What The VCDX Scenarios Are Looking For


I presented another VCDX Workshop this week in South Florida, and one thing that we dug into was what the Design and Troubleshooting Scenarios are looking for.  What I mean by that is every VCDX has always said in the workshops that these two sections are “About the Journey, not the destination”.  I personally have stated 100 times that completing a full design, or getting the answer to the issue is NOT IN FACT THE GOAL!  Please take some of this to heart as you maybe conduct some mock and study sessions.  By the way this is no secret every workshop tells you what you need to demonstrate in the scenarios is thought process not final solution.

VCDX Scenarios and Thought Process

The entire point about these sections is to see how your thought process is “wired”.  For example when you are reading and hearing the design scenario information you MUST determine what questions to ask that will get you answers you can use to formulate a potential design.  Here are some tips of what not to do, remember you only have 30 minutes!

  • Don’t ask irrelevant questions
  • Don’t try to go into the weeds
  • Don’t jump right to Physical layers
  • Don’t ask for information that may already be stated
  • Don’t ignore given CONSTRAINTS!
  • Don’t ignore the PROBLEM AT HAND!
  • Don’t assume the “customer” knows what some solutions already are

Remember, the scenario gives you a clear problem statement.  You are given supporting information and allowed to ask questions to gather more RELEVANT information to help you start the process of discussing a design.  I can tell you a hint….the easiest way to do this is to discuss the potential design ideas as you go.  Many people try to gather data and start the design near the end of the time.  Personally, my brain works in a way where I just talk out the possibilities as I go.  For example, if the scenario is about BCDR, don’t just say you are going to use SRM.  Does the customer know what SRM even is?  Explain your thinking as you go.

“You’ve told me a lot of things like X,Y,Z…..based on some of this at least to start there are some things a product called Site Recovery Manager could help with.  Is this something you are familiar with or should I explain it in 30 seconds?”.  From there proceed to explain to the customer why you think this fits a possible design based on the requirements.  What I am saying is don’t just drop the SRM term and move on.

VCDX Troubleshooting in 15 Minutes

This takes me to the one area a lot of people struggle with and I think I figured out why.  We all troubleshoot in our own way.  We all have our own process we follow.  The difference is WE DO IT IN OUR HEAD!  We just know our process and we run it each time.  The simple hint here, is just TALK through your process.  The key to remember is you are NOT looking for the solution, you get no bonus points or stars for figuring it out, so stop trying to “win” by getting the answer.  I know this is especially true when people complete the section and ask “man I really want to know what the problem was”.  At that moment I still know they were focussed more on getting the answer than showing their process of the journey.

For example here’s a simple difference in questioning approach I used yesterday.

  • Candidate – “Can I see the Logs”
  • Panelist – “We can get them”

This pretty much goes no place you have to remember that they cannot HAND you a log to look through.  Even if they did you would be staring at it quietly…that’s NOT the point here.  Now look at this approach.

  • Candidate – “If you have access to the logs, can we do a search for XYZ in them?  If we see that term it potentially means ABC and that could help me guide you further”
  • Panelist – “Sure, (taps on keyboard), looks like that specific item is not showing at this time, but that seemed plausible”

Remember this is a ROLE PLAY, so some things are pretend, BUT in my opinion by explaining WHY you are asking for the information shows your thought process pretty damn clearly does it not?  If you just keep firing off questions that result in yes/no answers you are searching to just solve the problem, which again, IS NOT THE PURPOSE.

Yesterday this became pretty clear and I think this is where most people need to practice.  Ask yourself WHY you are asking a questions and just talk to yourself and answer it.  Personally I’ve been accused of being an Over Communicator, so maybe that’s why this approach comes naturally to me.  For others, this may be very un-natural so work on it.  This is something you can work on in study sessions!  Ask each other WHY are you asking me that question, and force each other to explain it out loud.  You might just find you are then easily articulating your thought process.  Then guess what….you’ve nailed the point of the scenario sections.

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.

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