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From the Desk Of

AMANDA FOLSON

Laracon 2016

This year marked my 3rd Laracon US in a row. If you’re not familiar, it’s a conference focused on the Laravel PHP framework. Many of the talks have nothing to do with PHP or Laravel itself, but a majority of them are technical talks that elaborate on an idea or spell out complex subjects.

Laracon is sort of special to me for a few reasons:

  1. It was the conference that convinced me to get involved in Laravel and the PHP community as a whole.
  2. The Laravel community has been one of the most welcoming to me. (This is also something I’ve experienced in the broader PHP community.)
  3. Every year manages to be better than the last. If you go to as many events as I do, you know how rare it is to find consistent conference experiences.
  4. I’ve met and made some awesome friends at this event.

Story time.

My first Laracon was in 2014 in New York City. Ryan and I went because the company we worked for had sponsored, and we met up with Sara who had been using Laravel at work for a while. I was pretty much a Laranoob, so I didn’t know what to expect.

But that was fine. We had a great time talking to attendees and speakers. Talking to the speakers was sort of the turning point for me.

Everyone I spoke to was great. They were patient as I asked stupid questions, they were friendly enough to invite me to chat about stuff over lunch, and to this day I keep in touch with many of the speakers I met there.

The attendees were fantastic too. Like with speakers, I found a plethora of people who just wanted to talk tech/games/dogs/octopi and have a good time. I still keep in touch with a ton of attendees I met there – some of them are now close friends.

In 2015, I paid my own way to go. I wasn’t big into public speaking just yet nor did I work for a company using Laravel. To date, it’s the only time I’ve ever paid my own way to an event (I attend a lot of these for work and the expenses are always paid). However, I was slightly more informed about Laravel and found it much easier to keep up with some of the talks. Ryan, Sara, and I even met up with this dude Wade who we’d known online for years.

In 2016 I was invited to speak about Lumen. it was really neat to speak at the conference that started it all for me. These days I’m relatively involved in the PHP community, and I feel like Laracon 2014 was the catalyst for that. It was neat to give back and to come talk about something I care about.

I’ll level with you – I was a bit worried that my talk would be too basic for the crowd I was speaking to. I’d poked around the community a bit, and it seemed like most people hadn’t taken a look at Lumen. Those who had seemed to get caught up in nuances between Lumen and Laravel that made it difficult to get something nice whipped up. I trusted my gut and went with a basic talk called “Zero to API with Lumen” that went over some API design stuff as well as some code samples.

I got off stage afterwards and there were over 400 notifications on my phone. Some people asked questions, others tweeted pictures of slides, but overall it was neat to see how the attendees reacted to the talk. I didn’t get any negative feedback, so I’m calling that a win.

I didn’t get a lot of questions at the end, but I told people to meet me by some tables out front if they had any. I didn’t even make it to the tables because several people stopped me on my way out of the auditorium. Overall, it was an extremely positive experience for me.

This trend continued for the rest of the conference as well. Everywhere I went, people came to me to talk about Lumen, APIs (especially authentication), software design – you name it. It was really cool.

If you’re interested in Laravel and have never been to Laracon US, I highly recommend you check it out next year. If you weren’t able to attend this year, videos of every talk have been put online for you. Check it out. If you have any questions, there’s no doubt in my mind that every speaker on there is willing to answer questions.

Until next year, Laralads and Laraladies.


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