Cautiously Optimistic

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It’s like deja vu all over again: VMware is having a conference in San Francisco at the end of August 2022. It’ll have people gathered together–in large numbers–for the first time since 2019. It kicks off on a Monday and wraps on a Thursday. There has been a “call for presentations,” so there will be breakout sessions in addition to general keynote sessions. Sponsors will be gathered into a central exposition space.

VMworld? Nope. The marketers have rebranded it as “VMware Explore.”

But you know the saying: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

It not only looks and feels like a VMworld, but the schedule hails back to the first years of VMworld, where the general activities begin with the Welcome Reception on Monday afternoon. Which means there will be people arriving on Sunday–or earlier–looking for something to do.

That’s where we come in. We’ll also be there, and with the help of our sponsors, we’re going to throw a party for the community. And we’re doing it Sunday night, just like “in the before times.”

And no: we are NOT changing the name. It’s still VMunderground, the original “Warm-up Party as a Service”

We’re going to tease the details out, of course; that’s also traditional. But you can work with the basic details: It’ll be Sunday evening, after the traditional “dinner hour.” It’ll be within reasonable walking distance of the Moscone complex. It’ll involve adult beverages, true, but we’ll also have non-alcoholic options available.

And we’re being cautiously optimistic that we can do this thing safely because we believe that vaccines work, and open/outdoor spaces help, too.

2020: Didn’t like. Would not recommend.

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Well, if you didn’t call 2020 a “dumpster fire,” what would you call it? We saw the COVID-19 Pandemic force the cancellation of just about every group event in the industry—those “lucky” few who had events in January or early February being the exception—with our cornerstone VMworld events included.

As I write this, the US dates that were originally on the calendar have come and gone, while the EU dates will soon be in the same shape.

But the industry responded to the crisis in many ways, and for our conferences, we leveraged the global Internet and switched to online/virtual conferences. Some went well, some…not so well.

VMworld 2020 will join the ranks of the Virtual Conferences in little more than a week, and VMware hopes to have learned from the examples—both positive and negative—of the ones that preceded it.

Naturally, that left the VMunderground team in a bit of a pickle: what will be our approach to our normal activities that kick off VMworld US?

In short, we decided to punt on the party. I don’t know about you, but we’re totally burned out on Zoom/Teams/whatever virtual meetings. If a virtual meeting doesn’t have legit value—business, career, education—coming out of it, forget it. We had some success during the first months of the “shelter at home” orders by doing some Trivia Nights, but even those got old…

But we thought we’d be able to pull of OpeningActs as virtual panel sessions. Those would bring “legit value” in one of the categories I mentioned (or so we hope!), and by partnering with Nick, Jeramiah, and Jason over on the Orbital Jigsaw Discord, we can have some of the same interaction, not just with panelists, but with attendees as well.

We have a nice lineup of sessions, and will also be hosting some content from our sponsors. We have all the schedule/agenda information on a landing page that will be updated regularly, whenever new details need to be communicated; we’ll also use Twitter (@opening_acts) to broadcast when an update was made, and—space permitting—what change needs attention.

The sessions will be live-streamed to both our YouTube channel and the Discord server; we highly encourage you to register with the Orbital Jigsaw Discord server, because that’s the only mechanism for interaction that we’ll support. If you just want to watch the YouTube livestream, that’s fine and very much your choice to make, but we’ll have moderators, audience interaction, etc., over on Discord. In fact, there’s a whole bunch of cool community stuff that’s going to happen on the Discord during the VMworld run, not just OpeningActs. There will be “watch parties” during the keynotes, roundtables, meeting rooms, and more. For those of you who have been to a VMworld in person in the last decade, you can think of the Discord a bit like a virtual “hang space”. And, while you’re there for VMworld content, poke around in the other channels; you may very well find that there’s community worth “sticking around” for after VMworld wraps! Take a moment to watch Nick’s “Orbital Jigsaw at VMworld” video to get an intro to the Discord and a peek at what’s in store…

VMunderground Family Trivia Night, The Second Semester

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Three more sessions of our bi-weekly Family Trivia Night!

Tuesday, 8pm EDT (5p PDT)

  • May 19, 2020
  • June 2, 2020
  • June 16, 2020

Same setup as before:

  • 10 questions per round (don’t worry, they won’t be focused only on tech)
  • 6 rounds with short breaks in-between
  • Participate by yourself or as a team with your family/housemates

Here are the details if you want to participate.

Step 1: Register for the Zoom meeting we have setup for this if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Register for the PollEv that we will use to conduct the trivia Q&A if you haven’t already.

Step 3: Thank our sponsors

Step 4: Login to the Zoom and PollEv before the start time. Feel free to turn on the video so we can join all our families together.

Step 5: Relax and have fun. We’re going to trust everyone to not run the board using Google as one of your teammates.

We are providing sponsors the participant lists, but the top 6 participants will receive a prize directly from the sponsors, so make sure to reply to their emails. 😉

VMunderground Family Trivia Night v3

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Back for a third edition of our fun night of chitchat and trivia. Our next event is coming up night!

Tuesday, May 5 at 8pm EDT (5p PDT)

A similar setup as before:

  • 10 questions per round (don’t worry, they won’t be focused only on tech)
  • 6 rounds with short breaks in-between
  • Participate by yourself or as a team with your family/housemates

Here are the details if you want to participate.

Step 1: Register for the Zoom meeting we have setup for this if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Register for the PollEv that we will use to conduct the trivia Q&A if you haven’t already.

Step 3: Thank our sponsors

Step 4: Login to the Zoom and PollEv before the start time. Feel free to turn on the video so we can join all our families together.

Step 5: Relax and have fun. We’re going to trust everyone to not run the board using Google as one of your teammates.

We are providing sponsors the participant lists, but the top 6 participants will receive a prize directly from the sponsors, so make sure to reply to their emails. 😉

VMunderground Family Trivia Night v2

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We had a great time two weeks ago hosting a small group for a fun night of chitchat and trivia. Our next event is coming up tomorrow night!

Tuesday, April 21 at 8pm EDT (5p PDT)

A similar setup to what we did last time:

  • 10 questions per round (don’t worry, they won’t be focused only on tech)
  • 6 rounds with short breaks in-between
  • Participate by yourself or as a team with your family/housemates

Here are the details if you want to participate.

Step 1: Register for the Zoom meeting we have setup for this if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Register for the PollEv that we will use to conduct the trivia Q&A if you haven’t already.

Step 3: Thank our sponsor

Step 4: Login to the Zoom and PollEv before the start time. Feel free to turn on the video so we can join all our families together.

Step 5: Relax and have fun. We’re going to trust everyone to not run the board using Google as one of your teammates.

We are providing sponsors the participant lists, but the top 6 participants will receive a prize directly from the sponsors, so make sure to reply to their emails. 😉

VMunderground Family Trivia Night

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Update: After a successful first event, we have decided to this as a fortnightly event. So look for future events on April 21, May 5, May 19, etc.

Tuesday, April 7 at 8pm EDT (5p PDT)

Time to try a little fun that combines our in-person families and our online #vCommunity.

  • 10 questions per round (don’t worry, they won’t be focused only on tech)
  • 6 rounds with short breaks in-between
  • Participate by yourself or as a team with your family/housemates

Here are the details if you want to participate.

Step 1: Register for the Zoom meeting we have setup for this.

Step 2: Register for the PollEv that we will use to conduct the trivia Q&A.

Step 3: Thank our sponsors

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Step 4: Login to the Zoom and PollEv before the start time. We plan to start promptly at the start time. Feel free to turn on the video so we can join all our families together.

Step 5: Relax and have fun. We’re going to trust everyone to not run the board using Google as one of your teammates.

We are providing sponsors the participant lists, but the top 6 participants will receive a prize directly from the sponsors, so make sure to reply to their emails. 😉

A Little Family and #vCommunity Fun

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Updated on 30 March 2020: We have postponed this event until April 7. Please continue to share with, encourage, and be kind to one another. We look forward to connecting with you soon!

By now, most of you have been cooped up at home for several days. It’s been pretty amazing to see the number of community calls popping up all over the place to keep us connected to one another. VMunderground even hosted one last week that was fun for connecting with old friends and meeting some new ones. But while it was cool to hang out for a couple of hours together, we felt it was missing something. It honestly kind of felt a bit like an extension to our work day, since most of our work day is spent talking to people through a video screen. We also felt like we weren’t using our time wisely by cutting our families out of that time. So we decided to do something different and fun that can bring us together with our #vCommunity friends AND our families at the same time.


Introducing VMunderground Trivia Night!


We decided to put together a free family-friendly trivia night that we can all participate in together across the globe, and with the people we’re sitting next to on the couch. Here’s how it’ll work:

  • Everyone joins a single Zoom session
  • Open up a web browser to provide your answers
  • 10 questions per round (don’t worry, they won’t be focused only on tech)
  • 6 rounds with short breaks in-between
  • Participate by yourself or as a team with your family/housemates
  • One sponsor that will provide prizes to the top scorers (they will receive a list of emails for all participants)

We’re still working out a lot of the details, but we are hoping to do this every other week…

Starting Tuesday, March 31 April 7 at 8pm EDT (5p PDT)

Want to participate? GREAT! Go ahead and mark it on your calendar. Between now and Tuesday, we’ll send out the Zoom link and the information to register to participate. Keep an eye out for updates on this site and @vmunderground on Twitter.

San Francisco, Here I Come!

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As I compose this, we’re a handful of days from the kickoff of VMworld 2019 US. The Opening Acts panels have been set & published; the VMunderground planning is complete; we’re only scrambling around with last-minute activities.

So, as those of you who are heading to San Francisco to join the fun are wrapping up your own last-minute tasks before the weekend, the team wanted to leave you with some notes for the Sunday activities.

  • Although the Opening Acts ticketing says we’re “sold out”, those are more “bookkeeping” numbers for our planning requirements than a limit or reservation. Don’t worry about having your “ticket” if you got one, and if you didn’t get one, you’re welcome to come in as well. Unless we really do get near the Fire Marshall’s capacity numbers, we’re not turning anyone away.
  • The bar will be open during Opening Acts, but it is unsponsored; if we end up with too much noise being generated at the bar because of people socializing during the panel sessions, we will shut it down in order to show respect to the panelists and attendees who are participating. Please: save your socializing for the party; that’s its purpose!
  • If you received a wristband from one of the sponsors, you’re a VIP guest; that wristband will gain you entrance to the party at 7:30pm, a half-hour earlier than everyone else.
  • If you aren’t a drinker of “adult beverages,” we have worked with the Tabletop Tap House team to create several offerings beyond “soft drinks and water.”
  • Please, please, PLEASE wear your conference badge! We won’t have nametags, and so many of us–as awesome we are with technology–are horrible at remembering names.
  • The United States and the state of California have liquor laws that restrict consumption of alcohol to those 21 years and older. You must be able to prove your age with a government-issue photo ID; driver license and passport are the most common forms. Please make sure you bring that with you, too: if you don’t meet Tabletop’s criteria for “looking old enough,” you’ll have to prove it. Don’t assume that your receding hairline or creeping grey will be sufficient…

Keep an eye on the @vmunderground and @openingacts twitter feed for any important announcements we may need to share as we get closer, but for now, we’re just looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Safe Travels!!!

Judging the Green-ness of the Grasses

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In the US, on average people stay at the same employer for 4.2 years according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A LinkedIn study found that tech (specifically software) is the industry with the highest job turnover. They say that turnover is driven by increasing demand for workers and compensation. In other words, right now we’re a hot commodity and employers are willing to pay us for our skills.

This Business Insider article gives the average times employees stay at some of the biggest tech companies: Uber 1.8 years, Dropbox 2.1 years, Facebook 2.5 year, Alphabet 3.2 years, Salesforce 3.3, and Apple 5 years.

It makes you wonder: are employees leaving for better opportunities because of their sweet skills, or is burnout pushing them to make a change? How many people leave tech companies because of unfair treatment (and is that the reason for the lack of diversity in our field)? Does it even matter how long you stay at one company?

If you’ve ever wondered about how to balance the right thing for you personally and your family with your residency at an employer, have we got a panel discussion for you! Please join us at Opening Acts at 2 PM for Should I Stay or Should I Go. I’ll lead a discussion with an outstanding panel who have worked at vendors, partners and customers in the VMware ecosystem (and moved between the three). Let’s have a candid discussion on the optics of changing jobs frequently and the risks of staying in a tech role for too long. We’ll sprinkle how the panel has managed this while they searched for the elusive work-like balance and the landmines they encountered.

The panelists include Lindy Collier @indylindy22, Cody Bunch @cody_bunch, Emad Younis @emad_younis, Theresa Miller @24x7itconnect, Phil Sellers @pbsellers, and Jim Jones. This should be a great discussion!

— Gina Minks (@gminks), moderator

What Is Your Worth?

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The average person changes jobs 12 times in their career, averaging out to around once every 4 years. Seem like a lot? Well, in IT it is often even more frequent, but most tech people could not tell you what half of their compensation plan really means to them in the long term. Have you wondered if you should ask for more equity or more salary? Should you be asking about base plus bonus? What’s the bonus based on? Is it actually a sales commission? Is there a retirement matching plan? How much does the cost of healthcare weigh into your total comp plan? If you did get some equity, do you know the difference between a RSU and an option? Do you know what vesting means?

Normally people claim you can’t talk about money – it’s taboo! – but do you care what your colleague makes or do you just want your compensation to be fair? We think it’s about time some of the darker side of these discussions to come into the light. Everyone on the panel has succeeded once or twice and failed in negotiating at least that many times and have all agreed to be an open book. (We do ask you don’t share all the bloody details on Twitter, because that’s just not classy.)

So if any of those questions above were either totally confusing or mildly intriguing, then you should join us for a lively panel around how the group has either succeeded or failed when negotiating the next next move. Or maybe you are just curious what we think success means, it doesn’t matter the reason why you come but hopefully our small session will give you some insight into how you can do better for your family, your career, and in this case most importantly, your wallet.

“Financial Matters in IT Careers” will be featured during Opening Acts at 3p on Sunday, August 25, 2019, and includes Jeramiah Dooley (@jdooley_clt), Jeff Polczynski, Ron Singler (@rsingler_), Jody Tyrus (@jtyrus), John Marrone (@jjmarrone), Josh Atwell (@josh_atwell), and Josh de Jong (@eurobrew) as panelists.

— Michael Letschin (@mletschin), Moderator