A few months ago during a QA session at PHP South Africa I ended up coining a phrase that has really stuck with me since I blurted it out in the heat of the moment:
“Community is where you will meet the people who will change your life.”
I really believe in this, even if it sounds like a marketing slogan, and if you ever met me you probably understand why. See, our world of technology and development is one in which a “network” is a huge asset to your career. This is not just about finding jobs, but also about growing as a developer.
Let’s say that you are the greatest coder that ever lived. Congratulations, you are surely much better than I am. But is that really enough? It’s like the old saying: “If a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”. Does being the best out there get you anywhere if no one knows you are trying to get somewhere?
This is where community comes in and definitively not just for great developers, even more so for those coming into this market and seeking a path to grow.
The community is an amazing network:
A Network of People
Knowing people is key to the game. These are the people who will let you know about good opportunities, who will remember your name when an opportunity comes around, or the ones who will tell you about new technology, new ways of doing things. Its as much about recruitment as it is about inspiration and advice.
Behind every developer is, surprise, a person. Turns out we are all humans and we all face good and bad times. The PHP community has proven once again that they are as ready to give you their opinion on PSR-X as they are to come together to support you in time of personal crisis or calamity.
As an expat, building AmsterdamPHP was as much about sharing knowledge as a way to make new like minded friends, to make adapting to Amsterdam easier and lot more fun.
A Network of Knowledge
Each person in your network is a powerful tool of knowledge acquisition. The game is not to know it all, but to know who to talk to, to get the information needed. We are not all lucky to work with all the amazing names of our community, but through community and communication tools like IRC, Slack, Twitter or other we can be connected to this neural network of smart minds. When I was a one man team I constantly took my internal discussions onto these channels to get an external opinion, a new mindset and find a fencing partner. I was never disappointed and I learnt so much more than I would have being lost in my echo chamber.
Similar exchanges can also happen in meetings and conferences, that is indeed the center of their purpose. Whether you are watching talks, or hanging out in the hallway track, those exchanges can really flip your career upside down.
A Network of Opportunities
We developers are living a truly amazing time in our careers, a time of bonanza, a time when we can actually choose where, how and on what we want to work. This is not as much of an exaggeration as it may sound, most companies I know of are hiring some level of developer, and most of them have more slots open then the number of developers they can find. I venture to say that if you don’t have this feeling, you are just blind to the current market, and guess what? Yep, community also helps here.
Every single sponsor of AmsterdamPHP is hiring, no exaggeration. By simply attending our monthly meetups every month I get to see the “insides” of a new company, learn about their product, their passions and even better, I get to interact with their team in their “home court”. All of this goes into my mental “rolodex of cool places”, whenever I feel the need to seek new adventures this is where I go and start interview processes. Why wait for recruiters to offer me up as the “dish of the day” and tell me where to go? I know all the places I want to work at!
Ironically enough this also makes me a real good recruiter, wait, no I have not gone over to the Dark Side, but I do now have a good list of places to point people who are looking for jobs to. We cover the full spectrum, from “looking” to “getting indications” and finally to “being indicated to”.
Does all this “change your life”? I’ll let you be the judge of it, but from where I stand, my life really did get flipped upside down by the people I met in the community.
- Elizabeth Naramore taught me that “life started outside my comfort zone”.
- Cal Evans taught me that “if you are not in a community, you are it”.
- Michelangelo van Dam taught me that “Community Works”.
- Stefan Koopmanschap recommended me to the job that changed me to another continent
- Frank van de Brink partnered up with me to build AmsterdamPHP and make Amsterdam “Home”.
- The AmsterdamPHP crew taught me that “shipping elePHPants is not as easy as it seems”.
Your Mileage May Vary, but I consider moving to another continent and speaking in all but two continent of the world (Asia and Australia, I’m looking at you) one wowzer of a life change. And this is not even including all the amazing people who taught me to code, to architect and to PHP.
Thank you all for changing my life, I hope I can change yours in exchange one day.