrote an article about his journey to VCDX, but he left a few things out. It wasn’t easy…. not from any side. Yes, he worked in PSO, he worked is butt off and was gone, all week, every week, Monday thru Friday. Not home. He would come home on Friday and be very crabby and stressed about all that he had to do in two days before he left again. Oh, and ALSO study and prepare for his VCDX defense. He says he didn’t study a lot or prepare a lot – but from where I sat, he did.  Nobody came to knock on our door, come in and walk him through the process.

My point here is, if you are an Architect and you design solutions, you can do this. Just do your job and be prepared.

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. Awesome post Julie! This is spot on, both on the life experience and technical. It’s all the same when you think about it. It comes down to prep, ownership, and being confident that you know your material. Put in the time & effort and the rest will fall in to place. This is great advice for more than just VCDX certs, its great advice for life. Kudos!

  2. Its funny I passed the vcdx last year without a mentor or much prep. I did know one vcdx in person and I asked him two questions total. I did do one mock defence for one hour the day before my real defense. I did work hard I gave up my personal and family time for six months to make it happen. I was very blessed to have the work pay off. At the end of the day it’s not a team sport. Vcdx should validate already present skills. When I see a college degree on a resume it does not denote knowledge but the ability to work hard, learn fast and work with competing priorities. Vcdx is the same to me. Thanks for the article spot on.

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