My Personal VCDX Journey


It dawned on me today that I never actually talked about my personal journey to VCDX.  Some events of they day made me realize it because it was actually long before I had a blog.  Long before many things actually that have come out of the program.  I realized that there are some people who think we have all had help on the journey to this certification.  I will keep this short, simple, and to the point.  I will warn you this is not all puppies and unicorns either.

I had Zero Manager Support to get my VCDX at the time

I’m not even going to sugar coat this.  I was in Professional Services billing over 120% on average at the time.  I was a low man on any potential totem pole.  Nobody except the customers I worked with knew who I was.  At the end of the day, for real, I was a nobody.  In fact I had just been staffed to a long-term residency that ended up lasting over 18 months.  I went through my folders of designs and decided on one.  I selected it based on its unique requirements and characteristics.  I figured it would give some good talking points for discussion.  When I found out I passed….nearly a month later mind you….I never even got so much as a handshake.  In fact my manager at the time prevented me from going to one defense because I was too valuable in the field and pushed me off to the PEX one…reluctantly.

There was no VCDX “Community”

At the time I defended there were less than 30 people, hardly a community by today’s standards.  I did not even know who they were.  There was no list, no directory, no way to even reach out and even ask for any kind of help.  There was nothing but the original blueprint, my design, and a few prayers.  I don’t even recall frankly spending much time on the application.  I sat down one weekend, made sure my design package met all the requirements for the blueprint.  Mind you at the time, the blueprint was the equivalent of a blueprint to build a shed, not a house.  It was basic, rough, and left a lot open to interpretation.

I Was Confident In Myself and my VCDX Submission

Nobody can give you confidence.  You either have it or you don’t.  To be perfectly honest over the years I’m been accused by many that confuse cocky with confidence.  I have had my cocky moments I will admit, but I’ve been called out on them and I’ve recognized them and grown from them.  However, I will always remain confident in myself.  I remember leaving my wife that day to enter the defense and she asked “How do you feel?”  My reply was simple….”I’m confident in myself and my design, so whatever happens…..happens.”  Confidence is a mind-set.  As a fitness enthusiast I have learned so many times you have to “get your mind right”, and building your own confidence is part of that.

I Barely Did any Preparation for my VCDX

Seriously, this is no lie.  It’s just how my brain works.  Even in school I really never studied.  I may have prepared a little for the VCAP exams mostly because sitting down for an exam is my weak point.  By preparing I mean I read a few admin guides, that’s about it.  I prepared for the defense like this:

  • I woke up
  • I got dressed
  • I ate breakfast
  • I walked to the room
  • I treated it like any one of 1000 customer meetings

This is no bullshit here, this is the truth.  Duncan Epping was the observer, Frank Denneman was on my panel along with Craig Risinger and someone else whom I am sorry to say I cannot remember.  Oh my god you all say!  Frank and Duncan were on your panel?!  Yes and to be honest, and the time I had not a clue who they were.  I’d never even heard their names before.  I know Craig because he was in PSO in New York.  My right hand to god on this, I was clueless to the other people in the room.  I just did what I’d done 1000 times before and presented what I had to them.

Does This sound like a VCDX story from your Dad?

I had to go to school uphill, both ways, in the snow, on Sunday, during a hail storm.  Well the reality is that’s what it was like.  You had to effectively be MacGyver with a pen, a paper clip, and a match to build a bomb.  It was not easy, there we no blogs about other stories, no workshops, no guides to follow.  Why does this matter?  I was not and have not been the only one that had to go it alone.  This story is true and like many others.  My process was plain and simple

  • Select a design
  • Read the application
  • Fill out said application
  • Show up for a defense

I had no clue what to expect at all, because there were so few people about to even ask what to expect.  Seriously, I like many walked into a completely unknown situation.  This is by no offense to those people whom I have grown to know well and respect over the years.  My point has always been it does not matter who is in in the room when you get there.

Oh How The VCDX Times Have Changed?

Today there is a very detailed VCDX Directory of people who hold the certification.  We have increased the number of panelists that have been trained to support the program and the defenses.  There are MANY blogs about the road to VCDX, there are books, videos, workshops, countless things to help you.  However, the latest uproar is about mentors, which in fact there are many people who have stepped up to be those people.  They are even tagged and searchable in the directory.  None of this existed even five or six years ago when I went through this process let alone a mentor.

Those of us that walked on coals to get there are sometimes referred to now as the “good ‘ol boys” club.  That offends me because people don’t truly understand what those of us went through to get there.  If I had an ounce of the support that’s available now, I’d be grateful.  Now I hold the role of VCDX Evangelist, and I have had nothing in my agenda other than to maintain the integrity of the program from the day I took the role.  I’ve been accused of having other agendas, trying to slow the program, and being anti-community, all of which could not be farther from the truth.

It’s really too bad when people forget where many others came from to make something what it is today.  Our culture forgets that people give their lives for things they believe in.  I know some people who have dedicated themselves to this program from the beginning and are still an active part of it.  We live in a world of entitlement and we forget that many others struggled before us to shape what we have now, and instead we expect it to just be handed to us.  All those “Good ‘ol Boys” people like to refer to are the pioneers, the founders, the original architects of the program itself.  They planted and watered the seeds.  Nurtured it into something that others could strive to be a part of, and be proud of.  That group of people I am proud to have been a part of.  I’m still proud to be part of the program and continue to make sure it lives up to the same standards as before.

People today spend so much time preparing, studying, and frankly getting so stressed up over the defense it amazes me.  My advice is very simple.  If you’ve architected solutions, presented solutions, and implemented those solutions, you will probably be just fine.  No amount of mentoring, studying, or preparation will really get you and you alone through the process.  It’s not a team effort.  You stand alone in front of that panel on your own two feet to defend and present your design.  Stop over thinking and talking about all the things others need to do to help you.  Just get out there and do the job and defend.

Yes I did the journey alone, if you want to believe it or not I did, and my own wife can tell you it’s the case.  I assure you many others did as well, and many more will in the future.  Not everyone needs help on this journey, some people just possess the skills it takes to climb the mountain on their own.

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. “I had to go to school uphill, both ways, in the snow, on Sunday, during a hail storm. ” < I wasn't even wearing shoes…

  2. Great write up Chris. I kinda understand how you felt. I was almost in the same boat except that I had the chance to attend the bootcamp before PEX and had some mocks with Josh Odgers. My manager probably still doesn’t know the value of having a VCDX on the team, although other senior managers have now noticed that and are trying to change it.

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