At the start of 2014, I knew very little about software development. I was only a couple of weeks into learning PHP in order to build a project for a friend and I had no idea where this project would take me. I certainly didn’t think I’d end up changing my career at age 30 (for the second time) and making a living as a software developer.

One of the first things I noticed pretty quickly about the PHP community and developer communities, in general, is that they liked to get together at local meetups and also at conferences. I could tell that these were a great way to learn from other developers and also a great way to network. As an introvert, I was very apprehensive at the thought of attending a meetup group or a conference but I also really wanted to connect with other developers directly. The problem here, was at the time I lived in Abu Dhabi and there were no meetup groups for PHP in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. I joined the virtual user group Nomad PHP but knew it wasn’t quite the same as having a local user group to attend. When I moved back to Ireland in 2015 I immediately got involved with PHPDublin in order to get connected to a local community.

It was through spending time in the community that I started to get involved with Open Source projects, namely which I contributed to and then helped to run, as well as a couple of my own projects. I feel that this community involvement has led to me progressing quicker in my new career than I would have if I did not get so involved. The biggest gain I have found from this fantastic community is the network of like-minded people whom I can reach out to for assistance with issues.

Whilst I most definitely class myself as an introvert, through attending conferences and meetup groups, I’ve learned a wealth of knowledge that I otherwise would have struggled to understand. I feel that I can honestly say that without the support of the PHP and wider software development communities, I would not have grown into the developer that I am today.

Recently, a student in a coding Bootcamp asked me why I love contributing to open source and doing what I can to help others learn. The simple answer is that through others contributing before me, I have managed to learn and grow as a developer and now have a career where I feel I can really make a difference, and giving back is the absolute least I can do.

To those involved in helping others learn in the community, thank you!