“Use the Best Tool for the Job, Whether That Means Choosing a Different Language or Framework” Thinks Pro PHP Developer Rafael Dohms

When passion meets reality, it helps you scale the most momentous of tasks. The success story of  Rafael Dohms — Lead Backend Engineer at Usabilla is an awe-inspiring one that reflects his dedication, passion, and his interests.

With vast years of experience in the development side, Rafael is one of the most well-known PHP Evangelist, Speaker and Contributor, he loves to come out with cutting edge solutions for PHP developers and end users. He is a keen follower of PHP and Web Development trends.

Today, at Arturo Digital, are really honored to have Rafael on board. During the interview, he shared his opinions about the current trends within the PHP industry, the community’s role, his interests, and how new developers can grow.

Besides his love for Programming, Rafael likes to watching series, or having fun with his dog Bella. Rafael also shared about the advantages of using php7.x and his career’s journey with in PHP. I hope you all will love this interesting interview conducted with a very experienced developer.

Arturo Digital: Rafael, you started your career as a Programmer back in 2000. What challenges did you face? Can you share some of your experience with our readers, about the valuable wisdom you gained throughout your career?

Rafael: I was very lucky in my early career, I was introduced to a company where friends already worked, and there I had a really good boss. That is actually how I got into PHP, I was hired as web-designer, for flash and HTML work.

Before this I started by making small websites for my IRC channels, or my CounterStrike Clan, just out of curiosity and for fun, this is where I think we all need to start, self taught curiosity driven work, it really makes you find your passions. For the small set of skills I got from this I was hired as an intern, then one day my boss, who always pushed us to learn more and more, asked me to come to his office. He proceeded with showing me how to add this “php” stuff to my HTML and read data that was stored somewhere else, this “mysql” thing. At the end of that meeting he gave me a book and links and told me to go build an intranet for the company.

That was how I got into PHP, there was so much resources out there it was very easy to start and very fun. I think the biggest thing you can do early in your career is:

  1. Have fun, try new things, play around with new technology, use all that free time we usually have during this time.
  2. Start making connections, go to events, user groups, talk to people on IRC or Slack, just talk to people, learn from them.

Arturo Digital: Currently, you are working as a Lead Backend Engineer in Usabilla. What are the common issues that you faced while working? What motivates you to be such an exceptional developer?

Rafael: A common trend to most companies I have worked at is the challenge in growing the team, in raising quality and developer happiness. More than the technological challenges, working with people is usually the more complex aspect of the work.

I really enjoy this, my favorite thing is to find out what makes a developer tick and unlock their full potential, giving them information and a runway to grow and become better engineers. This also ties in a lot to working with how teams work, how do we deal with incoming issues, how do we ensure we only make the shortcuts we are comfortable with and ensure we can undo those within a reasonable timeframe.

And as someone once said, teaching is a great way to learn, so I really enjoy working as a mentor with people in my team because I grow a little more each time I do it.

Arturo Digital: PHP is a very popular programming language. What are some useful features in PHP 7 you see? Can you share the advantages of using PHP frameworks for ecommerce stores?  How do you manage multiple projects? What development workflows and tools do you use?

Rafael: PHP is indeed an amazing tool, I have really enjoyed seeing it grow over the years and growing myself right along side of it. Version 7 really bring the language up to a new level, with more Object Oriented features, and type hints it really allows you to bring the code up to a new level, being a lot more strict and clear about your public interfaces.

With our choice of frameworks we can really use PHP to solve many problems, like e-commerce. How we work is a complex question indeed, but we work with a few guiding principles; Use the best tool for the job, whether that means choosing a different language or framework, and work code to be modular and high quality.

At Usabilla our flows are based solidly on Kanban since my direct team is responsible to all the backend code of the company, this allows us to be very flexible with priority changes. And most of us rely on PHPStorm which is just an amazing IDE.

Arturo Digital: You are one of the most active members of the PHP Community. How has your experience been so far within the community and with its members? How do you connect yourself in the community?

Rafael: What can I say? I love this community, I have seen it grow and change over the years and it has given me so many opportunities and made me so many new friends. I love building new groups and communities everywhere I go, because I believe no developer can work in isolation, we need to learn from each other and share ideas to become more creative people when we do what we do best, solve problems.

Becoming part of this great movement is really simple, just show up. We are very welcoming and diverse community, just seek out your local User Group.

Arturo Digital: Rafael, many developers consider PHP 7.x as a major achievement for the language. What do you think of PHP 7.x and how could developers use it in their projects?

Rafael: It is a major milestone for PHP, it has given us tools to make our code solid and more expressive. I think this has the potential to change how we code for the best, allowing us to achieve more advanced architectures and facilitating the communication between packages. Couple that with the revolution started by Composer and we can really do things differently, combine packages and be even more productive on a daily basis.

Arturo Digital: In your opinion, what are the advantages to attend PHP conferences for novices who want to involve themselves more in the PHP community?

Rafael: The people. More than the content of talks, meeting like minded people with different backgrounds and experiences can really shape the kind of problem solver you will become.

Getting all this inspiration early on really allows you to grow quickly and get a boost in your career.

Arturo Digital: You are a speaker at PHP conferences. What advice would you give to developers who want to get their work published?

Rafael: Do it! Start small, share inside your company, in your User Group, anywhere just get started. Teaching is learning, lots of good comes from doing this, from more knowledge to that edge of having your name be known. Not everyone is a natural for speaking on stage, but I believe that working on becoming a better speaker, or teacher, makes you a better communicator and solving problems is all about communicating to different people in a daily basis.

Arturo Digital: Let’s put PHP aside and talk about your interests. 🙂 How do you spend your free time after work? How do you manage your family life? Are you able to achieve a work-life balance? Do you like traveling? What do you do to have fun?

Rafael: That was one of the reasons I moved to The Netherlands, achieving a work-life balance is a lot easier, it even part of the Dutch culture. I love spending time with my wife, watching series, or having fun with our dog Bella, walking in the parks and such.

But I also try to reserve time for gaming, I’m big on gaming and it really helps me relax.

Arturo Digital: Everyone has some inspiration behind their success. Can you name some people from the PHP community who have inspired you the most?

Rafael: That is a very long list, each person has given me a different set of teachings, to list any above other would probably mean leaving important people out. But it’s easy to find them, the ones who lead user groups, who share and teach and donate so much of their time to help other overcome they blockers. Just look around for those and I’m sure most of them would be on this list.

Arturo Digital: Rafael, can you please refer people who you’d like us to interview next on Arturo? You can recommend your friends or anyone who has a notable contribution in the PHP community.

You should speak to Luis Cobucci, known mostly for this JWT library but has so much more he can share with the community with his views on architecture, quality and discipline, he is someone I’m actively still learning from.

Arturo Digital

Arturo Digital – An American technology firm providing Mobile Application Development, Website Development, Large/Small Ecommerce Stores, Website Portal Development & Digital Marketing Solutions for Entrepreneurs, Business Owners and Future Technologists alike. 

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