DOers in Action: Elizabeth Naramore Talks Life at Engine Yard and the PHP Community

If you’re active in the PHP community you know the name Elizabeth Naramore – and if you aren’t you probably still know of Elizabeth. By day she is the Community Manager at Engine Yard, focused on the Orchestra PHP platform. By evening she is a code ninja, mother, and impressive member of the developer community. Elizabeth built these two Twilio apps in her spare time and wrote about how to build each of them in just under two minutes. She is the definition of a DOer if we ever saw one. 

We caught up with Elizabeth below to chat about the PHP community, learning Python with her daughter, and the women in tech she finds inspiring. Read the interview below and more from Elizabeth on her personal blog here.

You are currently the community manager at Engine Yard working with the PHP community – what does a day look like in the life of Elizabeth?

I have the best job in the world. I started as a PHP developer in 2002, and have been very involved in the community since. It’s always been a passion of mine, because “community” is where amazing things happen. It’s where ideas are born, connections are made, knowledge is shared, and friendships are forged. I’m very fortunate that I have a job that allows me to not only support the volunteer efforts of those in the community, I get to bring awesome people together in the process. My day usually consists of coordinating sponsorships, events, user group activities, blog posts, podcasts, and interacting with PHP community members… a lot of juggling multiple balls at once and making sure things happen.

You mentioned you’re not specifically coding now, but are you working on any other projects outside of coding you can share with us?

I haven’t coded professionally in a while. Nowadays, most of the code I write is not fit for public consumption; it’s mostly written just to solve my own problems, or for fun. Recently, my 11 year old cheerleader daughter came to me and started asking me about how web pages are made and how they run. From there, she expressed interest in learning it herself, specifically because she wants to write games. My background is in PHP, and I know very little about Python. So I figured maybe we could learn it together. We picked up a copy of “Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” by Al Sweigert and we’ve been working our way through it together– she on her Windows machine and me on my Mac. After seeing the cool things we are doing, my 8 year old jock son is now also interested in learning to code. It’s true, you can’t escape the geek gene I guess. :) Anyway, it’s been a fun side project we’ve been doing together. … And I realized it’s still related to coding, so I didn’t really answer your question. Hah.

I was really inspired by your blog post around Tech Culture and the sexism debate: your main point (to simplify) was to stop arguing and just build things together. What changes have you seen over the past few years being a woman in tech and what do we still need to work on as an industry?

Even though it doesn’t seem like the numbers are going up (at least not at tech conferences anyway), I think progress is definitely being made. When the poop hits the fan (like the Boston API Jam, for instance) I like the fact that it wasn’t just women complaining about it, but a lot of very vocal men as well. We also now see public apologies from high profile male role models like Uncle Bob Martin and websites like http://programmersbeingdicks.tumblr.com. To me, all of these things indicate a cultural shift, where the burden of inclusivity does not fall on those of us who feel left out, but on all community members equally.

It’s interesting to see the mix of reactions from the community around these; some think it’s being taken way too far and causing people to walk on eggshells around us. But as someone who has been in numerous insensitive situations, I think it’s a good thing. The pendulum may swing to the extreme for a while, but it will eventually come back to the center. *That* is hopefully the place where it will stay; with people not afraid to speak their mind, but with a newfound awareness of the impact their words have on the rest of the community.

What women in tech do you look to for inspiration?

I have numerous role models that I admire very much. Ligaya Turmelle, Elizabeth Smith, Kathy Sierra, Lorna Jane Mitchell, Alison Gianotto, Jen Myers to name a few. They all have inspiring stories, are unapologetic for being who they are, and have really made a difference in the lives of others (whether they know it or not). I really respect their honesty, their brilliance, and the mountains of flack they have gotten in their lives.

What’s happening at Engine Yard? Anything cool coming up with should keep our eye on?

Oh, is there! Unfortunately I can’t really spill the beans on a lot of it. Just know that we have grand things on the horizon, and from the community side will continue to help support the PHP community any way that we can. If you’re at a PHP conference, chances are you’ll see one of us there. :)