Soft Skills: 07 valuable non-technical lessons learned from organizing my very first PHP conference!

12 Dec 2018 soft-skills event-organizing lessons-learned php-conference

PHP Day Curitiba 2018 PHP Day Curitiba 2018 - Closing Ceremony - Speakers, Sponsors and Attendees!

Oh my goodness, such a huge success! It went completely beyond all my expectations and... far, far, far better than initially planned. Hey, but I'm not talking about the conference itself, I'm referring to my personal Soft Skills growth!

The importance of Soft Skills for Software Engineers

Software Engineers devote a great number of hours working alongside computer machines. We can easily convert tons of customer requirements into logical sequences (coding) all day long. We can spend hours and hours debugging complete unthought out-of-the-box issues that are breaking production. Well, we can even engage into firewars threads on reddit polite "scientific" discussions in order to prove that removing a single bit in a given benchmark can save entire the world. Uhmm, deeply technical, right?

For society, IT people in general are considered super smart & brilliant minds for technical subjects! ... but at the same time IT people are very hard to deal with in the "real world"... I mean, extremely hard. (please, take it as a simple generalization for the purpose of illustration)

That's why (in my opinion) Software Developers should constantly put themselves into a position of developing their Soft Skills. Yes, I know, you can't get anywhere only with Soft Skills. Hard Skills are undoubtedly necessary. Nonetheless, in order to grow professionally, you gotta grow firstly as a human, touching several key areas commonly overlooked by developers.

I haven't studied the effectiveness of the balance hard/soft skills in depth, however the Pareto Principle applied to this matter sounds so precise to me:

80% of your career success comes from your Soft Skills, while only 20% comes from your Hard Skills.

From Wikipedia:

Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attribute, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients among others that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.

Soft Skills empowers powerfully your Hard Skills! Such a perfect combination!

07 reasons on how organizing a conference can put you into a land of opportunities for Soft Skill growth!

PHP Day Curitiba 2018 - Conference Summary:

  • Free Admission
  • Single and full day event
  • 8 speakers & 2 keynotes
  • 7 sponsors
  • 200 attendees
  • 17 team members (volunteers + university support)
  • 2 coffee-breaks
  • SURPRISE! We had Rasmus Lerdorf, The PHP Creator himself speaking!

Rasmus Lerdorf - The PHP Creator Rasmus Lerdorf - The PHP Creator

1) Network: increase exponentially your professional contacts

Audience Network during coffee-break, attendees getting to know each other

If you think you have a good professional network, it's because you haven't organized an event yet! It's unbelievably amazing how it opens doors!

  • Companies: Unique opportunity to reach out CEO's, CTO's and Team Leaders from consultancy firms, software houses, agencies, and even huge companies in order to present the event. Also, I could visit several companies and be warmly welcomed. They have great interest to support the local community for bringing good Software Engineers to their teams in a mid-term. Everybody knows how difficult it's to hire devs, especially ninjas!

  • Speakers: You will get in contact with such brilliant people you couldn't even possibly think of! My biggest surprise is that Rasmus Lerdorf sent me an email (dude, what a day) saying that he would be around these days in Brazil and that would be fantastic if he could "attend" the conference. Check it out the interview with him. But yeah, obviously it was a rare coincidence. Even without counting him, I could meet awesome people that demonstrated interest to speak through Call for Papers. Also I contacted several other well-known speakers from other Brazilian states that are strongly involved with the local communities, conference/event/meetup organizer's and core names for the PHP ecosystem in Brazil.

  • Attendees: Remember I just told how difficult it's to find out local devs? If you ask for recommendations to some people, the majority can't name 5 in their network... at the other hand YEAH, just "200" of them showed up to the event! An ocean of opportunity! If you had just few names to recommend, now you have a TON! It seems devs hide themselves into their caves and you can't find them whatsoever! Events are a perfect environment to meet developers, exchange ideas and struggles, discuss about the hottest technologies out there, and definitely increase widely your network. Right after the event, as the main organizer, I had the feeling: OMG I met literally +50 great people in a single day that were living very closely to me for years and what the heck it took such a long time to meet them??? The answer is: more events!

2) Leadership - be an ENCOURAGER of other! Lead by the example!

Check In Check in: badges, notepad and a folder

There are many definitions to what the term "leadership" is. I'd simply define it as:

having a goal, surrounding yourself with fantastic people and continuously encouraging them, and ensure things are getting done.

  • You'll learn how to "give up" your own will and readjust your plans several times to match team members recommendations
  • You'll learn how to listen to mentors' suggestions, looking from a different angle and implement a blueprint you didn't design your own
  • You'll learn how to effectively solve conflicts and turn around from the difficult situations
  • You'll learn how to motivate people not by freaking Slack but BY THE EXAMPLE! Real life example!

You'll put yourself in a position of being flexible to wisely manage though situations and people's emotions/desires.

3) Resilience - be solid during difficult times


You'll face strong pressures for decision-making on top of short deadlines:

  • finding the appropriate venue: University? Theater?
  • contacting sponsors: tech companies, consultanting firms, calling to CTO's / CEO's, recommendations
  • opening call for papers and carefully selecting a wide variety of rich topics
  • printed material: badges, notepads, pens, t-shirts
  • marketing: email marketing, newsletter, Facebook ads, social media publications
  • money: providing outstand results with tight budget

You'll put yourself in a position of frequently updating the priorities for the "unexpected" circumstances.

4) Responsibility - Good decisions, Good outcomes (the opposite is also true)


  • You'll learn that nothing in this world comes suddenly out of the dust. Everything has its cost. You'll have to push yourself hard to really make things happen.
  • You'll learn that for accomplishing goals with excellence, zeal & greatness you will have to watch closely all the processes, otherwise nothing will eventually get done

5) Stewardship - Get blood out from a stone


  • You'll learn that we don't live in the perfect world. So, Miraculous Excel sheets, Fancy Business Model Canvas, & other tools at certain moments won't help much when you want to do amazing things but your budget is remarkably limited
  • You'll cautiously rethink 10x times before making any acquisition.

You'll find yourself in a position of being prudent on managing financial resource in order to reach out the ultimate goal.

6) Personal Brand - Show your awesomeness to the world

Personal Brand Galvão Abbott, a PHP Evangelist for two decades in Brazil

Do you have just a degree or a certification on your personal portfolio? Organizing a conference brings value to your career. It'll distinguish you from the average. You'll be able to carry the legacy wherever you will go to for the next years. High-quality pictures, good videos, and beautiful digital content about the event make it look very professional and it endorses the awesomeness of your work. It sort of takes the names from well-known speaker & solid sponsor to your name.

7) Dealing with a high level of criticism & being vulnerable === GROWTH!

Entertaining the audience during a raffle! Entertaining the audience during a raffle!

Unfortunately, we already won the prize: "The Most Narcissist Generation That Ever Lived On Earth!"

I do believe every person (literally every person) has unique talents and valuable skills to impact the world in a positive way. However it involves discipline, training, patience, sacrificing a large amount of fun moments with family & friends, giving up from personal desires, and working hard when nobody is watching you.

As I just said, even though everybody is able to impact the world in some capacity, there are people decidedly NOT willing to pay the price, and their full-time job is disencouraging those that make things happen.

I heard once nobody get into great places just by doing the normal... "for implementing something great, you will need to put yourself in a position of temporary exposure and vulnerability". And I strongly state that at the end of the event the outcomes were positive and the satisfaction paid-off!


It was a remarkable experience and from the bottom of my heart I encourage everyone that is willing to go to the next level on his/her soft skills: step out and shake it up!

Check out all the pictures from the conference here!

Interview with Rasmus Lerdorf - The PHP Creator Check out the interview with Rasmus Lerdorf - The PHP Creator