Farewell to php[tek] Chicago

by pschwisow

At the close of php[tek] 2015, Eli White announced that tek would be moving to St. Louis in 2016. While I admit that this seems to be the right thing for the conference, I am saddened by the news. I have been lucky to have such a great conference right here in my hometown, and I will miss it. It feels like something is coming to an end, and I cannot help but look back at what it has meant to me.

php|tek 2011 (back when it used the pipe character in its name) was my first PHP conference and my first introduction to the great community we have. As an introvert in a new environment, it was somewhat difficult to open up and connect with people, but I joined Twitter (as that’s where everyone seemed to be) and sidestepped my insecurities to begin to forge some great friendships. The first person I met (other than the organizers) was Matthew Turland, and now I count him as one of my closest friends. So many others from that first year have become my network of friends. That is who I think of as “the community”. I have only added on to that, and so many I have met in person for the first time at tek.

tek gave me my start at a conference speaker. First by wisely rejecting me when I was not really ready in 2012, then by giving me a shot to take the stage in 2013. As a nervous first-time speaker, I made it through, but I always expected I’d be back again with a good dose of additional confidence and experience. I’ve spoken at other conferences, and I will continue to do so, but none will be the conference rooms I know so well.

There are the constants of tek… the faces I saw every year: Beth Tucker Long, Michelangelo van Dam, Ed Finkler… And the little things that were so entertaining and memorable: Sara Golemon throwing balsa gliders and then pretending to have nothing to do with it when one hit an unsuspecting attendee, the time that I “stole” Keith Casey’s bag and “held it for ransom” to get a conference patch, a well-timed escape to go eat cookies with Elizabeth Naramore and Ed…

So many firsts for me: first PHP conference I attended, the first time someone I had never met in person recognized me and sought me out to meet me, first conference I spoke at, first conference I have worked at (as a volunteer). Certainly you cannot go back and have those firsts again, but it was so comforting to know that I could always go back. After 5 years of tek, it felt like a kind of home. It’s time to move on, but tek will always be special to me. I hope to be able to attend tek again in it’s new home next year, but I know it will not be my tek.

Farewell, and thank you for giving me my start in this great community. You will be missed, php[tek] Chicago!