Today I’m taking a moment to reflect on my experience so far as a software developer and the communities that helped me develop myself in many ways. To admit from the start, this was not the journey I planned to take on, yet it never ceases to amaze me how drastically it changed me and my life overall.

I was walking on an unrelated path as a classical ballet dancer and a pianist mainly practising Bach and Rachmaninoff every morning and night, getting ready for the end of year recitals and somehow also managing to score top notes on all my classes. Sadly due to an accident I suddenly had to give up on my career as a ballet dancer after 12 years. At that time my mother, who was in the first team to install computers into banks and hotels in our home town took me with her while she was working. I spent a lot of time in her workplace where I enjoyed reading her BASIC and COBOL notes and playing with her collection of games on floppy disks.

Eventually I accepted the fact that I had to switch careers and aspired to explore science in all its branches that interested me. Maths, physics and computer science always amazed me so I started building a collection of papers on certain theories and researches in different areas of physics, collected computer science books and wrote my very first working code, an image gallery that served my collection of satellite images and other awesome pieces of astrophotography from a local folder.

Later on, I won a scholarship to study software engineering at a local university. We started with learning Scheme and C, yet the pace of the programme was extremely slow. In the same year I had to leave the school and I had to continue studying auto-didactically and I kind of had to forge my own path at that point.

When you are working on something on your own, or you are on a journey towards a goal, you are prone to making a lot of mistakes. You might fear facing problems that you won’t be able to solve by yourself. You may think that you will never reach to the point you aim for.

The period of time when I decided to take on programming as a profession and picked up a new language to learn, crossed the time I discovered Stack Overflow and specially The PHP Room a.k.a Room-11. (o/) The people in that chat room were (and always are) working on their own projects and after some time I started to get involved in projects of some of the members.

One of these projects was a chatbot they were writing called Jeeves. I sent my first PR to that project and then many others followed, which was a scary thing to do for me, because I had never publicly shared my code nor had I interacted with people on GitHub before and I was afraid of making mistakes. But many regulars in the chat room helped me and talked me through the process and basically just “forced” me at some point to send in the PR saying that it is okay to make mistakes.

After that I started feeling more confident. I kept hanging around in there and followed up with the developments of php-src and amphp libraries. I also got to contribute to different projects all the while learning from the people around me. Not only from people working on projects written in PHP, but also from people actually working on the PHP source code (php-src). I even ended up submitting two PRs to php-src!

Thanks a ton to Chris, Pieter, Gordon, Niklas, Bob, Aaron, Paul, Joe, Nikita and all other R11 regulars for everything they made me learn over the past few years :-)

This year I also went to my first PHP conference (PHPKonf). When I arrived at the conference I really didn’t know what to expect or what was expected from me. But while attending the conference I met Juliette, I got to take her quiz with familiar faces and over the speakers dinner I enjoyed getting to know people from the community having nice discussions ranging from different cultures to the past and future of PHP. Learning from the talks aside, I had the chance to enjoy exploring notable parts of the city along with Andreas, Rob, Patrik, Holger, Rafael, Tiscilla, Emir and Rasmus and eventually came to realization that sharing is an indulging part of a community. Thanks to everyone who made this event such a great experience.

After the conference I kept in touch with Juliette and connected with @Mark_Baker, who recently invited me to PHP Benelux on a PHPDiversity scholarship. (Thank you both!) I hope I can make it there :-)

I’m very grateful to be connected with all members of the PHP community I met so far that I would otherwise never get to know.

To all those who take part in such communities either online or at events, who share the knowledge and experience and who contribute, I wish you all a happy and productive year!