#VCDX Post: Attributes of a successful defender

There are some key attributes I have seen in mentoring and being involved in VCDX mock defences that usually lead to successful defence outcomes. This does not mean exposing anything about VMware’s VCDX Rubrik (scoring model) which only panelists and VCDX Committee members have access to.

In this post, I want to focus on candidate preparedness rather than how “good” their design is. Certainly in my case, and probably for other VCDX mentors, we don’t admire one design over another. We have an understanding of what a minimally qualified design should look like – the same applies to VCDX Defence – to both content and the VCDX Defender themselves.

Designs are only accepted if they are minimally qualified against the Rubrik anyway, so a lot of the defence revolves around the candidates’ personal preparedness.

What is Readiness?

Readiness to pass is an intangible made up of some key elements. It is this readiness which is the state most candidates must arrive to in order to be successful. That’s why it’s called The Journey – when you are ready you will have reached the end of it and will pass.

Knowing your Design

The first key attribute and most important by far when defending is a deep end-to-end knowledge of your design i.e. Knowing your Design. Without this you will struggle in mock panels, never mind the defence. The key word here is “deep”. Panelists will hone in on areas where your design is not hitting the blueprint, which means not scoring. Remember, panelists ask questions to give you more opportunities to score. This is not a secret and should be understood by all candidates. If you do not know the design very well, you will end up answering many questions, get thrown off track frequently, maybe give many wrong answers, and maybe get caught out by the panelists which is really not recommended!

Knowing your design is key, but you need to practice. Practice exposes your weaknesses, allows you to prepare responses and let’s you become accustomed to being sent in all directions (knocked off your stride) during the defence, with the ability to revert to where you were and continue from that point. Failure a big part of it – Accept it and move on.

Know the blueprint inside out

You must also have a very deep understanding of the VCDX blueprint – the exam guide. Everything (and I mean everything) you need to pass VCDX is in that document – you just need to be able to see it. You can download it here: Blueprint Link

Achieving your Mojo

I mentioned in my last post here about how getting involved in amateur sports coaching has led to a keen personal and growing interest in high performance. I see VCDX as an elite high-performance activity as it probably requires a number of years dedication to the journey, with many failures and disappointments along the way until you reach the goal. That’s why you must focus on the goal with single-minded dedication.

Flow is a good word to describe performing at the level required to pass VCDX. Flow is an equilibrium between Challenge and Skill where you are performing at your optimum. Flow is also referred to as being in the zone. This is when you have acquired a very high degree of skill throughout an endeavour, sufficient to beat the very significant number of challenges under pressure.

The key word is acquired.

Learn fast

That’s why an ability to learn fast is critical. You think when you make the submission your journey is over, but it is the beginning of another set of challenges. For those not familiar with presenting this can be a significant issue and if so, you need to practice and not be afraid to fail often before getting into your Flow. Whether a natural orator or first time presenter, this can be learned. And during this phase preparing to defend you will learn more than at any other stage, in my personal experience.


That brings me to Drive. You need to believe you deserve to be a VCDX in the first place, and aspire to prove it to yourself i.e. that you belong at that elite level. Until you really believe that and are willing to learn and fail (repeatedly), accept your shortcomings, fix them, improve, rinse and repeat, then you will be pretending.

That’s why accepting all of this and removing negative thoughts is key. The VCDX mentor community is there to help and guide all candidates. I heard the phrase put the ladder down, which describes giving back to help those coming after you, just the way we were all guided. This is one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences from my perspective of becoming VCDX.

Once you experience the Flow, you will feel in control and ready for the challenge of the Defence. And for me, that is what makes a VCDX, and you will know as it will all come together.

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#VCDX Post: Attributes of a successful defender

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