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Erika Reinaldo Talks About PHP Development, Conference Circuits and Her Love for ElePHPants

Updated on May 10, 2017

5 Min Read

Erika Reinaldo is a software engineer at DigitalOcean. She started her career as a C developer and after sometime, switched to web development. At DigitalOcean, she started her career as a Developer Advocate.

In her interview with Cloudways Erika talks about her career, her experience as a speaker and talks about DigitalOcean and managed hosting providers. Being a teacher herself, she gives some wonderful advice to students. She also talks about who to follow in PHP community. Enjoy the interview 🙂

Interview with Erika Reinaldo

Cloudways: Erika, when did you start your career as a PHP developer? What motivated you to become a developer and did you have a mentor who helped you in this journey?

Erika: I started it as a hobby, basically because I wanted to create websites. At that time, I worked full time as a sysadmin. I started a blog at a free platform and I was creating and sharing layouts for that platform (something similar to Blogger, but smaller and specific to Brazil). There was a layout competition in which I participated and I was one of the winners, so I could choose a technical book as award, and I chose a PHP book 🙂 That was when everything started. Then I started doing some freelance projects, and later I got a job which was partially web development and partially sysadmin, that’s when I started to use PHP professionally.

Cloudways: What was the first conference you attended as a speaker? What were your feelings when you were debuting as a conference speaker?

Erika: My first conference as an official speaker was CodeConexx in 2013, a small 1-track conference organized by PHPWomen, hosted in the Netherlands. I presented a non-technical talk, and I was pretty nervous about it. I had practiced before by presenting short talks in the unconference tracks of PFCongress and PHPNW, but being part of the schedule as an official speaker, for a full track, was a whole different thing. It was very rewarding and I got fantastic feedback that helped me get better at future presentations. The thing I was scared the most was my English, because as a non-native speaker with less than a year of real practice and living in a foreign country, I was very insecure. But it all went quite well.

Cloudways: Attending different conferences as a speaker, what are the experiences you would like to share with our readers?

Erika: Conferences are fantastic, and they can definitely be life-changing. Even though my first conference as a speaker is something I will never forget, the first conference that I ever attended, just as a regular attendee, was the real watershed moment in my professional career. That actually happened less than 6 months before my first conference as a speaker, just so you have an idea of the impact it had on me, and how it empowered me to be a better developer. It was the Dutch PHP Conference, in 2013. For me, coming from a small city in Brazil, that was amazing – seeing all those famous PHP people that I only heard about, some that I read blog posts and had helped me in the past… And actually talking to them. I also got my first ever elephpant, so it was just perfect.

If you never went to a conference before, you should definitely do what you can to attend one.

Cloudways: Being a technical writer, which topics do you love to write about?

Erika: I actually just recently went through a transition, coming back to software engineering. I really love writing, and this was a great experience for me as a developer, however, code is what I really love to do. I enjoyed writing mostly about subjects related to PHP.

Cloudways: Present your thoughts on how DigitalOcean gained such a widespread popularity amongst developers?  

Erika: I really believe that what makes DigitalOcean awesome is its simplicity. Long before I started working there, I was a happy customer, and the first time I created a “droplet” I was amazed by how simple and easy it was, how minimalist their panel is… I had tried using AWS before and I simply could not understand their interface. Apart from that, the knowledge base shared in the community section really tells a lot about DigitalOcean’s focus on making the life of developers easier.

Cloudways: What is your perception on managed DigitalOcean hosting providers such as Cloudways?  Will you recommend managed hosting providers to friends?

Erika: It’s hard to say, because every company and every developer has different needs. If you have some experience managing servers, you probably don’t need a managed host, and for companies, there’s also the possibility of hiring people to take care of the servers in-house, which is definitely more reliable (but also more expensive). Managed hosting is a good option for those who are not comfortable managing servers and can’t afford hiring someone to do it for them.

Cloudways: You have been a teacher for 2 years. Share your best experience as a teacher? What advice you would like to give students who are starting their career as a web developer?

Erika: Being a teacher was somehow a weird experience to me because part of the students attending my class didn’t really have passion for programming. As a self-taught developer, it was hard for me to understand why someone would try to learn programming without having that passion – later I could understand that some people are attracted to this field by the promises of big paychecks and things like that. Some of these people also believe they can just pay to learn how to be a developer, but that is just not possible. You can pay someone to teach you the syntax, the best practices, the theory, etc. But without continuous practice, without curiosity to learn new things and without passion for the challenges of programming, it is impossible to be a good developer.

As an advice for people who are beginning, I would say to work on a pet project that is either fun or solves a problem for you. This will give you extra motivation to practice and to learn new things, making the experience much more enjoyable.

Cloudways: How do you spend your free time? It is known that every PHP developer has an elePHPant symbolism. Do you have one? Can you share it with our readers?

Erika: I love watching TV series, and I probably spend more time than I should doing this. Often I also play Rocksmith just for fun, because I love music but I don’t have the perseverance to learn how to play the guitar for real (and GuitarHero is embarrassing imo, at least with Rocksmith you use a real guitar).

It’s no mystery that I love elephpants and also regular elephants… Elephants for me are wise and peaceful animals, yet very powerful. I think they are the perfect mascot for PHP.

Cloudways: Who are some people that you would like to recommend for following the PHP community, Are there people that have influenced you during your journey in the PHP world? Please share your experience.

Erika: It’s always hard for me to point people from the community because there’s a lot of people I admire and I would probably forget to include some that are equally important, just because my memory is terrible. I will limit myself to one person that helped me in the very beginning with feedback from my first talk, and was always really nice and welcoming, apart from being a fantastic professional: Lorna Jane. She is definitely a role model for me.

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Ahmed Khan

Ahmed was a PHP community expert at Cloudways - A Managed PHP Hosting Cloud Platform. He is a software engineer with extensive knowledge in PHP and SEO. He loves watching Game of Thrones is his free time. Follow Ahmed on Twitter to stay updated with his works.


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