CrossFit enthusiast Bobby Bouwmann first started working with Laravel as a student, and with time, came to the forefront of a vibrant community of developers. A frequent Laracasts developer, he went on to write Laravel Secrets to help novice developers dive deeper into the framework. Read on to learn more about Bobby’s journey, how Laracasts affected his career, and more!
Shahzeb: Bobby, it’s lovely to have you for this interview. Could you please tell our readers about yourself?
Bobby: Hi, I’m Bobby Bouwmann. 26 years old and living in the Netherlands. I’m a big fan of mountain biking and CrossFit which I do as a sport. I’m also always up for a sport challenge. Currently I’m doing BURPRIL. 100 burpees every day in the month of April. I do this together with a group of enthusiastic people I met on Twitter. I also love to go karting or go for a hike.
Shahzeb: So when and how did you start your career with Laravel? Any interesting stories you can share about your journey? What were the challenges you faced in the beginning and how did you tackle them?
Bobby: My first contact with Laravel was during my first side job as a developer during my study time. We mostly worked with the Kohana framework and wanted to try something new. Back then I only had one year experience, but there was another senior developer who showed me the way. During my study I had to follow an internship where I built a complete internal CMS in Laravel from scratch. This is also the period I started learning Laravel and became active on Laracasts. My biggest structure was mostly building on what I learned before with Kohana. Laravel was much better, but as a beginner, there were a lot of new concepts and ideas to understand and use.
Shahzeb: Could you tell us a bit about Laracasts? Why did you come to start this? How important has Laracasts been to your career?
Bobby: During my study, I used Laracasts to learn more about Laravel. I already followed Jeffrey Way before he started Laracsts on Tutsplus. Laracasts was the only resource at that point with a full focus on Laravel and the techniques around it. When the forum came around I started contributing because people helped me and it only felt natural to help others as well.
I also learned a ton of things from Laracasts by helping others. They presented problems I never had so I needed to find a way to reproduce the issue and solve it. This made me a better developer because I can more easily find solutions to problems, and also understand issues from other developers. You can imagine that some people ask really vague questions.
Laracasts itself still is the best resource to learn anything related to Laravel in my opinion. I still watch all the videos, and I daily browse the forum Jeffrey and others produce on Laracasts. It still helps me learn new features and get new ideas.
Laracasts certainly helped me kickstart my career at some point. I think it mostly happened after Laravel 5.2 was released. Laravel became more and more popular. It helped me to become a speaker at multiple PHP and Laravel conferences. People always refer to me as the Laracasts guy and say I helped them a few times with a good answer. Very awesome to hear that.
Shahzeb: You’ve written a ton of answers for Laracasts, and helped a lot of people. Do you have any estimate on how long it’s taken you to write them all?
Bobby: All the value I added to Laracasts is hard to describe in time. There were periods where I spent over 4 hours a day on Laracasts and periods where I only spent 2 hours a week on Laracasts. After some calculations, I think I spent over 3000 hours on the Laracasts forum alone. Damn, that is a lot of time!
Shahzeb: You seem to enjoy speaking at Laracon EU conferences. Which topic are you going to talk about this year? And why?
Bobby: I really love conferences. I love the socializing part, the knowledge sharing, getting to know other developers. It’s really a blast to meet everyone and share ideas and thoughts.
This year I spoke about the Laravel Router on Laracon Online. I don’t have any other conferences planned yet, but we will see what the year brings.
Shahzeb: How did you feel when Taylor Otwell invited you personally to the Laracon US conference?
Bobby: I was very enthusiastic. It was like a dream coming true. I can still remember the day. I couldn’t focus on my work anymore and told all 50 colleagues I was going to New York for Laracon US. Suddenly I had a lot of people who wanted to carry my luggage.
During my first internship I told my mentor that my biggest dream would be to speak at a Laravel conference. I set a goal for myself to first speak at Laracon EU before my 25th, and then some day on Laracon US. I was 22 when I did my first Laracon EU and 24 when I did Laracon US. You can say I achieved my goals.
Shahzeb: Bobby, you also wrote the book Laravel Secrets. Could you tell us a bit about this book? Who should read this book and how does it help developers improve their work?
Bobby: Laravel Secrets is THE book to read if you already know some parts of Laravel and want to take a deeper dive. The book is split into two parts. The first one is a bunch of chapters which dive into a deeper part of the framework. Think about models and design patterns. The second part is focused on small snippets grouped together by a category. They can help you write easier code and teach you hidden features of the framework.
Shahzeb: You have extensive knowledge of Laravel development. What motivated you to become a Laravel web developer? Who were your mentors and inspirations in this journey?
Bobby: Laravel always has been the best framework that focuses on developer experience. The development patterns might not be ideal for everyone, but they sure make it possible to develop something quickly and still keep it maintainable and testable.
I learned a ton of things from, of course, Jeffrey Way on Laracasts but I also learned a lot of things from the videos of Alex Garrett-Smith (founder of CodeCourse). Back in the day his YoutTube channel was called phpacadamy.
Shahzeb: What were the most memorable Laravel projects you’ve worked on?
Bobby: I worked on so many Laravel projects. I build full financial systems, hundreds of API’s for mobile apps and frontends. Even small projects to automate the rooster of my wife for her work.
I created one project during my study for a small company that hires students to restaurants and events. This project is already over 6 years old and I’m still maintaining it. It grew from Laravel 5.2 to Laravel 8.0 as of today. It has a ton of tests and continues to run smoothly.
Shahzeb: Which type of web hosting would you prefer for your clients? In your opinion, what are the benefits of hosting a site on cloud managed hosting over conventional shared hosting?
Bobby: I always recommend cloud managed hosting for any project. Mostly because Laravel runs a lot better on them by default and it also gives you more freedom and more options for flexibility.
Shared hosting is cheap but in the end you pay the price with a slow website, no flexibility, old PHP-versions and bad support.
Shahzeb: What do you think about managed hosting solutions like Cloudways, that provide an optimized PHP stack with features to deploy their web apps?
Bobby: Cloudways is the perfect match for any PHP project. The fact that you don’t have to think about the optimizations yourself is already worth the money. If you do everything yourself, you might forget something, or you might be unaware of some improvement. Cloudways is the expert in the field, so why not let them handle it for you?
Shahzeb: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
Bobby: I love doing CrossFit, playing soccer and mountain biking. I’m not a real gamer but I sometimes enjoy a game of FIFA or Mario Kart in between.
Shahzeb: Whom should we interview next and why?
Bobby: John Braun. He is a colleague of mine at Enrise. He is a very smart person and a cool fact about him is that he started programming to improve the work he did in the lab as a chemist. These small applications really help the students and the same school where he learned everything. That right there, is the power of Laravel.
Shahzeb: Could you share some snapshots of your office space or your current workstation in the COVID-19 pandemic situation for our readers?
Shahzeb: Thank you once again, Bobby.
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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]