Alena Holligan

Alena Holligan

Wife, Mother, Programmer, Designer, Teacher, Leader. Bringing almost 20 years of PHP experience into her Teaching at Treehouse and leading the Portland PHP users group. She is passionate about helping people overcome their own barriers to excellence in order to achieve personal confidence in their ability to learn and succeed.

Where do you work, what is your current role?

Software Development Instructor

How do you(have you) use(d) PHP professionally?

Building custom Content Management Systems and websites for small to midsized companies for 15+ years. Now teaching new developers how to get started with programming.

How and when did you get involved speaking or writing in the community?

In 2014, we moved to a bigger city where I started attending meetups and getting involved in the different tech communities through Meetups. I started sharing at different local meetups and gave my first Un-con talk at the Pacific Northwest PHP Conference in 2015.

What’s your best conference memory?

At my first tech conference, my biggest goal was to speak with Adam Culp about a refactoring project I was working on. I just missed the scheduled office hours but had convinced myself to try and get the most out of the time I did have left at the event. As I walked into the building, who should be walking out, but Adam Culp! He not only took extra time to answer my questions, but he also became a good friend. Conferences are a great way to build those relationships!

What advice do you have for someone going to their first conference?

Don’t be afraid to talk to the speakers, they are speaking about things they are extremely interested in and are almost always happy to talk with you more. Have specific people to meet or questions to get answered and got out there and start building relationships.

What’s your primary OS: Windows, Mac, or Linux?


What keeps PHP relevant in today’s web development landscape?

The community that continues to build awesome things and the amazing people that continue to update language features.

What would you tell someone looking to grow beyond copy-pasting PHP from the web?

Build something, then build something else. Keep trying to do new things and don’t be afraid to break it. An IDE can really help you with mistypes, and a debugger can help you track down other problems.

What’s one lesser-known feature of PHP that you use a lot or appreciate?

The community. Don’t underestimate the power of community. Listen to others, share with others, and you’ll be surprised at the things you’ll learn.

Is a degree in Computer Science critical to be a professional programmer?

No. But a degree or anything else you learn can help you if you apply that knowledge.

In your experience, what skill or ability do excellent programmers practice?

Never stop learning


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