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Co-President of PHPWomen Michelle “Liiper” Sanver Discusses Community Inclusion and PHP

May 10, 2017

5 Min Read

Michelle Sanver is the co-president of, software developer at Liip, and organiser of the ZürichPHP conference. In her interview with Cloudways, she tells us the purpose of PHPWomen, her responsibilities at Liip, and talks about travelling and her hobbies. Enjoy the interview 🙂


Cloudways: When did you start your career as a software developer? What was your first project? Who was the inspiration behind choosing this career?

Michelle: What counts as a career and what counts as a project? I started playing around with PHP when I was a 12 year old kid, did the typical guest book, my first paid project was a webshop. Easy, I thought. Somehow it didn’t make it very long… I wonder why, maybe they didn’t like spaghetti. Since then, I learnt a lot about PHP and programming and I have kept up this hobby until it eventually became my profession. The transition was pretty smooth. I’d say I started my professional career in PHP in 2010, so almost 6 years ago. My inspiration is a bit of a cliché answer. My parents always encouraged me to keep on doing what I enjoy, because if you enjoy what you are doing, you will enjoy life so much more. And guess what? I enjoy life 🙂

Cloudways: What is the idea behind PHPwomen? Who are some people who came together to found PHPWomen and how do you see the future of this organization?

Michelle: The idea behind PHPWomen in my eyes is to continue to provide and ensure a friendly atmosphere in our amazing community, so that everyone, including women feel welcome, safe and included. We work on being an inclusive community not excluding anyone from our activities and our goals, because we know how it is to feel like an outsider, and we don’t want anyone to feel that way. We keep the name so that women have an easier time finding us, even if some people feel that we should change the name to ‘PHP people’ as that is the message we send out. PHPWomen started in 2006 as a call for women of PHP to “stand up and be counted” by Ligaya Turmelle and Elizabeth Naramore. But I did not hear about the organization until about 2008, and got involved around 2010, in 2013 Lineke Kerckhoffs-Willems and I took over the presidency. We hope that this community will continue to grow organically, and become an even more global organization than it is today.

Cloudways: What difficulties do you face when you are implementing the ideas of PHPWomen?

Michelle: Before I mention this, I have to say that the support that the community provides BY FAR outweighs any difficulties that we are facing, but of course like any group of our nature we have experienced some hatred, ignorance and comments noone wants to hear, especially while staffing booths at conferences. There is also more common issues like lack of time to implement everything that we want and plan.

Cloudways: What are the upcoming conferences of PHPWomen and when?

Michelle: We are present at conferences but don’t host our own, we are planning to soon launch a website where it will be more clear where and what PHPWomen members attend! Stay tuned, in the meanwhile please follow @phpwomen on Twitter where we tweet all news and events that we are at.

Cloudways: What are your responsibilities as a Software Developer at Liip? What are some core services Liip provides? Why do you think Liip is a great place to work?

Michelle: There are so many great things about Liip, I could write a lot about it. I love that Liip supports me in what I do, they are very much promoting community and learning. At Liip you’re not just an employee, you’re a Liiper, and Liipers care about each other and listen to each other, I always felt like I have a say. Well being and work-life balance is very important, you can change to part time work if your life demands it, or work full time if you want. Also, there are so many projects and teams, if you are bored of your current skillset, there’s always a chance to try something new, all within Liip. Currently I work as a backend developer for team Lego, we build API’s and a lot of us are highly specified in Symfony2. PS: We’re hiring.

Cloudways: How do you spend your time when you are not working at all? What are some parts of Switzerland that you would highly recommend to visit?

Michelle: I love to play boardgames! Some favourites are Power Grid, ticket to ride, eldritch horror, stone age… And many, many more. I also love to enjoy the nature in the beauty that is Switzerland, there are many places around here such as Pilatus that won’t disappoint you if you decide to visit and love nature! Speaking of nature, Switzerland also has many beautiful lakes, rowing is another activity that I enjoy since I moved here.

Cloudways: What are some of the PHP frameworks that you love to work upon? How do you see the growth of Symfony and Laravel in the recent past, in comparison to the older Yii & Codeigniter?

Michelle: I used CodeIgniter in the past, but it never quite managed to stay up to date with the quick changing PHP; something I think Laravel, Symfony and Zend Framework are all doing quite well. I never used Yii to be honest, but I know a lot of people swear by it. Currently, I’m mainly a Symfony developer. It does save a lot of time when you get into a framework to do your everyday job, with components and composer combining parts of different frameworks are also relatively easy, or using just components for a small project.

Cloudways: Why did you prefer HHVM while creating Migros API?

Michelle: Because of performance increases, it was simply way faster than PHP. The benchmarks for PHP7 looks promising though.

Cloudways: Why do you prefer elasticsearch? How would you compare it with the default search provided by the php frameworks?

Michelle: For full text search there are currently two options that I truly believe work, are fast and accurate: Solr and ElasticSearch. I prefer ElasticSearch because it is friendlier and easier to use. Also, we love json.

Cloudways: Who are some people that you would like to recommend to follow in the PHP community, or the people who have influenced you during your journey in the PHP world?
Michelle: I could write an essay of people in the PHP community that are amazing, who inspired me and who made me a better person. So, therefore, I will not highlight just a few but I would rather like to invite you to build your own role models and make your own opinions. Talk to people who make code you admire, join PHPMentoring and find a mentor, or go to your local User Group or conference and you will, just like me, find so many amazing people that it is impossible to mention just a few.

Cloudways: Why use IRC still, since there are many PHP communities? What are some IRC channels that you recommend to join for PHP developers?

Michelle: There are still people around, old habits die hard. Some channels that I frequent are: #phpwomen, #phpc and #phpmentoring all on freenode, my nickname is geekie, see you there!

Cloudways: I saw a picture of you on Twitter wearing the traditional Pakistani wedding dress. Have you ever been to Pakistan? What are some places you have traveled to around the world?

Michelle: Yes! I recently came back from Pakistan for my sisters wedding, thus the pictures. That is the furthest away from this culture I have been to, and I loved it. I love experiencing new places and cultures and learning more about them, and I want to see more of the world. Most of my travelling has been within Europe and the U.S which is quite close to my culture. Recently most of it for PHP conferences. I have only been to the US for PHP conferences, if it is in a new city I tend to take an extra day or two to explore, but I might plan a real holiday there sometime. Speaking of conference holidays I absolutely love the heat of SunshinePHP in February, one I can “warmly” recommend.

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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. You can email him at [email protected]


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