On 23rd September 2015 I spoke at PHPconf.Asia.
For once, I actually wrote my speech before I did the slides. Here is the planned transcript. You will have to wait for the video to come out to see how close I kept to it. 🙂
If you were at the event, please leave me feedback on Joind.in so I can improve.
Everyone stand up
Sit down if you have been to a PHP conference before.
This means that everyone still stood up are at their First PHP conference \o/ [clap] Thank you for coming! You are the future of this industry and our community!
My name is Jenny, and I’m British born Chinese.
I went to my first tech user group in 2010 after a lecturer told me to. It was the local PHP user group in Manchester. At my first user group they were talking about arrays and during the questions, I asked my first question to a room full of professionals. I asked how come when they were talking about arrays it was push and pops rather than push and pulls?
The room went silent and I panicked – had I just broke the internet?
What was interesting was that after asking the question, lots of people in the user group, congratulated me for asking a good question. Something that I thought was a obvious question turned out to be a question that someone with a fresh perspective could only ask. Since then I became a community addict.
I love community – although it was my degree which introduced me to PHP, it was my local PHP community which taught me a lot of what I know.
The fact that you have all come to this conference, many of you have flown here from different places around Asia and come here to learn more about PHP is fantastic!
I have met many people this weekend who have told me it was their first conference, or they have spoke to PHP developers from their country many times online, but this conference was the first time they have met.
To me that is what is special about conferences. It is where you get inspired and meet people who share a common passion. With the conference coming to a close, what is next for the PHP Asia community?
Coming from the UK, I have been naive. I did not know much about the Asian developer community- and this trip has really opened my eyes to how thriving the community is here.
Many people I have spoken to over the last few days have mentioned how as a developer in Asia, the mindset is that innovation is all happening in the USA and in Europe, and that the Asian tech scene just learns and follows the community – This is not how it has to be.
Every person in this room can change this. I believe that the community here in Asia can take their pride and place in the global PHP community spot light.
How many people here know about PHP.UG? It is a website aimed at mapping every user group in the world that is a PHP user group.
Last night I counted 16 user groups in Asia, compared to the density of user groups in Europe and America, it is much lower. I highly recommend getting in touch with your local community if there is one – and more importantly – get involved! If there is no local user group, START ONE!
If you dont want to start one, then join a digital user group like NomadPHP. If the timezone difference is horrid, work together to create a Asian NomadPHP user group!
Share what you want to learn – this enables people to know what topics you do want to hear about. If you know anything about a topic, regardless if it is basic or advance, sharing your knowledge, successes and your failures on that topic. This is to allow other people in your community to learn from your experiences.
The great thing about experience is that No one can tell you your experience is wrong – and I mean no one.
Speaking is not the only way to get involved in your local community. Communities need organisers to run local events and as an attendee you can ask questions.
The great thing about questions is that there is no such thing as a simple or stupid question. and I mean – NO SUCH THING. Imagine if I had never asked my push/pull question… I don’t think I would be stood here infront of you today.
Your local community is not always just in real life either, many PHP conversations happen online.
You can also ask and answer questions in Stack Overflow. Many people use this a location for resources so it is great if you get invovled and respond to questions as they come in.
Write blog posts on your experiences – preferably in both English ( the international programming language ) and in your local languages. That way people outside your country can read what you write.
Write a review of this conference and the talks you have listened to both on Joind.In and on your own blogs. Think about what you did or did not like, and explain why. This allows for the conference organisers and speakers to improve.
Just because the people you have seen over the last two days have gotten on stage and shared with you their experience, and their knowledge, it does not mean it is the law – like everything in technology there are always edge cases, and a constantly changing variables. If you disagree with something you have heard, then talk to the speakers and start those discussions.
If you are thinking about speaking at conferences – look at conferences outside your country. There are some PHP conferences which pay for full travel and accommodation – this means that finance is not an issue or reason for you to not be speaking at conferences. If you need help with your talk submissions there is a great service called Help Me Abstract which will take any gist and review it.
I know visas to certain countries are an issue here. There are many rules around visas but if you can help conference organisers understand how long it takes to get visa and what would make it easier for you to travel to their event, then it would mean we can make our conferences more prepared to deal with those issues.
What would make it easier for you to engage with the other continents without getting on a plane? If you can come up with the solution, I know that the community out there is ready to listen. If a Livestream access would be useful – request it! Maybe you can have a local live stream party. Conference organisers are always looking for ways to improve their conferences.
Open Source is nothing with it’s communities. In fact – I would go as far as to say that, without their communities open source projects do not become popular.
PHP is an open source project – same as many of the tools, libraries and CMSes that we all use.
Things happen in these open source projects because people like me and you volunteer a little time to improve those projects. Without those contributions, these projects would become stale and have no love.
Think about all the different open source projects you use. Every one of them will have issues or problems that need fixing- as a army of developers in this room- you can help fix that issue. WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla and Joind In- all run on support of the people using the tools. Take ANY open source project that you are familiar with and try and contribute back one thing. Whether that is being able to replicate a bug on their ticketing system, helping them to fix a issue, or reporting an issue with instructions on how to create the bug – this is all super important for all these projects to survive.
Contributions are not without vain. they are the new resumes of our industry and can help you get your next job. Open source projects by nature are distributed – which means that you are improving your skills to work with international workforces across multiple time zones. It improves your ability to work in a remote company and therefore allows you to work for distributed companies across the world. There are various sources where you can find remote jobs but they include remoteok.io
On a more personal note,
I don’t know about in Asia, but imposer syndrome is a common problem amongst many developers back home. It can lead to burn out, depression as well as other mental health issues.
I remember when I was growing up – failure was not an option. If I came home with a bad mark, I would be in very big trouble. When I left home to go to university, I carried that same mindset – failure was not an option, and therefore when I did fail, I felt like my life was over. The reality was that my life was not over – it was only starting.
Our family expectations that we carry with us weigh us down. When my friends got a not so good grade, their parents always say It’s OK, you did your best. There is a lot to be said about the way we respond to failure. My own habits would be to be very frustrated with myself if I didn’t get something right. I would be embarrassed to ask for help, and ultimately it lead me to failing my first degree.
For a long while, I did not share what I had done, or what problems I was facing.
When I joined my current company, they introduced me to code reviews. Every thing we did had to be reviewed by another member of the team – and I hated it. I hate being critised – being wrong – getting a bad grade on my work.
You see, I saw code reviews to be a test – a test which I must get a A* on. And if I didn’t, then I was failing. The reality of it is that it is not that we are failing when we get bad feedback from a code review, but rather we are learning – we are improving as developers. Now when I ask for code reviews – I still get butterflies when I wait for the response to come back, but I am also very aware of the fact that it is helping me to improve as a developer.
When we stop looking at failure as a bad thing, and look at it as an opportunity to fine tune and improve our skills as a developer, the stress and worry of being marked is not such a problem. Instead code reviews become a way to gain confidence as a developer.
There are community initiatives like PHPmentoring which are designed to help us all improve. I highly recommend you join and get some of your work critiqued.
A year ago, my life was turned up side down. I went to my first non-European conference, and since then, the community has taken me to places I have never imagined.
A bunch of crazy people decided organise a Pan Asian PHP conference, and even more crazy people decided to attend.
Never under estimate the power that you all individually, and as the collective PHP Asian community have.
Go out there, make yourself heard, ask questions and engage.
For what it’s worth – it might be you on this stage next year – You never know.