Opening Acts

Opening Acts 2018—Beating IT Burnout

Posted on Updated on

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?

Moderator:
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.

Panelists:

  • 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?

Posted on Updated on

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Before You Go, 2017 edition

Posted on

As I sit typing this, we’re exactly one week away from the kick-off to VMworld 2017 US: Opening Acts will have wrapped, and those who are inclined will be braving the crowds at the Solutions Exchange expo floor.

With it being the umpteenth conference in Las Vegas this year alone, and the second consecutive year for VMworld, there may not be a whole lot of new or important information for us to share that you wouldn’t know already.

With that in mind, I’ll try to keep it short and focus on the most relevant details for our events…

First off, we’re in a cool, new venue. Beerhaus is a fairly new addition to the New York-New York campus, so even seasoned conference-goers may not be familiar with it. It’s a bit of a beer garden, with a large variety of craft brews on tap as well as a full bar and kitchen. Although it’s affiliated with the New York-New York Hotel and Casino, you may find it easiest to reach from Las Vegas Boulevard (“the strip”) itself, especially if you’re coming from Mandalay Bay to the south.

BeerHaus Overhead

In simple terms, if coming from Mandalay Bay, head North on the west side of Las Vegas Blvd until you pass Shake Shack; turn left (west) and head back into the park area. You’ll see Beerhaus on your left.

Next: during Opening Acts, the Beerhaus bar and kitchen will be open, but there won’t be sponsored drinks and eats—you’ll have to wait until the VMunderground party for that!—so check their menu and make alternate plans for lunch if it doesn’t suit you.

Opening Acts is sold out according to EventBrite! While we don’t charge anything, we do have to limit the reservations due to space in the venue; but the reality is, we only worry about capping the attendance because of the indoor cooling & sound capability (as well as Fire Marshall restrictions). If you didn’t get a reservation, you should still consider dropping by to see if a) everyone that had a reservation is in attendance, and b) standing-room-only and outside-looking-in are options. It’ll be Vegas in the summer (+100°F/37°C), so it won’t be comfortable outside—even in the shade—but you’re still welcome.

If you do decide to come and eat/drink before or during Opening Acts, we’re going to ask you to stay on the east side of the venue so that conversations will be isolated away from the panel sessions.

The VMunderground party starts at 7pm, and entry is only permitted with a wristband. If you have an EventBrite ticket instead of a wristband from a sponsor, you will be able to exchange the former for the latter at the door; we haven’t made a final decision on which entrance(s) will be taking tickets in exchange for wristbands, but we’re planning on having several minions available to get you quickly checked-in and into the party.

The party has sponsored food and drink, and we can assure you that we have included both non-alcoholic and vegetarian options; however, other dietary requirements (vegan, gluten-free, etc) are not being explicitly accommodated. The simple reason is that we just don’t have any idea of the percentages, and our costs would skyrocket if we tried to be everything for everyone.

The event is in Las Vegas; there will be alcohol served. Although we are a private event, we still must adhere to domestic laws for serving alcohol, which means you must bring proof of age (government-issue photo ID with date-of-birth) showing that you’re 21 or older. The party is sponsoring selections from the beer and wine options; if you prefer cocktails or other “hard liquor” options, you will be able to purchase them on your own. We will also abide by venue rules for bringing in beverages from outside (you can’t) as well as departing with them (depends on container).

The venue this year does not lend itself to a coat/bag check, so keep that in mind if you’re in the habit of toting around a backpack or conference swag-bag…

Finally: this is a social event kicking off the conference. Please plan to wear your badge, both to identify yourself as an attendee as well as to let new and old friends have a crutch for remembering your name. I am absolutely certain that I’m not the only attendee who is horrible at remembering names…

THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT, and WE’LL SEE YOU IN VEGAS!!!

Opening Acts 2017 Panel Lineups

Posted on Updated on

Join us for the 4th annual Opening Acts at VMworld US in Las Vegas on Sunday, August 27th. This year, we’ll be at Beerhaus at the Park next to New York New York casino. Here’s a fancy map link for your mapping pleasure!

As always, we strive to find just the right combination of snark, wit, and smarts in each and every one of our panelists and moderators. The only missing ingredient is your winning personality and friendly smile. Space at Beerhaus is limited, so please reserve your seat today.

1pm: Current State of the VMware Ecosystem

2pm: How Failing Made Me Better

3pm: Buzzword Bashing – Double-clicking on the premise of words in IT Marketing

Opening Acts: Double-clicking on the premise of words in IT Marketing

Posted on Updated on

I think the Opening Acts panels that we’ve hosted for the last few years as the daytime part of the VMunderground event might have become my favorite part of the day. One of the fun things we get to do with the community is decide the topics that we are going to host, and as usual, this year there were lots of great suggestions and lots of lively internal debate on which to choose.

One that stood out for me, for a number of reasons we’ll discuss, had to do with language, and specifically how marketing teams can use language in all sort of ways, both for good and for evil.

a5fd9f50473ea78ab4a5668771803996dfaebe931facffc060a9c530337dc7e7

In my experience, there are two kinds of ways that people get pedantic about language in our industry. First, there are the people who constantly correct people on the use of there/their/they’re (@millardjk), the people who lament the lack of an edit button on Twitter, and the people who freak out about the improper use of words whose spellings are close but whose meanings are completely different, like premise and premises (@ucs_dave).

The second kind of person, of which I admit to being one of, sees how the definitions of words and phrases can be deliberately and systematically changed over time. For me, this is a far worse offense, because it’s designed to deceive. Back in the day I wrote an entire blog post about this phenomena, and while it’s a much more devious use of language, it doesn’t seem to get the same level of scrutiny and scorn as the poor person who dares to use “premise” incorrectly.

In either case, language is a powerful thing, and how it’s used, where it’s used, and the patterns we create and reinforce can have a significant impact on perceptions and buying habits. If you are interested more in this idea, there’s a lot of great academic articles out there, but here’s one of my favorites.

Join us at Opening Acts to talk about language, buzzwords, bullshit, marketing and the power of words. This should be fun!

OpeningActs 2017—How Failing Made Me Better

Posted on Updated on

zero-UHave you ever been out socializing with your IT peers, and somehow the topic shifted to some data center horror story? Whether it’s the “zero U switch” that was only supposed to be temporary; or the accidental “rm –r /”; or that time you deleted the wrong LUN (raises hand, hangs head). We all have one or more in our collective history that we occasionally bring back out, dust off, and (hopefully) share to the amusement of all.

There are also those failures that you never bring up. You know, the ones that other folks call “RGEs” (Resume Generating Events). The “cautionary tale.” The sort of thing that, in hindsight, you can’t imagine why you thought it would be a good idea.

And then there are the failures that you were sure would be successes: the exam you almost passed, the project you declined, the proposal—or VCDX defense—that you poured blood, sweat and tears into only to have it rejected.

Aside from “fail,” what should all of these things have in common? All should have been learning experiences.

With a nod to the old saw of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” we present a group of panelists who have risen to personal and career success, not through a string of only positive achievements, but through reasoned risk-taking, occasional bad luck… and failures.

OpeningActs 2017—The Awkward Teenage Years of the VMware Community

Posted on Updated on

awkward-teenage-yearsOne idiom all IT professionals know to be true is “the one constant is change.” Nature adapts and changes over time. TV series shift over time. People come and go into your life. Enterprise IT is always chasing a more efficient and simple solution.

As we humans mature from childhood into adolescence, many changes occur. We get bigger and our internal systems change. Our interests change. We struggle to find purpose. Our friend groups change, sometimes turning friends into enemies and enemies into friends. The IT industry and the companies within it also go through similar growing pains.

Another common idiom that seems to ring true in multiple facets of life is “it takes a village to raise a child.” In the IT industry, most companies start with only one or two products and very few of them can make it from startup to self-sustaining (or a marriage to another company) without a system of support around it. This system is usually composed of other vendors, customer advocates, and third-party industry “watchers” who help to promote interesting products/concepts.

As these companies mature their one or two initial products, they almost always find an inflection point where they find the need to diversify their portfolio in order to remain competitive and maintain the growth they experienced before. This often leads to changes in interest and a struggle to find new purpose (often referred to as a pivot). Sometimes these pivots create friction with their old partners and friends. Sometimes they draw closer to and create partnerships with old enemies.

VMware appears to be in the midst of this awkward adolescence-like growth phase. They’re creating a bunch of new products far from the core hypervisor. Their primarily purpose is now cloud and management technologies. They’re directly competing with companies that have ridden in the wake of VMware’s success (see: Veeam, Cisco, every storage vendor). They’re even creating significant partnerships with old enemies like AWS.

The community is also being affected. Newer technologies that VMware isn’t reacting to quickly enough (e.g. containers) are drawing people away from the VMware community. This is causing a reduced focus in the ecosystem sponsors on organizations like VMUG and the myriad of VMworld community events, causing struggles to find sponsors to keep VMware-focused events afloat.

This is a topic hitting us directly at VMunderground and vBrownBag, so we decided to have an open discussion during Opening Acts. One of our panels will be dedicated to discussing how the industry matures and how technology, ecosystems, and communities are affected when vendors mature or move from innovation to sustaining.