Opening Acts

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…

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

Career Compass

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Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. —Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

When Ferris Bueller spoke those words, he was referring to the adventure he was going to have while skipping a day of school; little did he realize that it would echo life in IT. Most start with a few interests and skills, such as break/fix or helpdesk. As you get involved with other tech, you learn skills accordingly. Maybe learn some PowerShell, networking, storage, or other skills along the way and get into a SysAdmin job. What’s this virtualization stuff? Should you learn about VMware or AWS? How about containers? You ask yourself, “Do I want to learn how to code?” Where is this all going, and how do I know where to focus my energies to advance my career? With all of these options available, it can be very confusing. Understanding the landscape and how to navigate through these varying skills and technologies can be a daunting task. But there is good news: help is available!

On Sunday, August 25th, I will be at Opening Acts 2019, the premier tech community roundtable event before VMworld US in San Francisco. I will be moderating the 1:00 PM panel titled “Where are our careers going?” As you read above, there are many pivots one can make in their career as new technologies and training become available. We will be discussing the future of work in technology, where we see the upcoming trends, and how to gain the skills and abilities to take advantage of the shifting sands of the technology landscape.

We have some amazing panelists lined up from across the industry to lend their perspectives and insights, such as Tracee Edgmon, Stu Miniman (@stu), John White (@johna_white), Steve Kaplan (@stvkpln), Mandy Botsko-Wilson (@virtualMBW), and the incomparable Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe). If you are in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, I hope that you will stop by the Tabletop Taphouse at 1:00 PM and attend our panel at Opening Acts 2019. I look forward to seeing you and engaging in some great conversations.

Tim Antonowitz (@timantz), Moderator

T-minus One Month

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Well, we’re one month out from the start of VMworld 2019 US, as well as Opening Acts and VMunderground.

Probably a good time to get the tickets & such out there, eh?

Your wish is my command…

Opening Acts Reservations:
VMunderground Tickets:

As in previous years, we’re limiting the number of tickets any person can acquire at one time. If you want more rules & blah-blah-blah, then scroll back through previous yearsticket release info. TL;DR: Don’t bogart the tickets; buy one for yourself, and let others fend for themselves.

Let it be known…

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Opening Acts and VMunderground will be held at

Tabletop Tap House

175 4th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

If that seems like a new location, but you recognize the address, you’re not wrong: the last time VMworld was in San Francisco, the space was a restaurant called “Jillian’s” and was the site of VMunderground back in 2012. It has been rebranded as a tap house, and some remodeling has been done, but it’s still well within the “walking distance” circle for the Moscone-area hotels.

2018 Opening Acts—Live Stream

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YouTubeOf course, the best way to experience Opening Acts is live-and-in-person, joining in on the interaction with panelists and peers. But if you’re unable to come, either because of conflicting meetings at VMworld, or you’re unable to join in the fun in Las Vegas, we’ve got you covered: we’ll be recording and live-streaming the panel sessions for “place- & time-shift” content consumers.

We’ll post links to the recorded content at a later time, but the live stream will be available at:

Opening Acts 2018—Why Are There So Many Clouds in My Infrastructure?

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If there’s one word that sums up the current state of IT, it would be “complexity.” With so many moving pieces needed to support a company’s applications and data, it’s no wonder there are so many companies aiming to solve this mess. But we’re not going to get into that (there’s plenty of marketing messages already covering this).

The topic we’ll be discussing during the Tips for Multi-Cloud Success panel at Opening Acts 2018 is a relatively new wrinkle in the IT complexity puzzle: having to manage multiple clouds. We’ve all heard the stories of shadow IT: marketing departments swiping their credit cards for Software as a Service applications and developers running up tabs on AWS, but now we have official uses of public cloud infrastructure: VMs running in Azure, email being hosted by Office 365, and backup/DR to the cloud solutions. And all of this is on top of our on-premises virtual infrastructure and/or private cloud.

But is this multi-cloud future inevitable? What does the future of IT look like with multiple clouds running our applications and data? Our panelists will discuss how we got into this situation, what it’s likely to mean to all of us, and how we get our arms around all of these different and disparate extensions to our infrastructure.  Any well-run infrastructure is built on solid management tools and processes, so they’ll also discuss how our tools and processes will need to change in order to properly manage these extended IT components.

Other questions we expect our elite group of panelists might discuss:

  • Are there particular cloud providers that people have had greater success with? Which uses cases are each best suited for?
  • What if our migration to the cloud fails? What does it take to move back or to another cloud?
  • How are VMware and other traditional on-premises vendors helping to ease this new paradigm?
  • What skillsets should we all be focusing on building/improving to best equip ourselves for this?
  • What about security and cost?!?

Speaking of panelists, here’s who we’ll have on stage to help answer these questions:

Whether you fear the cloud or not, this is a topic I expect many people will have to deal with in the next several years. Bring your questions and experiences, and join this information packed session.



Opening Acts 2018—Beating IT Burnout

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goenglish_com_burningthecandleatbothendsThe last Opening Acts panel of 2018 will be the Beating IT Burnout panel, to help you handle some of the challenges of working in an IT organization. The panel is formed with a mix of expertise, people working in IT who have suffered burn out and people who teach skills to avoid burn out. We will address questions like:

  • What causes IT burnout?
  • How is stress different from burnout?
  • What are the early (and late) symptoms of IT burnout?
  • How can I handle the causes better?
  • Is my job really sending me mad?
  • How do I help my partner understand my stress and burn out?

Alastair Cooke, I have been self-employed for the last twelve years, you might think that burn out and stress are a thing of the past, nothing could be further from the truth.


  • Eric Lee, the title of the panel came from Eric’s presentation at the Indy VMUG and the accompanying blog post that outlines how Eric has dealt with his IT burnout.
  • Kat Troyer, a career coach and organizational development consultant who teaches leaders how to build strong teams and constructive cultures. She is the founder of Gently Moving Forward and co-founder of The Influence Marketing Council.
  • Alicia Preston, along with Sonia Cuff, was the instigator of the mindfulness and IT burnout efforts at VMworld. Alicia is the founder of Mindful Roots, who specializes in applying mindfulness techniques to help youth & adults reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Thom Greene, a member of the vBrownBag crew and has recently taken on a couple of new roles in quick succession, learning a lot about what does and doesn’t make him happy along the way.
  • Lindy Collier-Grady, the founder vLadies and has a podcast called Hello from My Home Lab. She does speaking engagements all across the US in regards to women and technology.

Opening Acts 2018—Do you have the skills?

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A technology career has multiple stages that one goes through from their first internship or admin job to senior technical positions or into the executive ranks, but each stage has its own special skillset.  During our 1pm panel on 2018 Skills for Engineers/Architects/IT Executives at Opening SkillsActs 2018 we will talk through what it takes to grow your career. Equally important, we’ll discuss why sometimes you have to evaluate if the next level is right for you or if a change of perspective (to sales, to product management/development, or to a different specialty) is the next step in your career.  Learn from the group if more education has mattered, or if it has been mentorship or some other form of growth that has helped their career.

Join a star-studded group of panelists that have done everything from running their own companies to being in sales to product management to hands-on technical, and everywhere in between.  I have the pleasure of moderating this panel and will weave in a little of my transition from system admin to sales to product to executive ranks, and we will compare and contrast each of our stories. Take a look at the amazing list of panelists below and if you have questions you know you want asked please click the link below to submit questions.

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