1. PHP Community Conference

    I was once told that "the only reason you're successful is that you were at the right place at the right time." Other than the word "only" in that declaration, the accuser was mostly right. The reason I'm [moderately] successful is that I was at the right place at the right time. The subtlety in the second statement is in the reason I was at the right place at the magical time.

    I firmly believe that my technical skills are only part of my value, career-wise. Looking back on my career so far, I can definitely see opportunities that arose because of being at the right place. What wasn't considered in the flippant statement was why I was there, when I was.

    To me, it's clear: I've taken measures to put myself in the right place, when it was beneficial to do so. I've been doing this for years, and it's paid off.

    Want to know how I became the Editor-in-Chief of php|architect magazine, a Web Architect at OmniTI, and was put into contact with my co-founder for Gimme Bar? Sure, my abilities to build web stuff played into all of those roles, but the way I found myself in all of those positions was by asking. Yes, asking.

    Was I in the right place at the right time when I noticed Marco commenting about having to edit the current issue of php|architect, and I chimed in "hey, I kind of actually like that sort of thing," half a decade ago? Definitely, but it's more complicated than "luck."

    Similarly, when I approached Chris Shiflett about working with OmniTI, his immediate reaction was "Of course there's room on my team for you; we'll just need to work out the details." Am I that good, when it comes to coding, architecting large deployments, and managing a team? Definitely not—even less so back then.

    The real question is why was I hanging out on IRC when Marco was venting, or how was it so easy for me to have Chris's ear? The answer is simple: I'd established myself as part of the PHP community, and had a standing with those guys, even without having ever worked with them, directly (I had written for php|architect before, but it wasn't under Marco's direct supervision).

    I assume that many of you readers are already members of the community in some way. That could be as simple as participating on mailing lists or forums, helping reproduce bugs, or fixing grammatical errors in the manual. One of the best ways I've found to connect with the community, though, is in person.

    Nearly everyone I know and have had a long-term relationship with, in the PHP community, I met at a conference. Sure, I'd often "known" someone from their online persona, but it's hard to really "know" someone until you've spent some face time with them, preferably with a beer or two between you.

    This is one of the main reasons that I think that the PHP Community Conference in Nashville, in just about a month, is important, and why I think you should go. I have no personal stake in this (in fact, since it's run by the community, the only stake to be had is a potential loss by the organizers; there is no profit to be had), I just think it's going to be a great event, and a wonderful opportunity for attendees—and not just from a career perspective, but I expect everyone who attends will become more valuable to their current employers, too, based simply on knowledge gained and connections made. (There's a huge amount of value in being able to fire off a friendly email to the author of (e.g.) the memcached extension, when you get stuck, and to already be on a first-name basis.)

    I'm also speaking, there, on Gimme Bar. It won't be a pitch. It will be more of a show-and-tell session on which technologies we use, how we've built what we have so far, what I think we've done right, and a frank discussion on the mistakes we've made (so far (-: ).

    If you can, you should make it to the PHP Community Conference, and be in the right place at the right time, whether it's Nashville on April 21 and 22, or sometime in your future.

    5 Responses

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    • What you've said about putting yourself in the right place at the right time makes a lot of sense.  I think people don't value this enough.  To emphasize what I think you may be hinting at here, it wasn't necessarily choosing this conference and these people to associate with, but choosing to introduce yourself into the general community in person at all that was the important part in enabling you to be at the right place and time for the other good things to line up.

      I'm attending PHP Com Con, and I hope to finally get those beers between us in person after knowing each other virtually for so long.

    • I completely agree, but I might add something a little further. My experience at Confoo as a speaker versus just an attendee greatly increased that networking you talked about. I feel like I had a lot more exposure to people like you, Travis, David, Paul Jones, etc by attending some of the speaker's events. It showed me a lot more clearly how closely a lot of the PHP community is connected.

    • Great post, Sean.

      I try to follow a corollary philosophy: "90% of success is showing up." Or put another way, "just say yes."

      Thinking about going to that user group? Just go. Someone asking for help? Just help. Sure, it can get you into trouble sometimes, but it's amazing what kind of doors open up, just by being there.

      I say corollary because the places you go and the more often, the more chances you have of being in the right place at the right time.

      Hmm, maybe I should blog about this....

    • "I expect everyone who attends will become more valuable to their current employers, too, based simply on knowledge gained and connections made."

      I couldn't agree more.

      There are two major reasons that I am the developer I am today: 1) the Freenode network on IRC, and 2) the people that I have met over the course of my career. Putting yourself in a position where you can make your name known to others (and even make a few friends in the process) is highly underrated. And as it turns out, conferences are the best venue to meet the people behind all the projects and applications that you find interesting.

      Considering the intimate nature of this conference, its goals, the relatively low cost and the list of speakers, I would be attending even if I wasn't speaking. It's going to be that good.

    • A really good reason to put yourself in the right place is that it tends to be fun.

      I'd love to go to PHP Com Con, but there's the small matter of the Pacific Ocean to cross, and the timing is a bit off. Everyone will just have to come visit me in Australia instead :)