How PHPro adapted a Google philosophy

Toon, Nik, Jan and Joke embody the core values of PHPro: they are young, incredibly motivated, looking for new challenges and knowledge. To support these values PHPro created the Special Interest Groups – SIG for short. A SIG is a thinktank where a team can work on their own work-related ideas using new technologies. How does a SIG work? Toon, Nik, Jan and Joke will explain in this article.


A SIG is a team of developers or analysts who work on self-selected project. Such a project starts with an idea that is documented and estimated like any other project. After an approval of PHPro, the project is shared internally and colleagues are able to join the team. The project grows in a natural way.

Working at PHPro is even more interesting because of the Special Interest Groups. By providing an environment that supports personal initiative and new, innovative ideas, PHPro also boosts the personal development of every participant. And off course, PHPro benefits as well. Experience and knowledge are shared internally. Win-win.

Saw and harvest ideas

The source of inspiration? Google. Employees are allowed to spend a fraction of their time on personal projects. “We want to do research on tools that appear useful to us and our customers”, says Toon, responsible for the SIG’s. “But those tools usually aren’t part of customer-related projects.”


That’s why we decided to free up one day a month on everybody’s agenda for these personal projects. This is time our teams can spend on researching and trying out new technologies. “Everybody in this company can suggest a new project”, Joke explains. “Who is interested in a project can simply join a team. Each last Friday of the month we meet, our office at Kontich, and work together on the common goal.”

Voluntarily. Without obligation.

And when we say that everybody can join any team, we mean EVERYBODY. “PHPro offers a chance, but you have to take it. It’s your choice wether you join or not.”, says Jan. “On average about 20 people sign up for a project.” SIG’s create a nice and dynamic atmosphere at PHPro. There already is a flat organizational structure, without strict hierarchical levels. PHPro believes ownership, quality and knowledge are more important than status or promotions.


Working in a SIG usually is very relaxed. But don’t be mistaken, we expect concrete results. “At the end of the day we fill in a form where we register what we did that day.”, says Toon. “We note what has been done and was remains to be picked up. I regularly present the progress on different projects. Sometimes we release new features and updates and notify the entire company. Everybody remains in the loop.”

Investing in people

The Special Interest Groups are PHPro’s way of investing in people. “You will learn a lot when working for a customer, but by adding extra room for new and experimental stuff we can really grow, innovate and deliver quality. That is truly what PHPro stands for.”, says Nik. “With this added value PHPro convinced me to apply for a job here.”, he adds. “You feel you aren’t here just to make money for the company. You can actually grow and explore new technologies and challenges.”


“No two days are the same”, Toon adds. “We have a wide range of customers. Varying from fashion retailers to B2B customers and service providers. Think Bel&Bo, E5 mode or Atlas Copco, Edmac and Imes. But also BPost and Digipolis. On any given day, you can be working on 3 different projects. That’s very fascinating.” But PHPro isn’t all about custom development. We bring solutions for specific problems of our clients. And finding these solutions isn’t always a walk in the park. And this adds to the overall joy of delivering solutions.

SIG: success stories

One of the success stories of the SIG program is GrumPHP. This is a task runner that is downloaded 2000 times a day. Worldwide! GrumPHP is an excellent example of open source projects. “An active forum of colleagues and users that work together on new features.”, says Jan proudly.

Another example are the workflows for Magento – webshop framework - that are used at PHPro in every team. “Sometimes we were reinventing the wheel as we started a new project. During our SIG days we came up with solutions to work more efficiently.”, says Joke. Special Interest Groups add best practices and new standards to the workflow and ensure that every project meets our high quality standards and those of our customers.


Never stop learning

Investigating new opportunities and sharing knowledge, that's our motto. "We also get to know each other better outside our own field of expertise thanks to the S.I.G.'s. We exchange ideas about something that makes us enthusiastic together. This also means that the team will work more closely together." In order to strengthen that team even further, PHPro is looking for almost all types of profiles: PHP developers, analysts, Magento and Frontend developers, project managers and marketeers... "Applicants we would like to see coming? People who are genuinely motivated", it sounds in chorus. "We are supporters of the philosophy of 'learning by doing'. The most important thing is to meet people who are willing and able to learn. We ask for a lot of flexibility, but you get a lot of trust and freedom in return."

What motivates Toon, Jan, Nik and Joke personally the most? The successful projects they deliver every day at PHPro. "And even though our days are a barrel full of variety, standard parts are: relaxing together, getting some air, laughing with each other, doing something fun in the evening after work. We have an annual teambuilding weekend and regularly social events. We go go-karting together or fly with drones. Our ladies recently even organized a ladies night." "Yes," Joke winked, "we were all able to fill a full table. Not bad, within our sector, is it?"

Are you looking for a challenge?

PHPro is always looking for talented people.