Hailing from North West England, Lancashire, Alex Garrett-Smith is a full-stack developer and founder of Codecourse. Alex has been working with Laravel and other PHP frameworks for over 7 years now. A big advocate of simplicity, his friendly style of delivery makes his Codecourse the place to be for the Laravel and PHP community. Without further ado, lets dive into conversation with Alex Garrett-Smith himself.
Shahzeb: Hi Alex, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Could you please tell our readers about yourself and your journey before stepping into Laravel?
Alex: Thanks for having me! I’m Alex, the founder of codecourse.com, a platform for learning Laravel and other languages/frameworks surrounding it. It’s been my full-time job for over 5 years and I absolutely love it. Prior to this, I worked for a startup in London as a software engineer.
I started learning to code seriously just before university. I ended up committing myself to PHP and teaching it on YouTube, racking up over 300,000 subscribers and later launching Codecourse.
Aside from that, I love cats, reading, walking, coffee and cars. I’m currently restoring and modifying a 2012 Range Rover Sport.
Shahzeb: How did you start your career in Laravel? Was there a special reason you opted to work with Laravel over the other Frameworks available?
Alex: Because of the way my brain works, I’m a huge advocate for simplicity and getting to the end result as effortlessly as possible. Laravel stood out because it just worked the way I did.
I can’t remember when I first discovered Laravel, but I think it was around version 4. I’d tried other frameworks (which were still great), but the fact I could work rapidly and actually enjoy building with Laravel made it stick.
In the best way possible, I’m hooked into the Laravel ecosystem. I’d love to dedicate some time to picking up other frameworks, but right now I’m happy building with Laravel and teaching it.
Shahzeb: Since you are the founder and CEO of Codecourse, we would love to know the story behind how you ended up creating the Codecourse Platform.
Alex: I started teaching on YouTube in 2009 while I was learning PHP myself, and got hooked on recording screencasts. When I started, only a few people were watching my videos, but I got so much joy from knowing I was helping other people and enjoyed the process so much that I carried on. Despite not earning a lot, I continued to pump content out and grew the YouTube channel to over 300,000 subscribers while I worked a full time job as a web developer.
In my heart, I desperately wanted to teach full-time, so I launched codecourse.com and started a subscription model. I was fortunate enough to have a huge number of people pay for my content and grew it pretty quickly.
Once I could cover my expenses, I quit my job and went full time. This was the scariest thing I’ve ever done – but here we are years later and I’m still doing what I love full time!
Shahzeb: Codecourse has a significant appeal for developers. What makes it unique from other channels like Laracasts?
Alex: I market Codecourse as a really practical way to learn. I always include real-world usable examples so developers are ready to apply what they’ve just learned to their own projects. Personally, I find this is the way I learn best.
It’s quite funny, because a lot of what I teach is readily available in official documentation. I just think sometimes we need someone to connect the dots and bring everything to life.
In truth, the only way Codecourse is unique is that it’s me teaching, instead of someone else. There are a huge number of content creators doing really great work, and it’s so important to widen who you learn from to gain different perspectives, problem solving techniques and styles of code.
Shahzeb: You have over 250 courses on Codecourse and more than 50% of those revolve around Laravel. How do you see the future of Laravel as a framework, and of ecommerce with Laravel?
Alex: Laravel has a massive ecosystem and I think that’s what sets it apart from other frameworks. When you choose Laravel, you already have access to a huge amount of first party packages that work seamlessly with the core, the majority of which being free. On top of that, there’s a huge amount of open-source packages that are given so much love and attention.
Whenever I start a project with Laravel, I know that thousands of developers have already contributed to the ecosystem. We’re spoiled.
Another major future-proof factor of Laravel is the ethos – putting developer experience first. It’s easy enough to pick up the basics, and consistent enough with its conventions to make it an easy journey while you’re working with it.
Shahzeb: One of your recent tweets said, “Good morning to everyone except people who hate PHP.” What’s the tea? Were you referring to anyone in particular?
Alex: Ha, I love that you brought this up! I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular. I was actually browsing Twitter and saw a ‘Good morning to everyone except’ style tweet, copied the format, and replaced PHP.
On that note, I think people are recognising that PHP is no longer an outdated language, and while we like to joke, I don’t see much PHP hate these days.
Shahzeb: In your opinion, what are the benefits of hosting a site on a managed solution provider rather than conventional shared hosting for Laravel developers, and how does this affect their workflow?
Alex: I haven’t touched shared hosting in a long time, but I haven’t forgotten about the pain I went through when I did. Shared hosting still has its place for people who don’t want or need to use a managed solution, but I can’t think of a reason a developer would want to choose shared hosting over a managed solution, particularly since prices are now so competitive.
The amount of questions I’ve received over the years relating to issues specifically around shared hosting are too many to count. Sure, with a managed solution you have to spend a bit more time with it initially, but the payoff in control in deployments and configuration is worth it.
In terms of workflow, I’m not sure how far shared hosting has evolved but I remember using FTP to deploy new code, and no one wants to do that.
Shahzeb: What do you think about managed hosting solutions that provide an optimised PHP stack and offer Laravel framework in one click with features to deploy their web apps?
Alex: I’ve never used a solution like this, but if it allows developers to more easily deploy their apps without the headache of shared hosting, then that’s great.
I actually have a lot of ideas (and domains), so for my next project I’ll give it a try!
Shahzeb: Who should we interview next and why?
Alex: Aaron Francis was the first person to pop into my head. He’s been doing a tonne of great stuff around Laravel recently and built my favourite product of all time, https://torchlight.dev!
Shahzeb: Alex, I’m sure many people have taken notes. I’m also sure they’d love to see a picture of your workstation if you’d like to share one!
Alex: It’s boring, it’s messy, but it works. Here you go!
Shahzeb: Thank you once again, John!
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Shahzeb is a Digital Marketer with a Software Engineering background, works as a Community Manager — PHP Community at Cloudways. He is growth ambitious and aims to learn & share information about PHP & Laravel Development through practice and experimentation. He loves to travel and explore new ideas whenever he finds time. Get in touch with him at [email protected]