In 1998 I started freelancing for a web agency in Munich, doing mostly ASP work. I was very fond of ASP, since it was probably the last technology I could master without looking anything up—not a surprise if you only have 36 properties and methods. As you might imagine, I quickly hit the limitations of the technology, so I started looking around and found out about PHP. In mid-1999, in a very bold move, I convinced the CTO to buy the only German PHP book at that time and to try out this technology for certain customers. The main customer back then was Compaq, and we even managed to sneak some PHP into their ASP-based web site, but that's a different story, and completely unrelated to HP buying Compaq later on
PHP proved to be very well suited for what we needed, the only issue was that many of the developers used Windows, and as such were considered lower beings by part of the PHP core team then. Every time I meet Frank M. Kromann I buy him a drink, since the PHP project never released a Windows version of version 3.0.18. I had issues compiling it, so he helped me out and sent me a binary he built. I still can't believe that I put a binary from an external source on a critical web server, but at least the release fixed something we needed.
I started speaking at around 2000, first on ASP, but then moved to PHP which I was doing more and more for work. After doing some German conferences I applied for PHPCon in Milbrae in fall of 2002 and, shockingly, was accepted. I had written a book for SAMS Publishing that was due to come out a few weeks after the conference, so I stopped by the SAMS booth (they were sponsoring) and introduced myself. This made me part of a few days that all that were there will never forget, including an over-the-top dinner, and a visit to Puppetry of the Penis. I met Rasmus (Lerdorf), John (Coggeshall), and Shane (Caraveo) there for the first time, and Luke (Welling), Laura (Thomson), and Andrei (Zmievski) at the next PHPCon in the spring of 2003 in New York City (where we all wanted to get a tattoo—another story). Looking back it's just amazing for how long we have known each other, and how many of us are still part of the same family, the PHP community. I started speaking more and more, including two OSCONs and several ApacheCons. Of all the conferences of that time my favorite one was probably ApacheCon in December of 2005 in San Diego. Two weeks before Christmas, warm temperatures, and Java. Lots of it. Chris Shiflett even dubbed the conference "Javapachecon". The only exception—the Gallic village, so to speak—was a set of PHP-related sessions by Adam (Trachtenberg), Andrei, Chris, Rasmus, Theo (Schlossnagle—probably not on PHP ), and myself. We were all coming to each others sessions just to make sure there are a few attendees, and had so much fun on these few days (and probably the most disappointing Mexican dinner ever—Chris' choice). Another memorable event was ZendCon 2009 where we snuck into the Microsoft Windows 7 release party in San Francisco. For those who were there: party bus, the kilt, MC Hammer. Unforgettable! I still think very fondly of those days.
Thanks to my PHPCon credits I also successfully applied for the first ZendCon, and have been to each single one (in the US) since then, not planning to quit before Zeev buys dinner for me and Matthew (Weier O'Phinney) as he promised at the 2013 show. I hope to continue my streak when the conference moves to fabulous Las Vegas this fall! Back at OSCON 2004, I passed the Zend PHP 4 Certification. John, Luke, Laura and I promised each other only to talk about this if we all passed (which we eventually did). I was elected as one of the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for the PHP 5 edition of the certification, also worked on the PHP 5.3 one and was the lead author of the current 5.5 edition. Very proud to see the ongoing demand for this project!
Contrary to popular belief I do some actual, honest work apart from speaking and, sometimes, writing I am very happy that I still do a lot of work with PHP (and, *gasp*, ASP.NET, although I cannot memorize even a fraction of the five-digits number of classes, let alone of its members). I co-founded Arrabiata Solutions in 2005 and am still affiliated with the company that is doing very well. I had also the chance to work with countless companies and enterprises and support their web projects. I have started and contributed a little bit to several open source projects over time, even one in Perl (but I won't link it here ), but most of it is still in PHP. Actually I will do a tiny PR for PHP itself later today!
What was just a stupid idea of a young developer with so-so experience turned into a fulfilling career and many friendships across the globe. It's rare that you work with the same technology for 17 years, and it's also not common that you are still in contact with people you met over ten years ago that live over half a dozen timezones away. PHP did not only advance my skills, it also provided me with a lot of fun. It's paramount that you love what you do! So thank you PHP, thank you Rasmus, thank you Andi & Zeev, thank you PHP community. Looking forward to the next milestone we can all celebrate together!