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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Two Years of Trading

Two years ago I quite literally gave up the day job. I had no clients, no experience of being anything other than a salaried employee, but I did have an urgent need for change! Two years on I've just done the end-of-the-year reporting and I'm struck by how far I've come and how much the numbers surprise me (there are no actual numbers in this post, it doesn't feel appropriate somehow - but there are graphs!). Continue reading

Upcoming PHP Courses

Since becoming freelance 18 months ago, I've taught a number of courses at my excellent local tech training centre, NTI Leeds. Over the next few months we're running some one-day PHP courses (see my course dates page for more detail and the dates, all these are in Leeds although I'd like to run them elsewhere too), targeted at a particular area or set of skills. These are areas that I find myself delivering consultancy or training on frequently, or things I teach when I go places and realise these gaps exist in their knowledge. Does this match your experiences of "things I wish PHP developers knew - including me"? Continue reading

Celebrating One Year in Business

A year ago, I left my job at Ibuildings and went freelance. At the time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do next, and I was excited about the opportunity to try out a few different things. I blogged about my new (ad)venture when I launched it, but I haven't written much since and people keep asking me for updates - the anniversary seems like a good time to reflect.

Well, I still don't know what I want to do next, but that seems like less of a problem these days. I'm busy but in a planned-in-advance, only wearing myself down because there was something so exciting I couldn't say no, kind of a way. I am not a great fan of travel, and have always tried to avoid it, but in fact so many interesting things came up this year that I ended up on the road more than ever. It turns out that there is a world of difference between being sent somewhere on short notice, and planning a series of interesting professional engagements that just happen to involve being away from home a lot all at once. And if I don't want to go: I don't go. It's amazing how many people will wait til next month if you ask them!

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A Book Burndown Chart

You might have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here lately ... that's because I'm writing a book and doing a lot of editing at the moment. I love doing both of these as part of my work, but it turns out that when you're already writing/editing 3k words a day, it's hard to find more words to blog with (well, and I usually blog whatever code I'm writing which isn't a whole lot right now). I did however want to share with you the news that I'm working on a book (about PHP, for the lovely Sitepoint).

I'm completely new to book-writing and it felt like a mountain to climb. I have five chapters of around 8 thousand words each to write for the book (I have co-authors, who are also lovely), and the general advice I got was to just take it all one step at a time. This sounds a lot like the way I teach project management and time management to developers, so I used those same skills and created a burndown chart (I blogged about creating these before):

As you can see, there have been some great days, and some quieter days. The flat lines are mostly weekends or days where I was out of the office with other clients. Although I feel slightly overwhelmed (and this doesn't show the edits that come back after I submit each chapter), the graph is at least going in the right direction!

Ticket Giveaway: DC4D:2

Did you know that there's a second edition of the DayCamp 4 Developers event coming up in March? The daycamps are a chance for developers to invest a day in their careers, wherever they are, focussing on the soft skills we need to grow beyond coding monkeys and into accomplished and upwardly-mobile professionals. It's a virtual conference, so you can join us from anywhere in the world!

In the new edition of DC4D, I'm giving a session entitled "Could You Telecommute?". I have worked from home for three years and if there's one thing I've learned along the way, it's that it isn't always easy! Telecommuting doesn't suit everyone so if you think you'd like to work this way one day, then I hope to give some pointers for how to tell if it will work out, or how to make it work for you. The event is on March 5th but there are also video-only tickets for those people who would rather watch their sessions back at their own pace.

I have a ticket to give away, so if you want to be my guest, leave me a comment and tell me why I should choose you! NB the tickets are only $35 so this isn't quite as impressive as it might sound, sorry!

I'll pick winners on 26th February, with a week to go to the event.

Book Review: The Passionate Programmer


I've been putting off writing this post, because I wasn't sure I could do the book justice, but I read and really enjoyed "The Passionate Programmer" last summer, and I've been dipping into it again and again ever since. The book was actually a recommendation from Travis Swicegood, after he saw me give my talk Open Source Your Career. It seems like it's not a well-known title so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the book and what I got from it.
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Preparing for ZCE 5.3

Recently I have been getting to grips with the ZCE since it was updated to take account of PHP 5.3. In the last few weeks I've both passed the certificate myself and also taught Zend's certification training course as a classroom course at NTI Leeds. I thought I'd share my top tips for preparing for taking the ZCE - getting to the standard, last-minute preparations, and also some tips for surviving the day itself (disclaimer: everyone sitting the ZCE signs a declaration not to disclose the contents of the exam, so I can't actually tell you the questions, sorry!)

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