Ada Lovelace Day 2013: Donna Benjamin

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Today I'd like to take the time to write about a technical woman who has influenced me this year, and someone whom I imagine will be surprised to read this. Her name is Donna Benjamin, but you may know her as @kattekrab.

Donna's been a virtual friend for a few years; I "intermet" her when I was preparing to host the Dutch PHP Conference in Amsterdam, in 2010. I had some great role models from the PHP community to show me how to "ringmaster" at a big conference, but I was unsure how it would look on a woman. Having already done a similar role for PHPNW, I'd had negative feedback about being teacherish (something that I still get complaints about), and I wasn't sure how else to wear that role. Lots of things work well for men but not for women (silly things, swearing on stage (this differs between cultures), asking for a pay rise, falling out of bed into whatever free conference shirt you were given yesterday ....) and I was determined not to turn myself into a decorative but ditsy hostess.

My good friend Kathy Reid talked through my anxieties with me, and sent me a link to a video of Donna introducing an even more major conference: Donna organised Linux Conf AU and the video showed her introducing it with equal helpings of excellence, approachability, and entertainment. Confident that I wasn't alone, I stopped worrying and gave that conference my best shot. Continue reading

Tips for Addressing a Virtual Audience

As a conference speaker, I've read the books on how to be a good conference speaker, and coached quite a few people to raise their skills in this area too. However recently I've been meeting more virtual audiences, both delivering virtual training and doing virtual events such as DayCamp4Developers, and I thought I'd share my take on what works well in a setting where people can see your slides, and hear your voice ... and nothing more. Continue reading

The Mathematics of Recruitment and Training

The PHP jobs market is hot, very many people find it hard to recruit the skilled staff that they need to achieve the goals of their organisation. I meet a wide variety of organisations in this technology space, and they all tell me the same story: it's really difficult to get good, qualified people. And I believe that this is true, I know plenty of developers too and although I'll usually try to put people in touch where it makes sense to do so, it's not as if there is a great reservoir of hidden PHP talent somewhere.

This isn't a rant about salaries, the skills of new graduates, or the trials of dealing with recruiters, although each of those is worth a post in itself. It's about the mathematics of providing your organisation with the talent it needs at the time that it needs it. Continue reading

How To Write 800 Blog Posts

This is the 800th published post on lornajane.net. It's my personal blog and I started it in early 2006, when I moved to a new city with no job. I think I got the blogging bug just because I had nobody else to talk to at the time! Over the years the blog has recorded recipes, craft projects, the story of buying and refurbishing the house (a decision that a previous employer described as "brave") - and of course the vast swathes of technical snippets that are the regular content you see here.
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Study Days: Keeping on Top of the New Shiny

One of the biggest dangers in this industry is getting left behind as the tools evolve very quickly. For me, working alone or as the most senior person on a project in most cases, this becomes doubly hard as there's nobody in my office to show me a new trick or share an idea that he or she learned in a previous job. So how do I deal with this?

I take "study days".
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Learning to Speak

I don't mean learning to talk, I mean learning to address an audience, coherently and without dying of fright (actually I think I have clinically proven that it isn't possible to actually stop living as a result of fright). There are a couple of things that I'm involved with that may help you, if you're looking to improve your successes in this area.

DayCamp4Developers

This is a virtual conference, held a few times each year. I've spoken at some of the previous events and been really impressed by how smoothly something quite intangible can run! The next event is on Friday 22nd March and is about public speaking - but aimed specifically at developers. If you want to speak at a user group or conference, or be able to get through presentations at work without stress, then this session will give you some good pointers. The speakers are three excellent conference presenters - and me :) I love this format, what else are you doing on a Friday (especially for Europe, where this doesn't start until our afternoon)? You can register and find out more about the event here http://daycamp4developers.com/. Did I mention that tickets are $40? You can also sign up to get the recordings if the date/time doesn't work out for you.

WeAreAllAweso.me

There's been lots of fuss lately about women speakers at conferences, or the lack of them. The low percentage of women in technology and a missing tendency to put ourselves forward for things means that this isn't going to change any time soon. However if you've been thinking about speaking, then you should know about an online group WeAreAllAwesome which is a meeting point for women speakers to brainstorm ideas for topics, put abstracts together, and share experiences on how to give a good talk. Our office hours are 6-7pm UK time on Tuesdays, and I'm one of the mentors in that project, so if you might speak or just want to join in chatter with women who do, then you know where to find us :) Continue reading

Teaching Those Beginning The Journey

Becoming a master developer is like becoming a master craftsman; you just can't rush the process. You learn the basics, apply those skills, and over time master them and adapt them to be your own. As time goes on, you take on bigger and more complicated tasks, and apply appropriate skills to those, and so on. Our journey as developers is really much the same and yet sometimes I feel that we don't help those at the very start of the journey as much as we could. Continue reading

The Quest for a Payment Gateway

Although I've been "making websites" for a lot of years, I've mostly avoided the kind where people actually pay for anything. The result of this is that I built Bitestats (elevator pitch: sign up and get a printable summary report of your web stats every month by email) but then got busy and never built the bit where people can actually pay to use it.

I recently carved out some time to correct this situation, and fell into an absolute pit of confusion when I tried to figure out what my options even were. My requirements are that my customers are global, I am UK-based, people will set up a regular subscription, and I don't have (and I think I don't want) a merchant account at this point. I'm not PCI compliant and have no intention ever to attempt that. This post is an attempt to round up some things I found out along the way. Continue reading

Community Wisdom: A Training Budget of Zero

I recently wrote a post about what to do when your training budget is zero, and included a poll for what advice others would give. It got 42 votes, which I thought was an indication that I should share the results! Here it is:



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Speaking at DayCamp for Developers

I am delighted to announce that I'm speaking at the upcoming DayCamp for Developers in early March. The idea behind the daycamps is to bring important but non-technical skills to developers everywhere - so the sessions are virtual and so are the speakers! This time around the topic is Business, so we have a series of speakers to give you advice from a practical, developer-centric point of view - on everything you need to know!

My own talk is "Time and Money"; both are pretty important concepts to have a handle on when you are in business, either as a freelancer or when starting or helping to start a bigger business. Even as an employee, these are really important concepts to understand; most of what I learned about business I learned working with business people in the jobs I had beforehand.

Time is important because we need to figure out how much we have and how to share it around. Money is important because we all like to get paid. I'll be sharing my own tactics for keeping both of them under control so I hope you'll join us!