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What the Hell is Wrong with the VCDX Program?

This morning, I woke up to this in Slack:

Thank you for participating in the July 2016 VCDX Defense.

Kindly note that there is a slight delay in announcing your VCDX defense result. We would be announcing your VCDX defense result by mid of next week.

We appreciate your patience and understanding on this.

I don’t have a ton of patience or understanding for this, but we’ll get there in a minute. First, a disclaimer. I am not a VCDX candidate. I am not one of the poor folks mashing refresh on their inbox waiting for results, who had their hearts stop when they got a message from with a subject line of “Result Status of the July 2016 VCDX Design Defense,” only to find a “Just Kidding” message. I have been following the program for quite some time, though. I’m one of the folks that built out a sort of VCDX incubator program at my employer, and to date we’ve had five people successfully complete the VCDX process, with two more waiting for results. So this isn’t a rant born of first-hand bitterness, just indignation on behalf  of my colleagues who seemed to be jerked around at every turn throughout this process.

It’s interesting that you don’t see many public complaints about the process. Complaints seem confined to private Slack channels and Twitter DMs, where they’re less useful. I think candidates are wary of making their opinions known during the process, out of a fear that complaints might be held against them. I’m not suggesting that would happen, and I think candidates know that, but I think there’s a sense of why take the chance. I bet this would never occur to program management–they’d never do such a thing, so they wouldn’t consider that a factor in the absence of complaints, so they probably think that things are largely fine. After results finally go out, those that pass are going to be elated, and all will be forgiven. Those that do not pass will lick their wounds and blame themselves. So you have this situation where you have suppressed rage on one side, and complacency on the other.

This round of VCDX defenses hasn’t been all that smooth. Tech reviews ran late, invitations to defend were sent out late, and now results are delayed. Everything up to results I get and can sort of defend–reviewers have day jobs, and things happen. Oh, how they happen. But this isn’t an isolated event, and repeated appeals to “things happen” start to look like systemic issues if you squint.

Delaying results, though, I just don’t get. I don’t get this latest “slight delay,” and I don’t get the original 10 business day commitment either.  If scoring is at all objective, results must be calculable as soon as the defense is finished, right? No one is expecting immediate turn-around, but if you have a block of people defending over the course of a week, surely you could get results out at the end of that week if you were so inclined, right? Well, we know this is possible, because it has happened before. At VMworld 2013, VCDX candidates had their defense results by Friday night. One guy even found out on Twitter. So if this is possible, and has been done before, why isn’t it expected and the norm?

I’ve heard some people try to deflect this before, saying that they had to wait, so why shouldn’t this class, as if the post-defense emotional rollercoaster was in some way integral to the prestige of the designation. That seems silly to me, as you’d have to make the claim that the VCDXes awarded that VMworld were somehow lesser for it. I’m not buying it.

VMware asks for so much from their VCDX candidates. The least those candidates should expect in return is timely communication of their status. But that really doesn’t seem to be a priority. Why?

Look, I have enormous respect for everyone involved in this process. The candidates that put so much of their time and themselves into their applications, the reviewers that spend so much time and effort assessing those applications, the panelists who have to break candidates down and measure them, and the staff that built and maintain the program. I’ve not had the pleasure of dealing with the VMware folks involved directly, but I’ve heard only glowing things about those individuals from people who have. I believe they are all good, competent, hardworking people that only want what’s best for the program. But there’s room for improvement here, and when the emperor has no clothes, somebody has to point at his wang and laugh or he’ll never put his pants on.

VMware, it’s time to put some pants on.

Update – 8/9/2016

For the record, VCDX results were sent out this morning, within the original 10 business day commitment. I want to thank the VCDX program for their efforts there. Credit where credit is due, and all. I do feel a little bad for jumping the gun and complaining about lateness before any lateness had actually occurred.