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Breaking into PHP

Dear Reader,

I’ve written a version of this email twice today so I thought I would post it for the other 4 people that read my blog.

The question posed to me is this.

I am new to PHP, but not necessarily to programming. How do I get hired as a PHP developer.

In both cases, I wrote something like this.

Dear XXXX,
First welcome to the PHP Community, there is always room for more! :)


You are making the right move by getting involved in the PHP community, I wish I had done that earlier. If I were you, I would join the local PHP User Group mailing list, lurk for a few weeks to get to know the people and then introduce yourself, start asking questions and answering questions when you can. Start participating in the list now so that you already have friends when you attend the first meeting. Get involved in the group, volunteer to help and most of all be reliable. Attend the meetings regularly and become a resource on which the leadership can count.


I would recommend you pick an Open Source project and get involved. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, PHPBB, any of the large projects are a good place to start. However, if you want more more of a chance to shine, you may want to try one of the smaller projects like web2project or Phergie. The most important thing here is to find a project you can get passionate about. If you aren’t excited about the project and being part of it, you will fade fast.

Depending on what interests you, you may want to get involved in a framework. My personal favorite is Zend Framework but I’ve got friends in most of the major and minor frameworks and am happy to recommend most any of them as good places to get involved. A word of warning about frameworks though. If you get known for your work on a specific framework, that may shut other doors for you. Choose wisely, look for a large and active community.


I highly recommend you set yourself up a blog and start blogging what you learn about PHP. I blog for 2 reasons, to share what I learn AND to keep what I learn safe so it is there when I need it again. Since you are new to PHP, your blog will help shore up your resume.


Find a topic you can talk for 45 minutes on and submit it to your local user group as a meeting topic. (after having attended 3-4 meetings to see how others are doing it) If it goes over well, subit it to other user groups in your geographical region. PHP User Groups are always looking for speakers. (and no, nobody ever has money to pay them) :)


Next, pick a conference and start getting to know people. In the US there are 2 major conferences, TEK·X, ( Chicago, May 18-23 (I am the MC) and ZendCon, ( November 1-5, San Jose. (I was the MC in the past) Both of them are great conferences. I am partial to TEK this year since I’m running it but to be honest, you will learn a lot at both and meet a lot of people that will be willing and able to give you a hand in getting started.

In addition to the big conferences, there are a lot of regional conferences and camps put on by user groups. Get involved, attend these as often as possible. The more you are involved, the better chance you have of someone noticing you.

PRO TIP: When attending any event, make sure you have personal cards. A lot of people like Moo Cards. Those are great if you like them. Personally, I don’t because they are a non-standard size so I’m always losing the ones people give me. I use to print my cards and they are standard business card size. DO NOT hand out your employer’s card. If you are representing yourself, you need to have your own card. They don’t need to be fancy, just something that people can use to remember you.


Finally, get involved in the PHP community at large. A lot of us hang out in #phpc on (I’m in there but if you need my attention MSG me because I’m usually not paying attention.) Hang out, get to know people, make friends, ask questions, answer questions and generally, just shoot the breeze with us. The time you invest in building your network will pay for itself the first time you hit a wall and you find help in the community.

I guess it all boils down to Get Involved.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

5 thoughts on “Breaking into PHP

  1. Add me to one of the people who emailed him, I was just looking at ways to market myself better.

    Glad you posted this. There is tons of great information in here. I’ve already passed the email around to a few friends.

  2. Marco Tabini wrote an article in PHP Architect recently that advised that since there are a lot of PHP job seekers currently, to stand out from the pack one should also become front-end savvy, i.e. HTML, jQuery, CSS. And, I personally discovered that his advice was spot on! So, I’d also add subscribing to php|Architect can be most beneficial.

    Another thing that Tabini wrote in another article was that many PHP Developers are working on Macs. I saw a stat the other day that said something like 54% of developers are working on Macs. So, if you don’t know the Mac keyboard and OSX (Leopard or Snow Leopard), learn it.

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