php|tek 2010: Making a difference in your career

Once again php|architect hosted the php|tek, a yearly event held once again in Chicago. Tek’s reputation is that of being the most community centered conference amongst other php conferences, true to its reputation this year’s edition promoted various social activities and gatherings apart from the usual conference activities.

The massive presence of various key persons in the PHP ecosystem, like Core Developers, Community Leaders, Products leaders and various representatives and evangelists from various companies is definitively a point to be noted and celebrated. This presence leads to two key aspects of the conference, great sessions and great opportunities.

Sessions ranged from introductions to various topics to advanced and more engaging sessions, giving everyone there a chance to search their own interests, from beginners to seasoned developers. Great talks included talks on anti-gaming techniques, in depth looks at the PHP Core, scaling, new technologies like git, xmpp amongst various others.

But much more then just the great sessions tek promoted networking. From my personal experience being a veteran PHP developer for over 10 years, this aspect can be even more important then the session if you are past the 3-4 year experience mark. Why, you ask? A well seasoned developer have already accumulated much experience and most sessions do not dwell deep enough or simply do do address advanced topics, serving more as a point of study initiation then a full injection of knowledge. The opportunity to meet developers of the very technologies you employ on a day to day basis enables you to go much further in you studies over simple conversations the occur during lunch, in the hallway or even during after-event drinks. This is because during these opportunities you can actually address your problems directly, be it by talking to the creator of the tool, or by talking to the developers of renown websites.

Let’s take for example the opportunity of chatting with Sebastian Bergmann, creator of PHPUnit, and being able to discuss and resolve issues you have while implementing Tests in your application, or even understand from him how you can automate your environment and implement more QA processes. Or even sit down with Matthew Weier O’Phinney, lead of the Zend Framework project, and learn how to participate in bug hunting or even solve a bug you have found right there on the spot.

Even if you do not use projects like these, imagine how much you can learn from chatting with people like Eli White, former developer of Digg, getting scaling tips tailored to your scenario straight from someone who has had the opportunity to deal with high traffic and site availability.

Even if that is not your case, talking to people like Lorna Jane Mitchell or Michelangelo van Dam, people who have built their careers on contributing to the community and leading great masses of developers to better qualifications and consequently projected their own names into the halls of fame of the ecosystem opening doors to new opportunities and places. This career advice could prove to be a turning point in any developers life.

All of this is possible and very welcome during the week everyone is gathered at php|tek, social gaming nights, group meals, all of this leaves everyone very comfortable to have various relaxing discussions. Even before the conference I was particularly impressed by one interesting event:

Having arrived a couple days before the event started I had the opportunity to talk to other developers arriving early, and on the monday, still having work to catch up on (monday was the official release of Share My Map) I decided to head down to the lobby and get some work done. To my surprise various of the speakers were already there doing the same, I then had the opportunity of coding, surrounded by many of the creators of the tools I was using. Needless to say this was amazing because I was able to instantly get opinions on the choices I had to make from them, all experts in their own fields and all very eager to show me alternatives to the code I was writing and provide explanations to the up or downsides of the code in question.

This aspect of a coder’s career are often overlooked but they are key points and pieces of a successful professional life, your network can make a difference in different stage of you career, and events like php|tek are very important and accessible opportunities to improve on this qualities.