As I'm sitting here in Twilio's San Francisco office thinking about what to write for my introductory blog post, it's hard not to be introspective. It's a long way from Swansea, a small city in South Wales in the UK, to San Francisco. Both physically and figuratively. Physically it's a 3 hours drive, an 11-hour flight, 20-minute taxi, and an 8 hour time difference. But in reality, it's taken the help of several amazing people and an entire dev community to get me here.
I'm pretty old in terms of an internet developer. I started my dev career back when people were worried about planes falling out of the sky when the year 1999 rolled over to 2000. I started work coding in ASP connecting to a massive Oracle database; showing metrics over the intranet was cheaper than buying licenses for bespoke process control software at the local steelworks. Yes, my small town had a local steelworks.
In my spare time, I loved playing online games like Counter-Strike, a passion I still carry to this day. Like all serious yet terrible gamers, I joined a clan. In the early 2000s the quality of your clan wasn't judged on how well you played the game, but on how good your website was and that was something I could help with. Unfortunately, running ASP on Microsoft servers was financially extortionate so for a hobbyist it just wasn't viable. There was an open source, in other words - free, alternative called PHP that could do the same thing, and so a lifelong love affair began.
The truth of the matter is that I wouldn't be here if it were not for the power of open source and developer communities. Open source is something I feel very strongly about, and it's been directly responsible for my career progression since I started contributing in 2011.
Taking a look at my first ever merged pull request is very telling. I changed two lines of code in the source and twelve lines in the test. Fourteen lines of code that changed my life.
The people who know me complain of me evangelising the power of open source and developer communities too much. But I've met too many friends and learnt too much to stop encouraging people to get involved.
Since those fourteen lines of code were graciously accepted by the maintainer, a gentleman I am now proud to call a friend, so many people have helped me to become the developer and evangelist I am today. I was incredibly fortunate to have help from some generous and skilled developers in the Zend Framework community first, and later from the PHP community at large.
Let’s not forget that asking questions can be hard. You can feel like you’re admitting ignorance of a topic after all. So many people answered my questions and encouraged my inquisitiveness that I genuinely believe I wouldn't be lucky enough to be doing a job I love with a fantastic company without these generous people.
I’m looking forward to being the voice of Twilio in the PHP community, but more importantly the voice of the PHP community in Twilio, but I only get the chance to do an introductory blog post once, so let me shout loud about open source communities one more time. Open source communities are amazing, and contributing to open source projects can be a one-line change that can open the door to a lifetime of involvement and enjoyment.
If you need a helping hand getting started in open source, then please get in touch. You can find me on Twitter @GeeH, and if I can’t help you personally, I’m sure I can put you in touch with someone who can.