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Mauro Chojrin Insights About His Journey and Future of PHP, and More

Updated on August 31, 2022

7 Min Read

In Conversation with us from Barcelona, España, is Mauro Chojrin, is Computer Science grad. from University of Buenos Aires Mauro has been working in web development since 2000 and with PHP since 2003. With his extensive knowledge on PHP Mauro has turned to become a PHP Trainer, Consultant and Technical Writer. Without further ado lets dive right in what he has to say.

Shahzeb: Mauro, it’s lovely to have you for this interview. Let’s start with a brief introduction for our readers.

Mauro: Glad to be here! Thanks for the opportunity

Shahzeb: So when and how did you start your career with PHP? Any interesting stories you want to share about your journey? What were the challenges you faced in the beginning, and how did you tackle them?

Mauro: My first contact with PHP as around 2003. At the time I was studying Computer Science in university and working part time as a programming teacher at my former high school and, every now and then I did some freelance work on the side.

A friend of mine had been comissioned with the creation of a site that would help connect students with opportunities to do internships abroad and, since she didn’t have any experience with web development, she hired me to do the work.

My previous experience had been with ASP 3.0 so I had knowledge of the basic concepts around web applications but a very shallow understanding of PHP itself.

Also, back then it wasn’t so common to rely on online forums and such, at least for me, so I picked up a book about PHP and kind of learned as I went through the project.

At first the syntax felt pretty awkward, though not completely unfamiliar since I had previously worked with C and C++.
So that was the beginning for me. It was PHP 3.0 if I’m not mistaken… dark days.

A little later I helped creating a time tracking solution on top of a pre-existing Open Source one. This one was made completely in PHP 4.0, which introduced a very rough version of Object Oriented features.

The real game changer came a few years later when I joined a development team tasked with the creation of a leaderboard for a quite popular online gaming platform. The team leader at the time decided we should use Symfony as a basis for our application.

It was a very good call project wise and, personally for me it was an inflection point.
Since then I’ve been following Symfony’s evolution pretty closely and now a days it’s my framework of choice, though I’ve worked with others and also at times, without any framework at all.

Shahzeb: We would love to know about Leeway Academy. What inspired you to start the academy, and how important has it been to your career?

Mauro: By the year 2015 I decided I wanted to go solo and tried a couple of different things but nothing seemed to take off until I started hearing people around me suggesting I should go back to teaching. Eventually I took the advice and started teaching at some local bootcamps and I always received very positive feedback from students.

So I decided to try and focus most of my time on the teaching side of my career. Very quickly I realized I needed to take my business online and so I started putting out more and more content in my blog and YouTube channel and then I had a few opportunities to build online courses for some popular platforms, some of them are still online.

Currently I’m developing some new materials aimed at semi-sr. developers looking to improve their skillset and, while doing that, I offer workshops and consulting services.

As per your question, building the Academy has definitelly been a great step in my career, most of all as it gave me some visibility that I doubt I’d had otherwise.

Shahzeb: Mauro, you have also written books on PHP, including Secure development with PHP, 40 PHP Exercises, and Debugging with PHP. Why don’t you share a bit about your books? Who should read them, and how do they help developers become more efficient?

Mauro: Sure! First of all, my books are currently just in Spanish so that kind of limits the audience.

The idea of producing only Spanish content was based on my observation that there’s so much good material in English but many Spanish speakers don’t have such a level in this language to be able to understand complex subjects.

From where I’m currently standing I’m not sure I’ll keep creating materials in Spanish (not exclusivelly anyway)… time will tell.

The 40 PHP Excercises is a self training program which works like this:

Every week you get an excercise and the following week you get a solution with a detailed explanation.

That goes on for 40 weeks.

The key aspect of this program is that the excercises are not made up but actual problems people face when getting started with PHP.

I also offer it as a book but I think it’s better for the student to use the email course format as it doesn’t give any shortcut to the answers which can be detriment to the assimilation of concepts.

As per the books I wrote, I have one introducing Object Oriented Programming in PHP, one about Web Services and how to implement them using PHP and one compiling the toolset every PHP developer should use in a professional environment.

Shahzeb: How do you conduct your research, and how much time do you designate to research before you start writing a book?

Mauro: Interesting question. It’s been a while since I wrote a book completely from scratch so I don’t know how accurate my answer will be…

My process is first try to get a sense for what’s troubling PHP developers. I’d usually gather many questions related to the same topic or area, then prepare a list of subjects I believe could help answer those questions and then I’ll start writing.

Finally I’ll do some editing to keep everything coherent and following a thread.

Another way I do it is by writing blog posts or recording screencasts answering specific questions and, when I have a good number of related answers I’ll put them all together in a book.

How much time? I’d say as much as my other activities permit 🙂

Shahzeb: In many of your books, you have mentioned your preference for working on Symfony and Doctrine. How do you see the future of these frameworks especially with the growing popularity of Laravel and Drupal?

Mauro: I am a declared fan of Symfony and Doctrine, no doubt about it. There are many things I like about these projects, most of all the care for the underlying architecture and aim to leverage best practices at all time.

I know these are not the most popular tools at the moment but, ever since the PHP-FIG was formed it made it really easy for developers to take the best of each framework and build from there… As a matter of fact, both Laravel and Drupal use many of Symfony’s components so I guess if they do well it can only help the further development of Symfony.

Shahzeb: I have noticed that you currently work for Digital Ocean as a freelance writer. What does a typical project look like? Would you like to share any interesting anecdotes?

Mauro: Well, I only wrote one article for them so far but the experience was really interesting. Specially the editors did a great job to help me make the best of the article.

They have an extremelly polished writing procedure and guidelines to follow in order to produce clear and useful materials.
I’m looking forward to writing my next piece.

Shahzeb: You have extensive knowledge of PHP development. What motivated you to become a PHP web developer? And who were your mentors and inspirations in this journey?

Mauro: Well I have to say it wasn’t so much of a concious decision. I never said to myself: “This year I will become a PHP web developer”.

I’ve been programming since I was 8 years old and my father brought home a Commodore 64, studied programming in high school and later in university so software development is kind of a life style for me… It was kind of a coincidence that I found myself developing web projects.
But yes, one day I looked back and realized that I do have quite a lot of experience in web dev and particularly in PHP. Sometimes I tried to switch over to some other technologies but usually the cost of opportunity was simply to high so I decided to stick to what I know and just go deeper and deeper.

Even so, at the end of the day, the language is just a tool. What’s important is to be comfortable with the underlying concepts.

Shahzeb: You’ve worked on many PHP projects. Which ones are the most memorable for you?

Mauro: I’d say the one that holds the biggest place in my heart is an amateur travellers social network.

When I joined the project the development team was composed of 3 people, none of which had any formal training.

The thing is the company was in negotiations to be acquired by a big player in the industry and the owner didn’t feel very comfortable about the code quality (Specially the CTO).

So they brought me in to help re-engineer the platform, making it more maintainable and scalable.

It was a great learning experience for me as the challenge was to re-build the engine while the car was still running. It was hard but it worked really well. And I love the team I got to build.

Many of the lessons I learned there I’m still applying today.

Shahzeb: Which type of web hosting do you prefer for your clients? In your opinion, what are the benefits of hosting a site on cloud managed hosting over conventional shared hosting?

Mauro: I think it depends on the nature of the project. For simple institutional websites a shared hosting can be fine but when the line between your business and your website is blurry, like in e-Commerce for instance, you need to make sure that the infrastructure can grow with you.

My personal preference has been cloud hosted VPS since I first knew of them. What I like the most about this type of hosting is the ability to install anything I need without asking for anyone’s permission.

Of course, this kind of freedom comes with a price tag: you break it, you fix it. That is another variable to take into consideration when choosing a hosting solution/provider: how will you deal with things not going smoothly.

If you have the ability to manage it yourself, or have access to someone who can do it for you, then it definitely is the right choice. Otherwise, it can backfire pretty quickly.

Shahzeb: What do you think about managed hosting solutions like Cloudways that provide an optimized PHP stack with features to deploy their web apps?

Mauro: I think they make a perfect compromise between the ultimate freedom of running your own show and the limitations of relying on shared hostings.

Shahzeb: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Mauro: I like watching a good series. Severance is the most recent addition to my top 10.

I also like going to the beach and bike riding.

Shahzeb: Do you have suggestions on who should we interview next?

Mauro: As a matter of fact I do. I have a special section of my YouTube channel where I interview PHP developers. Probably anyone in that list will be happy to be interviewed here.

Shahzeb: I’d appreciate it if you could share some snapshots of your current workstation to inspire our readers. And thank you once again for the interview, Mauro.

Mauro: I don’t know how inspiring this will be but here it is:

Mauro Chojrin

I have to say though, this isn’t my usual workstation but since my kids are off school I had to take refuge in my bedroom.

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Shahzeb Ahmed

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]

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