This time around we have invited Jess Archer, full stack developer and podcaster to our interview series. She is a full-stack web application developer and a podcaster from Brisbane, Australia, with over 15 years of professional experience. So let’s explore how she started her career with Laravel and what’s the experience so far.
Shahzeb: Jess Archer, it’s lovely to have you for this interview. Could you please tell our readers about yourself? Walk us through your journey so far.
Jess: Thanks for having me Shahzeb. I am a full-stack web developer from Brisbane, Australia. And when I say full-stack, I mean that I can pretty much do anything from setting up a bare-metal server all the way to UI design and everything in between. I would say that back-end development with Laravel is definitely my happiest place, but I also enjoy using Tailwind and Vue.
I’ve been coding for over 15 years. I started in my late teens as a creative outlet, and later discovered that people would actually pay me for it! I am very grateful that I have a job that I love. Most days it feels like I’m playing problem-solving games all day!
Shahzeb: I have noticed that you enjoy speaking at Laracon AU conferences. Which topic are you going to talk about this year? And why?
Jess: I’m not sure what the conference scene will be like this year with COVID, but I opened the year with a local meetup talk where I live-coded a service container from scratch. I’d been wanting to get into live-coding because I always find those talks quite engaging when done well.
You actually get to see something being built, rather than just being talked about, which always helps me grasp concepts better.
Previously, I’d always used slides and a script because it felt a lot safer, but I always like to push myself a little bit further. Also, previously I’ve given Vue talks at Laravel conferences. It felt like an easier way to come up with engaging content for a room of people who I feel already know everything there is to know about Laravel (which of course is not actually true), so I would like to start talking more about my main passion, which is Laravel.
Shahzeb: Jess, you also run the BaseCode Podcast channel. Could you tell us a bit about these podcasts? Who can join this group and how it helps developers and PHP users?
Jess: I co-host the podcast with my friend JMac (Jason McCreary) and we’ve done four different mini-series so far on various development-related topics. Our first series featured a range of different techniques for writing clean and expressive code, then we did a mini-series on automated testing, followed by a mini-series on running a small business as a developer, and then most recently we talked about all various ways to streamline your Laravel codebases. We’re currently thinking up topics for a new mini-series so make sure to subscribe!
Shahzeb: Mentors play a vital role in career development. Who were your PHP heroes? Who would you recommend PHP aspirants should follow within the PHP community?
Jess: Number 1 would have to be Jeffrey Way. I’ve been following him since before Laravel days and he’s the reason I gave Laravel a try in the first place. The technologies he encourages and the way he teaches them has been instrumental for my career path.
The other two that I feel have had the most influence on my career have been Adam Wathan and Taylor Otwell. Like Jeffrey, they both have styles and approaches that really resonate with me. I’ve never regretted following any of their advice.
But one of the biggest boosts I got in terms of mentors was when I started attending Laracon and joined Twitter. It was there that I got exposed to the much wider community of PHP developers out there beyond the biggest names. Folks like JMac, Tim MacDonald, Marcel Pociot, Freek Van der Herten, Christoph Rumpel, TJ Miller, Zuzana Kunckova, David Hemphill, Michael Dyrynda, Bobby Bouwmann, Dries Vints, Nuno Maduro, and so many more. Check out my Twitter follows for more!
Shahzeb: Tell us about your experience working with Laravel over the years?
Jess: I started using Laravel with version 4.2. I’d heard Jeffrey Way talk about “blade templates” when teaching a course I think on Emmet, so that’s how it got on my radar. I was then given an opportunity to build a marriage equality telephone robot so of course, I took the opportunity to use some new technology, and from that point on I was hooked and have made sure that I’m using Laravel on every project since.
Shahzeb: Would you like to tell our readers about some of the best Laravel projects you’ve worked on?
Jess: Well, the telephone robot was really fun and rewarding. Marriage equality supporters could ring a phone number that my robot would answer and play a series of recorded messages from a local celebrity. The caller would enter their postcode so that we could determine the appropriate political representative, and then they could leave a message of support for them. Each morning, the robot would then ring the offices of the political representatives and act like an answering machine, where they would hear how many messages they had received, and could play through them using their telephone keypad.
I also built a tool for my state’s police service that allowed them from their iPad’s to refer victims and perpetrators to various community services in the state to get support for a wide variety of categories.
Currently, I’m working in the medical industry creating software that healthcare professionals love to use and that helps to improve service delivery and outcomes for patients around the world.
Shahzeb: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
Jess: I enjoy hiking, mountain biking, woodworking, cooking, dark beer, ridiculously spicy food, and heavy metal.
Shahzeb: What do you think about managed hosting solutions like Cloudways, that provide an optimized PHP stack with features to deploy their web apps. We would love it if you could test the Cloudways Platform and give us your valuable feedback.
Jess: I haven’t used Cloudways so it’s hard for me to comment. I will keep it in mind next time I’m setting up a project.
Shahzeb: Whom should we interview next & why?
Jess: Zuzana Kunckova – she started the Larabelles community for women Laravel developers that are going a long way towards encouraging more women to see Laravel as a great career choice.
Shahzeb: To inspire our readers, I would appreciate it if you could please share some snapshots of your office space or your workstation currently in the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
Shahzeb: Thank you once again, Jess.
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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]