Obligatory VCAP-DCA Post

By | July 17, 2014

It seems like when people in the blog-o-sphere pass a VCAP test, there is a requirement to post their prep steps and their exam experience.

I have been debating whether I should even post anything. Sure I passed the exam but BARELY! I feel quite ashamed sometimes, some people I follow on twitter really seem to dive into the blueprint and into their own labs (ex. vMiss). I’m sure they will have no problems with the exam. I present to you of how not to prepare for this exam.

How it Started
In mid 2012, my company went from VMware Production Support to Business Critical Support for the three regions (Americas, EMEA, APAC). Each BCS contracts is allowed 6 customer contacts who can open incidents. One of the “requirements” for BCS is that at least one contact is a VCP.

At that time, no one on my team was a VCP. I don’t feel that my company values certifications. It may help give you some credibility, but it does not equate to a raise or promotion. So when my boss started to push the entire team to pursue certification, I was surprised, but understood he had leverage by referring to the BCS rules.

As part of my employee “Learning Plan,” I put VCP certification as my 2013 goal. Based on a conversation with a colleague who took the Fast Track course, the content may be a bit introductory for someone who has a few years of experience. Based on the mylearn site, I saw that you could take the “Optimize and Scale” course to qualify for the VCP and the VCAP exams! 2-for-1! That was the way to go for me.

I actually convinced my boss to pay for a VMUG Advantage membership. You get 20% off all VMware provided courses (VMware has to be training company, not FastLane or any other one). At the time it also came with a free VCP voucher. $200 to save $900 was an easy sell. I also saved on a SRM course as well later in the year as well as VMworld registration.

I took the Optimize course in March of 2013. I got a VCP voucher from VMUG Advantage as well as a VCAP-DCA 510 voucher from the course.

On a personal note, my twin girl and boy were born in June. I ended up taking leave for three weeks. I was a zombie for at least three months. So when would I take the VCP? VMworld was coming up, and the VCP was 75% off as well. It was such a good deal, I actually didn’t use the voucher in case I failed the exam.

I crammed in studying during and between sessions and ended up doing very well on the test. My colleague, who was also taking the VCP at VMworld, thought I gave up because I walked out early.

VCAP – What Not to Do
With the VCP in hand, I set my 2014 goal as the VCAP-DCA. I had to use the voucher by June 30, 2014. With two babies and a heavy workload, I had no time to study. I skimmed through the Unofficial Official Study Guide and a few websites. June 30th came and I was walking into this test COLD. I mean really COLD. I was really testing my actual experience as a VI admin and DO NOT recommend this approach to anyone.

The test was tough, more because of the time and not the material. I probably didn’t touch 6 questions at all. Mostly because I didn’t have enough time. Some questions took me 15 minutes when they should have taken me 8 minutes. I actually almost killed the whole environment during the first hour. Definitely tested my ability to fix what I broke. I should have gotten extra points for that! If they only knew that I brought the environment back to life, I’m sure someone would have been impressed. Regardless, I left the exam thinking that I failed. I posted this on twitter:

I promptly got this reply from Josh Andrews:

I BARELY passed. Not even worth posting my score at this point. Not my finest hour by a long shot, but I got it done.


The test was much harder than my RHCE. That exam didn’t have nearly as many configuration items. The RH300 course also covered the course requirements very closely. The Optimize and Scale course covered some parts of the exam but not all. The VCAP-DCA blueprint covers a very wide range of configuration and troubleshooting topics that a single course would not be able to cover them regardless.

If I were to do it again and do it right, I would try to work through the blueprint. Spend a lot more time on areas that I don’t touch often and do a quick validation of the areas I was comfortable with. So please, do study for the exam. At least look at the guides that are out on the web and read them cover-to-cover.

Next Steps

Out of stupidity I signed up for the VCAP-DCD at VMworld since it is 50% off. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, especially since I don’t handle a lot of design at my day job. I guess I can’t pass up a bargain. I am still trying to find time to seriously study. Work is just as busy as ever and life with twins is always crazy. Maybe it will be a waste of money and time, or maybe it will be my finest 4 hours.

My boss also asked me if I planned to go for a VCDX. I think he’s crazy. Just reading the different experiences from successful and unsuccessful candidates, some people spend months just on the design and then months prepping for the defense. I am not sure my wife would appreciate me hunkering down in the office while the twins are screaming their heads off. I am also not an architect by trade, I’ve almost always been in operations with more design responsibilities coming lately. Also looking at this VCDX breakdown from last fall, there were only three VCDXs that were customers. I’d like to talk to those three people and see what they did with it inside their organization.

Lastly, would getting a VCDX help me at my current employer? As mentioned previously, my employer doesn’t really value certifications or necessarily advanced degrees if you are already an employee. I actually earned a MBA while working for this company, as well as a RHCE certification but neither resulted in a raise or promotion. Besides the feeling of accomplishment and learning about design through the process, would this actually gain me anything career wise at my current employer? I doubt it. Maybe I could make the move into an architect role, but the architects here sometimes are disconnected from how architectural directions impact operations (and I’m a big operations kind of person).

Regardless, I have a VCAP-DCD exam that I should be studying for instead of working on a blog post that no-one will read.

Until Next Time…

4 thoughts on “Obligatory VCAP-DCA Post

  1. Rob Goelz

    Kudos on going in blind and passing!

    Going in without a lot of studying (or sleep from the sound of things) is really a testament to your skills. I studied for a couple of months on and off and did the lab thing (with AutoLab). Even with all of that I **still** had issues with the time constraints and the wording on some questions. Impressive!

    1. Chris Post author

      Thanks for the comment! I typically do well in hands on type exams, but this was certainly a challenge. Are you planning on any other exams?

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