Cloud, DevOps, Evangelism

Being a VCDX Panelist is Anti-Community

I’ve been a VCDX since around Sept 2010, when I passed a VCDX3 series of exams and defense. At that time, and today still, community is one of the most important parts (if not the most important parts) of the program. I know that if I get a request from a fellow VCDX, its probably important and worth considering in its fullest.

Thats why a recent email from the VCDX Program Manager (who runs the program after Mark Brunstad left VMware) has me very concerned. In that email, which I believe was sent to all VCDX panelists, he wrote:

The Panelist Code of Conduct dictates that panelists cannot perform mentoring activities

The email also clarifies that “mentoring activities” includes things like

1:1 guidance, mock panels, reviewing designs

but then suggests that somehow

the intent here is not to stop these mentoring activities, partner workshops, etc.

Now, this is all well and good, and this email makes it clear this is not a change in official policy. Nonetheless, its a change in effective policy, and an anti-community one at that.

While the intent of this policy may not be to stop these mentoring activities, it does, at least for people who are (or ever have been panelists). Historically, even panelists have been permitted to help with 1:1 mentoring, mock defenses, etc. Where’s the evidence for this?

  • I have at least 1 email from the former Program Manager, Mark Brunstad specifically allowing for this. While this may have been a little “off the reservation”, it was a recognition of reality and trust and community value.
  • I have another set of emails from John Arrasjid (VCDX001) before he left VMware for EMC requesting help from a number of VCDXs (panelists and non panelists alike) to be 1:1 mentors. As of now, a current or former panelist cannot be a mentor.
  • Lastly, a simple look at the VMworld Program Guide for the last few years shows that some of the best attended sessions are the VCDX prep sessions, where potential candidates are lead through sample defense troubleshooting and design problems by current and former panelists. Enforcement of this policy should erase these popular sessions

The email (and Code of Conduct) forbids all of that effort by anyone who is a current or former panelists, thus depriving the community of that valuable inssight. At this point, even if I wanted to, I could not drop my panelist designation and help, and that I find stifling, at best. So while VMware says the goal is not to limit those efforts, the effect limits those efforts.

Now, a reasonable argument could be made that a limitation in the code like this makes the process more “fair and balanced” by preventing leakage of secret information or unfair treatment/advantage of candidates. I believe this argument is specious, at best.

  • Panelists have always judged their peers, by definition. My personal VCDX defense back in 2010 had 2 panelists on it that I knew personally, and whom greeted me by name and recognition when I walked in. In my own times as a panelists, I’ve known the candidate from within the community at least twice, and no one has ever suggested I should have been recused. Indeed, I dont think that’s practically possible. The number of people at the VCDX level is very small (certainly sub 1000 I’d say), and in the age of twitter its impossible to be able to suggest you’ve never interacted with any candidate.
  • Further, Panelists are professionals at the highest level, and are recognized as such by their simple existence. We are expected to rise above irrelevant things like personal interaction, corporate allegiances and technical preferences to evaluate a candidate and his or her design based on its merits alone. I have never seen even the slightest suggestion by any panelist or observer that anything less than that would be personally or professionally acceptable to them.
  • To suggest that a panelist is incapable of avoiding accidently or intentionally leaking information that would help a candidate is a basic lack of trust, and if that trust does not exist, why was that person a panelist to begin with? ** If the other VCDX panelists believed that I (or anyone else) could not avoid giving unfair advantage outside of the official process, why would they believe I could avoid it during the official process.**

The VCDX panelist program is built on a foundation of trust in the professionalism of the panelists, and this change is says the opposite.

In other words, this change in effective policy serves only to weaken the VCDX program and its future - which, in my opinion, is already in jeopardy of losing its caché and integrity (see the questions around VCDX-NV, etc).

Please, VMware, come to your senses and realize that you already trust us to hold a huge part of a candidate’s future in our hands, and realize that your panelists and community should not be punished by an overly harsh interpretation of policy that doesn’t accomplish its goal.