The Unavoidable PHPWomen

I'm subscribed to a number of women-in-tech mailing lists because, well, I'm a woman in tech. Every few months or so a thread will come round about a technical conference with no female speakers. The issues around this are many, lengthy, and not something I want to write about here (or not today anyway!).

I was pleasantly surprised to note, then, that at the recent TEK-X conference, there was one slot where you could not AVOID seeing a female speaker. While Elizabeth Marie Smith delivered her slightly ranty "Cross Platform PHP", Ligaya Turmelle was sharing her wisdom in her session "Replication with MySQL", and in the remaining track there was a community roundtable, with my noble self on the panel! (OK so a panel is not a talk but hey, bear with me!)

I want to say thanks to TEK-X for being an amazing conference, to the community for being generally fabulous, and to the women in particular for being awesome beyond belief - this was a good day :)

TEK-X: Conference Report

Its been quiet around here recently, partly because I have been really busy and partly because I was in Chicago last week for the wonderful TEK-X conference. It would be very cool to get to go skipping around the world to conferences, however people paying for my airfares do seem to like me to perform some useful function while I am there and this was no exception with one tutorial and two talks to deliver, plus an appearance on a panel. I've attended this conference in previous years however so I knew it would be well worth it :) My sessions and an overview are outlined below:

PHP Best Practices

I was privileged to get a tutorial slot alongside my good friend Matthew Weier O'Phinney for a second consecutive year. This year we presented "PHP Best Practices" which was a lot of fun. We squabbled over topics and took turns presenting them from our own point of view. A description of the session and a link to the slides are on the joind.in page if you are interested.

Subversion in a Distributed World

Now that this talk is finally over, I don't mind admitting that this was the one that I regretted submitting pretty much from the day it was accepted until the day I delivered it, including some rather sleepless nights. It was an adaptation of my "git folks are fanbois" bar rant but I got so concerned that I wasn't supporting my accusations with facts that it evolved into a very coherent evaluation of what I consider to be the four main version control tools around at the moment: Subversion, Mercurial, Bazaar and Git. The talk went over better than I could ever have dreamed, and again you can find description, feedback and slides on the relevant joind.in page. If someone could please stop me next time I submit a talk that needs as much work as this, that would be awesome!

Open Source Your Career

I almost didn't submit this talk, since its so very difficult to get a community talk accepted at the big conferences. They usually have one, at most, and I wasn't sure I was in the top one of submitters on this topic. But, I had a transatlantic airfare to justify and I figured it might make a good second talk - I also know Cal well enough to know he likes a slightly contraversial take on these things. When he accepted it I was fairly surprised and actually quite nervous about spending an hour talking about myself in a conference session! I spoke without slides, so there aren't any, but you can read the outline and feedback on joind.in. In a nutshell: get out and do things, you will reap the benefits one day.

In Conclusion

I had a great time in Chicago, and also managed some touristy outings into Chicago:

Garden in the City The Bean

The conference itself was quite a rollercoaster, not least because every session I delivered was written from scratch for this conference and I spoke at two other big events this year already - 4 sessions over 4 days is a tall order however you look at it and I had pushed my own boundaries a bit with the talks I submitted (for the record, I submitted plenty of perfectly nice, ordinary, technical talks that somehow didn't make the cut!) On the final morning I delivered the career talk and then immediately sat on the community panel. I was aware of people saying to me "have you seen twitter?" but I had to turn around between sessions so I just nodded, smiled, and got settled for the next session. The upshot of that was that I sat in Marco's closing remarks and read 2 hours worth of tweets about me, plus all the joind.in feedback on both sessions, all in one go.

At the risk of understatement, the feedback was totally out of this world, I couldn't believe how well the sessions had gone over and it took me about 3 days to get over the shock ... which is another reason it took me so long to write this post.

I'd like to say thanks to everyone who was there, left feedback, helped me prepare or just showed up to the conference and joined in the event as a whole. Stay in touch and I'll see you all next year :)

Speaking at PHPNW May

Next week I'm speaking at the PHPNW User Group in Manchester on Tuesday Evening, 4th May - full details of the event are on upcoming.org. The talk isn't directly about PHP though; I'll be giving my "Open Source Your Career" talk, discussing how contributing to the community can really help your professional rise. I'll be giving the this talk at the TEK-X conference in Chicago a few weeks later as well, hope to see you at either one event or the other!

Speaking at TEK·X

I'm always pleased to be accepted as a speaker but I'm especially delighted to hear that I'm speaking at TEK·X in Chicago this May. They had a crazy number of submissions for the number of slots available, and I really wanted to go since I spoke there last year and enjoyed the event hugely! This year I'm giving the following sessions:

PHP Best Practices (tutorial) - This is a half-day tutorial with my good friend Matthew Weier O'Phinney covering all sorts of good stuff you can do when you develop PHP. Its a general session and the aim is that everyone in the room takes away something new from our tips and tricks (and stories of what *NOT* to do!)

SVN in a Distributed World I'm giving this talk for the first time, looking at how traditional source control (subversion) compares with the newer distributed version control solutions (git, bzr). There's been lots of buzz around git but in the PHP world we choose our tools on merit, not on cool factor, so this is a chance for me to share my experiences with both types of systems and talk a bit about which scenarios the various tools are a good fit for.

Open Source Your Career Another new talk! This one is about how much personal gain there is being an open source contributor. I've grown hugely, both personally and professionally, from my experience with user groups, events, and software in the open source space - so I'll be sharing some tips on how things can work out well all round.

If you're going to the conference, then do make sure to stop me and say "hi" - there are so many people at these events that sometimes I miss out on meeting people I'd like to have spoken to. You can't miss me, I'm the woman with the English accent and curly hair!! I had an absolutely great time last year and I'm already looking forward to this year's conference!

Conference Biography Help

I've been updating my conference details recently, in order to submit my talks for php|tek in Chicago (the call for papers closes on Monday - get your submissions in!). One thing which I struggled with is my biography, I used to have a paragraph which sort of said "Lorna is a PHP Developer and involved with PHPWomen", and I used that same entry for every conference for a year or more. However, just like speaker photos, biographies do date. I've taken on more responsibilities at work and I've been doing more things in the community as well so it was time for a refresh.

I'm quite happy with my new bio:

Lorna Jane Mitchell is a senior developer who speaks, writes and blogs on a variety of technical topics. At Ibuildings she runs the PHP Academy, meaning she's involved in managing and coaching trainers, hosting seminars and conferences, building a training programme and representing Ibuildings within the PHP community. Lorna is the Editor-in-Chief at Ibuildings techPortal and blogs regularly at lornajane.net. In her spare time she is the European Representative of PHPWomen and is an organiser of the PHPNW user group and conference.

Getting This Far

To get to this point, I started with a list of things I should include. My job, my blog, my community activity, my technical interests. There's definitely scope for including unexpected information here, I'm seriously thinking of adding my knitting hobby into this paragraph!

I then turned my points into sentences, and emailed the result to a few people to read. Even if you're secretly hoping someone else will write your bio for you, its often easier for them to criticise something you have written than to start from scratch themselves. I always take this approach even when I know I'm probably making a hash of it, if I'm asking for someone's input, I take the time to attempt it myself and send them the result. I'm enormously grateful to everyone who has reviewed my biographies and talk proposals, and I'm always happy to do the same for others when I can find the time.

Proofreaders can pick up spelling mistakes and help you put your best foot forward, it might be embarrassing to write about yourself but is it more or less embarrassing than having a lame biography printed in a conference programme?