Cloudways: Adam, tell us how you became a PHP developer. From where did you start your career? Who was your inspiration?
Adam: In my early life I was a salesman. I sold cars, insurance, and even vacuum cleaners door-to-door. At one point someone asked me if I would like to become a sales/service rep for a cabinetry company, and I accepted in 1999. Within two years I worked my way up to regional manager, and created many of my own reports to help me manage my region. The company asked if I would move to the corporate headquarters in Florida and help do the same for the entire company. I quickly realized I needed to automate the process, and taught myself programming to do it.
As an aside, I also taught myself web design, but quickly realized I wanted web pages more dynamic. I tried Perl, ASP, and Coldfusion, but finally settled on PHP in 2002 and grew from there to do PHP programming full time with multiple companies.
Early on in my PHP career I got to know Paul M. Jones, Keith Casey, and a few others who inspired me to grow, create better apps, and spread my love to the rest of the PHP community. Many of them, at the time, worked at Zend. Now I work at Zend. 😉
Cloudways: How do you feel being a part of the Zend certification advisory board? Who are other people at Zend whose work has been amazing?
Adam: Being a part of the Zend Certification Advisory Board was very interesting, and I consider it an honor to be able to contribute in this way. I’ve gotten to see first hand the work and dedication of those on the board to create the best exam possible, helping employers and programmers recognize who knows enough in these areas to perform. (The purpose of the exam is not to boast, “I know it all.” But rather to say, “I know enough to be productive in this area.”)
Most of the contributors to the Zend Certification Advisory Board are not Zend employees, but rather the board is made up mostly of others in the PHP community that contribute their time and expertise to help build these awesome exams.
Zend is a fairly small and agile company, so employees are all top-notch people and each does amazing things daily. I am honored to be a part of such a great team of people.
Cloudways: You are also a popular trainer of PHP. In trainings, which type of audience do you like the most? On which topics do you love to speak about or give trainings?
Adam: Though I regularly conduct training for many of the Zend products, my super-power and passion lies in refactoring, and modernizing legacy applications. I also love doing architectural audits, and continuous delivery implementations. So most of my time is spent working and training in these areas.
I think the sweet spot for my audience is developers who desire to take their applications and code to the next level. Developers who realize we are all on a journey to perfect our craft one application at a time, yet one person knows enough to truly build perfection. So they come to hear me speak and share in each others, and my own, journey.
Cloudways: You are an active member of the PHP Community in local and global communities. Would you like to mention a few personalities whose work in Community building has inspired you?
Adam: It was about 5 years ago I decided to start a PHP user group in South Florida, and I think Keith Casey and Lorna Jane Mitchell were very instrumental in this. Without these two wonderful people I would never have taken action, and would likely still be doing PHP in isolation.
Cloudways: You are the organizer of SoFloPHP (South Florida PHP) Users Group. Who are the top active persons of Florida?
Adam: The SoFloPHP user group has thrived so much over the past 5 years, and through mentorship we now have many contributors and local speakers that have come out of these efforts. Michael Moussa contributes regularly to PHP projects and speaks at the user group about unit testing. Harrison Heck, who is fairly new to the scene has not spoken yet but does contribute and mentor whenever he sees a place he can jump in. Adrian Cardenas has been speaking about HTTP/2 among other things, and though he is taking a bit of a break he was very helpful with the meetups further south in Miami up to now.
There are many others like Diana Espino, Chris Russell, and more, but too many to simply list them here. We continue to grow, so many more are up and coming.
Cloudways: You are also the speaker of SunshinePHP conference group. How was the last SunshinePHP and what are the expectations from SunshinePHP in 2017?
Adam: The SunshinePHP Developers Conference has really taken on a life of its own, and I am really pleased with how the PHP community, both local and global, have embraced it. It has continually grown each year, and I have learned new things each year about organizing.
February 2016 was my 4th year holding it, and it was an awesome event I do not see ending. I posted a recap which included some controversial items that have really opened some eyes, and shared things that most don’t think of. It certainly was challenging, but as I said, I continue learning each year.
But I am already planning 2017. Stay tuned, we have some special things planned for our 5th year.
Adam: Initially I moved to PHP and LAMP because of two reasons:
- I was able to install everything locally and didn’t need to purchase any licenses for the application server, operating system, and database server. In 2001/2 Windows was about $200 for a desktop OS and $800 for the server variant. And a database server can run as much as $4,000 for MSSQL. And if I was to use Cold Fusion it was another $2,000 at the time. I simply didn’t have that kind of money to pay out so I could learn. However, I could get a LAMP environment up and running for zero dollars. I think this is still mostly true today.
- I was able to more easily find more information via a search engine to figure out problems and find solutions related to open source. It seems that people using and contributing to open source are just more…open. Blog posts, white papers, screencasts, are all out there to share knowledge and help others. You just don’t find this as prevalent in proprietary software.
I think the previous part of my answer also highlights why I believe ASP.net has pretty much lost the battle for the web. I’m not sure ASP.net or PHP are really “better” than one another in functionality. However, I think that PHP is easier to get started for beginners, and offers a wealth of advanced features that allow a developer to continue growing and advancing.
Also, I think another reason PHP has continued to grow strong is its continued growth based on developers needs. PHP has improved year after year as developers needed an itch scratched, and they have contributed it back so others can get their itch scratched as well. You just don’t see that in proprietary software, where everyone relies on some company to hand it to them.
Cloudways: What new trends do you see in web development in 2016? What impact will PHP7 make in the competitive market with its new technologies?
Adam: You love these double questions. LOL
I think 2016 will be the year a few things really take hold in PHP.
- Microservices: With the introduction of PSR-7 (HTTP Message Interface) popular frameworks and libraries now have a way to “talk” with each other in a standard way. This allows ALL THE THINGS to communicate and share and makes microservices possible.
- Decoupled libraries: Developers have clearly indicated they do not want to be tied to a single coupled framework. In the past, we saw Zend Framework developers, Symfony developers, CakePHP developers, and so on. But now frameworks are becoming less coupled and promote developers to use bits and pieces of each.
- Interoperability: Each framework (and library) has its strength and weakness. Therefore, it is desirable to use the pieces from each that is strongest. In addition, we are now more able to include other libraries like Monolog, Guzzle, and more, without issues. This level of interoperability allows developers to create at a much faster rate—and at higher quality than we’ve seen in the past.
I think that though PHP 7 has some great new features, it is the speed of the new engine that truly sets the stage going forward. In some cases, we can even use half the servers to do the same job as in the past. And in cases where it is not that drastic, it is still a very large improvement. However, I think this newly found speed, compounded with some other new features, open the door for more application in the future such as async.
Cloudways: You have vast experience of PHP frameworks Zend, CakePHP. How do you see the future of PHP frameworks? What about Laravel? Don’t you think future belongs to Composer?
Adam: I think we will see less “frameworks” in the future and more “sponsored libraries”. Frameworks are becoming more and more functional as separate component libraries with built-in hooks to allow messaging amongst themselves. I see this as the future.
While Laravel is cool, and has raised the bar in many ways (documentation, ease of use, approachability), I do not think it is the best we can do. I think what Laravel did was open the eyes of the existing framework architects by empowering users rather than asking users to learn their way. Thankfully the others are catching on, and users are going to benefit as these new projects like Expressive start to see the light of day.
For the moment Composer is King and every PHP developer should be using it, but there is still so much more that can be done. I’m excited to see what comes.
Cloudways: How do you see the contributions of Cal Evans in the PHP Community? He has also worked at Zend. Would you like to share your experiences working with him?
Adam: Cal Evans is a wonderful friend, confidant, and mentor in many ways. He’s one of my BFFs. He works tirelessly to promote the PHP community in pretty much everything he does.
I often bounce ideas off Cal’s ear, so he can talk me off the ledge. But usually he just pushes me over instead, which keeps me very busy because I seem to continually find ideas.
Recently Cal returned to Zend so we can get into more trouble together. There are many new things coming from the training department at Zend, led by Cal, and I am pleased to be part of it and help in any way I can.
Cloudways: Apart from the professional achievements, you are also a keen runner? Would like to share something more about your interests?
Adam: I love to run, and do it every chance I get. Currently I am recovering from a shoulder injury that happened while skiing in December, and it has kept me from running for the past 6 weeks. I’d hoped to run a 100-mile ultra-marathon in May (100 miles in one day), but those hopes have been trashed. But I’ll build back up and hopefully do something amazing in the fall. The past 2 weeks I have been able to get in 1-mile runs, and will now start rebuilding back up.
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