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“PHP 7 Has Unlocked a Few Interesting Features We All Wanted,” Said Danny Kopping, Zando’s PHP Lead Developer

Updated on December 8, 2021

6 Min Read

Danny Kopping is a very young and energetic lead developer at Zando, a South African Ecommerce Store. He is from scenic Cape Town, South Africa. He believes in quality code. He is also a firm believer of mentoring within the workplace environment.

He runs his own blog, informaniac. He has been a part of PHP South Africa in 2013. He has been contributing in open source technologies.

In this interview, he shares his opinion about using PHP for ecommerce stores. He also talks about his early days at development and the good things of being a part of PHP communities.

Danny Kopping interview

Cloudways: Danny, you are a lead PHP developer. First of all tell us how you entered this field? What was the inspiration which brought you to this point in your career?

Danny: When I finished high school, I got a job working for a small software development company. I was actually hired as a Java developer, since this is what I learnt in high school. But, I never wrote a line of Java code for this company! I was thrown in the deep end and instructed to learn PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Flash(!) and started enjoying PHP more than Java.

Programming has always been more of an obsession than a job for me, and so work is more fun than fun. I’ve been pushing really hard for the last decade to learn as much as I can and to share that knowledge with those around me.

My mother is a teacher and I guess some of that rubbed off on me – because I really enjoy teaching, guiding and mentoring; this, coupled with my experience, is what I suppose lead me to where I am today.

Cloudways: You are associated with Zando, an ecommerce website. Tell us about your job responsibilities and your firm’s services.

Danny: Zando was founded by Rocket Internet AG in 2012 and since then has grown exponentially to become South Africa’s biggest online fashion store with shareholders such as Rocket Internet, Millicom, and MTN among others. Rocket Internet is one of the most successful Internet incubators globally responsible for starting hundreds of market leading e-commerce companies. Comparable to Zalando in Europe, Zando is South Africa’s largest online retail fashion store with a head office based in Cape Town and warehouses in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. Zando is part of the Africa Internet Group (AIG) which is present in 23 African countries and is responsible for more than 70 companies in different industries such as online retail, food ordering, classifieds, real estate and online travel.

My responsibilities at Zando include mentorship, development of architecture and implementation of new systems, maintenance and improvement of existing systems, integration with suppliers, code reviewing, and project management.

I also conduct interviews, recruit new talent, and do my best in fostering team culture at Zando.

Cloudways: How do you see the ecommerce industry trends in 2016? In your opinion, what are the challenges that are being faced by the ecommerce industry?

Danny: I think the ecommerce industry has always been quite data- and metric-driven – in the sense that they collect a number of metrics to improve conversions and the user experience. I think this trend will continue and grow. These metrics will expand to not only encompass the onsite activity but also the crucial offline processes like delivery, fitting, returns, refunds. These offline processes are often the most important part of a user journey but are harder to measure.The better your business is at operations – the happier your users will be.

Cloudways: Tell us about “Infomaniac”? When did you start writing on this blog? What is the main objective of this blog?

Danny: My blog (Infomaniac) is really just a dumping ground for my thoughts and vaguely interesting technical topics. I don’t write nearly enough on there, but it’s nice to have an outlet when social media won’t quite do for long rants.

Cloudways: Which ecommerce platform do you think is leading in year 2016 and why?

Danny: There are a lot of ecommerce platforms out there—but I don’t have enough experience with them to offer any real opinion. If you want your business to start trading quickly, use something off-the-shelf like Magento or WooCommerce. If you want it to scale, you’ll have to roll your own—or, at least, swap out suboptimal components of the system for something that scales better.

We, at Zando, realized that there are many companies out there who need this scale and quick time to market from day-one. We decided to white-label our bespoke eCommerce platform B2B—providing operations, payment solutions, online marketing as well as the IT aspects. Not only was (and is) this a really interesting technical challenge, but also an exciting opportunity to partner up with existing brick-and-mortar players.

Cloudways: What do you think is the significance of PHP conferences and user groups? Have you any previous experience or any future plan to join meetups or conferences?

Danny: For me, the true value in user groups and conferences is the “sanity check”. In our industry, there really are no guidelines, auditors, or industry best-practices—and even if there are, they have to constantly be revised. Communities help you to make sure you’re not smoking your socks, like if you’re writing a login system but have no idea of how hashing works, then someone will point you in the right direction if you ask for a sanity check.

This brings me to another value of the community: “getting exposed to the right keywords”. If you’re completely unfamiliar with a technology or an approach, sometimes all it takes is a mention of a particular keyword (hashing, caching, or reverse-proxies) to pique your interest and mobilise your learning effort.

Speaking also provides you with a lot of pressure to not look like a fool, and to make sure you understand a topic enough to get up on stage and express your ideas. Imposter Syndrome is something we all suffer from to some extent I think, and the only way to overcome it is by being validated by your peers.

Cloudways: Let our audience know about your educational background. What did you really want to be in your earlier academic life?

Danny: I actually wanted to be an architect initially, but that desire was soon displaced by programming once it “clicked” for me—that moment when imperative steps to complete a task suddenly makes sense and a world of possibility opens up after that.

Interestingly enough, architecture and software engineering share many metaphors: foundation, framework, the term “architecture” itself, or scaffolding. I don’t think this is by accident.

As far as my education goes, I completed high-school and then started doing a Bachelor of Science degree in Software Engineering part-time. While working part-time, I realised I enjoyed working more than studying—and I dropped out. I’ve always been a bad student!

Cloudways: What do you think is the impact of PHP 7 on the Ecommerce Industry?

Danny: PHP still dominates the online space, and the amazing work that the core team has done over the past few years will only strengthen its hold. PHP 7 specifically I think unlocks a few interesting language features we’ve all wanted for a while – but the real impact of PHP 7 is the great performance improvements. See Badoo’s fantastic example of operations optimization.

Cloudways: Apart from your professional life, what are your hobbies and interests? How do you keep a balance between work and life?

Danny: I can honestly say that I never take for granted this happy accident of history; I mean – hell, I get paid to do what I do in my free time anyway! Name me another time in history that it was possible for a regular working-class schmuck like me to enjoy this.

The one way I try to maintain balance is to keep regular hours, even if they’re long. Most days I work about 12-14 hours, but I’m consistent. I do my 9 hours at the office, and a few more at home if I feel like it. I work for the same amount of time each day, eat at the same time, sleep at the same time, block off time for my girlfriend and friends; it’s inconsistency that causes burnout (all-nighters, bad eating habits, long time without socialising, etc).

Apart from programming, I enjoy reading science books, playing drums, listening to jazz.

Cloudways: What do you think about Cloud hosting trends in Ecommerce industry? Will Cloud capture a bigger chunk of the online retail market?

Danny: I think that is a foregone conclusion. With the advent of technologies like Docker, Kubernetes, etc – they not only promise much simpler ops but also massive cost-savings – which are a major win for any company. Also the ability to quickly scale up & down your infrastructure is key to handling load and keeping costs down.

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Ahmed Khan

Ahmed was a PHP community expert at Cloudways - A Managed PHP Hosting Cloud Platform. He is a software engineer with extensive knowledge in PHP and SEO. He loves watching Game of Thrones is his free time. Follow Ahmed on Twitter to stay updated with his works. You can email him at [email protected]

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