VCDX: Days before the defense

After hundreds of hours of preparations (or at least a few) the defense day is finally near.

During the preparation there are several activities that are mentally taxing:

  • First Skill Sessions.
    • Sessions where you get to know how little you know and how much you still need to learn. Think of it as a Total Perspective Vortex, only for skill levels in IT specific technology stacks. 🙂
  • Full Mock Defenses.
    • Here you get a sense of how the actual defense could go. The first ones always shows some weaknesses either in communication skills, presentation slides or not knowing answers to questions.
  • Troubleshooting Mock Scenarios.
    • The first one usually leaves you with a sense of panic. It tends to be hard to change ones troubleshooting methods to accommodate a more verbal method. Also it seems strange to approach a problem from a couple of notes on slide point of view. Hard to know where to start etc.
  • Design Mock Scenarios.
    • Same goes for this as the troubleshooting scenario. It’s hard to know how to approach the problem and where to start. The first ones are usually not very good.
  • Skill Updates.
    • The amount of data that need to be processed sometimes can be hard. I must admit some of the detailed HA stuff I’ve already forgotten, but extensive cramming is not a good solution.

All these items will get easier with practice, so after a few sessions of each type, you get comfortable (enough) not to be stressed about the actual session in the defense.

As for the skill update, I recommend entering the vortex early in the process to actually know how much need to be learned and plan accordingly.

But it would be a shame if all the preparation and hard work put into the project would go to waste because of stress. So I recommend that the last days before defense are not spent frantically studying a specific topic or doing 14 hour days.

For me I spent them in London, doing a mock defense with some of the guys also going for the VCDX at that time. I can not recommend it enough to do real life mocks before the defense if possible because it showed be a couple of items that I needed to fix and focus on. A major change of the slide deck is not a good thing but perhaps a new deepdive slide to better explain topic.
Other than that I spent about 4 hours the day before just practicing the presentation, over and over. Watched TV the rest of the day.

Then the day comes and you need to travel to the VMware offices. No need to panic. Don’t panic.

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