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Rafael Dohms Shares His Plethora of Knowledge About PHP and Its User Groups

Updated on February 1, 2021

8 Min Read

Rafael Dohms is a very active person in PHP Community. He has more than 15 years of experience in PHP web development.  This Brazilian guy moved to Netherlands to explore new horizons in development and user groups, as he believes in power of user groups. He has created 3 PHP user groups including AmsterdamPHP, PHPDF and PHPSP.
Rafael dohms interview


Rafael has contributed in various projects including Symfony, Doctornie, and has helped in both support and documentation. He also believes in sharing of knowledge and for that reason, he is a passionate teacher who believes in empowering new developers.

He has been a speaker at different conferences of PHP in all over the world. Read on to learn more about PHP from the maestro.
Cloudways: Rafael Dohms, would you like to share with our readers about how you started your journey in PHP Web development? It’s been more than 15 years now when you entered the field. What was your source of motivation behind choosing this field?

Rafael: It all happened kind of by accident actually. I have always loved computers and was a gamer as a kid, this lead me to play CounterStrike in the 90’s so my first attempts at web development were basically creating websites for my “clan”. This got me interested in HTML and early web technologies, which finally lead me to get a job in the area when i started my Computer Engineering course.

PHP joined the mix when my then boss taught it to me and asked me to develop the company’s intranet. I shudder to see the code I wrote back then, but I really enjoyed the language and quickly started using it in my personal projects as well, to replace all the “” scripts I had.

Cloudways: You are currently working at Symbid which is basically a funding network. What job roles do you play at Symbid?

Rafael: I’m currently the lead developer at Symbid. The company has grown into a fintech company and as tech became more and more important to the company I joined the company along with other people in tech. We are now building a large tech team to turn the company’s vision of a funding network into software reality. The vision of the company is to support entrepreneurs in the new funding market, where bank loans no longer play a strong part in small companies, and connect them to smaller investors in innovative funding models such as equity crowdfunding and such.

As the team lead my main role is to set the heading for the team, how we will build our tools, what our dev process is, how we keep up quality and such. One of my roles, which I really enjoy, is to mentor and guide new developers to grow in their careers, I’m very happy to work for a company that has that value towards their employees.

Cloudways: You are an active member of PHP community. You are the founder of 3 user groups namely AmsterdamPHP, PHPDF and PHPSP. Tell our audience about these groups. Who are the top contributors of these groups whom you think have contributed a lot?

Rafael: Yes, I seem to be addicted to creating user groups. But all joking aside I believe UGs play a crucial role in our market, it’s a safe place for developers looking to learn, grow and expand beyond their current “comfort zone”. I am very happy for having had a chance in actively creating groups, but also helping inspire other people to create other amazing groups out there.

These groups were also a great way to make new friends in all the places I moved to, that was especially true for AmsterdamPHP, a group that really helped me adapt as an expat in Amsterdam. It seems to also have sparked a trend in The Netherlands and now we have more groups then I can count on my hands.

I was also very lucky to have great people next to me, none of these groups are a one man deal, they only exist because I could count on great friends to come along for the journey and to take over once my journey was over.

In PHPDF, I counted a lot on Adler Medrado and Pablo Sanchez to kickoff that very first group, which is currently becoming active once more under Leonn and Lenon Leite.

PHPSP was an amazing ride with good friends like Ivan Rosolen, Augusto Pascutti and Anderson Casimiro, and it has grown so much since I moved out, I visited the group last December and was very amazed to see so many people involved and so many new activities.

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AmsterdamPHP really would not be here if it was not for our board, Frank van den Brink who helped me get it going and current members like Pascal de Vink, Jeroen Groeneweg and Jakub Gadkowski, who stepped in when I could not be there and keep the wheels well oiled on a day to day basis.

User Groups are about people not tech. I like to say that they are the places you go to meet the people who will change your life.

Cloudways: You were working on a book on Composer. What was your main inspiration behind writing the book. What main areas do you want to highlight in this book?

Rafael: Yes, unfortunately that is way overdue since I lost track, but that is also due to Composer’s current progress, which means a lot of updating.

The idea of the book came while I was preparing my second Composer talk. It was aimed at existing users and addressing bad practices or teaching tricks, while separating material to go into it I realized there was so much that could not fit in a talk, that actually would make a nice book. The idea then was to write a book that has a nice narrative to teach about the best ways to do something and offer stories and shines a light on concepts that even though they are in the documentation can be easier to understand in a separate context.

Hopefully this year I manage to organize time around it to release at least an initial version.

Cloudways: You have contributed in different OSS project, Symfony and Doctrine. Would you like to mention some personalities whose working style inspired you a lot while working with these projects?

Rafael: There are so many, it’s very hard to pick a few. I have been in and out of many projects and worked with many different people, they are all amazing. Contributing to Composer is really fun because you get to interact with Jordi who is an incredibly calm and controlled person, the way he organizes and faces OSS is amazing, even if the process sometimes takes long due to the huge amounts of work involved.

I also had the pleasure to work side by side with Guilherme Blanco from Doctrine outside of OSS and he is a unique figure, very smart and very chaotic, but someone who really taught me a lot.

Cloudways: You have a vast experience of working on databases. According to your experience of working on databases which database would you recommend to PHP users?

Rafael: That is a tough one. I think MySQL is the standard go to, it does not resist and it does what it needs to do, but PostGres offers so many other features and has been evolving very nicely that it really brings a lot to the table.

Interesting enough i find myself using more things like Redis and relying on APIs instead of Databases in my side projects. Technology has come a long way and it’s interesting to see all these changes and how they will affect our tooling.

Cloudways: Rafael, how do you see the future of PHP development? 2015 saw great releases like PHP7.  What new trends do you see in 2016 in PHP?

Rafael: I have a good feeling about this year as I had with last year. There is a lot happening in our ecosystem, from internals to the package libraries. I think one thing that will play a major role is PSR-7 and the middleware hype, i think we will see many interesting implementations in this field and a lot of simplified contexts to work in.

The stuff coming out of the FIG will shape a lot of releases and make us more and more work with gluing loose libraries together instead of consolidated monolithic frameworks, this will also reduce a lot of libraries to small moving pieces, this will make for interesting work.

Cloudways: Have you ever worked with Cal Evans, the technical manager at Zend. He recommended you on a social media network. How was your experience if you have worked with him?

Rafael: I have not worked directly with Cal Evans in “professional” office terms, but I have contributed with him in very many projects in the PHP Community. Cal Evans is an amazing person who really has done a lot for this community, he was actually one of the people who brought me into the international community and showed me the ropes, he started me on this road that has led me here.

I think one of the funniest moments we had was a few years back when we invited him to Brazil to speak. For one of his talks, which was very technical, we had no translator available, so we just agreed to co-present, and I would do the translating of what he would say. It went great, up until at one moment, he breaks into a demo that is very visual and the explanations don’t  really need translating, at the end of which he ends with “and here it is”. So at the end of these 5 minutes of explanations I simply translated to  “taadaaaa”, and we broke into 5 minutes of non-stop laughing.

Cloudways: You are no doubt a prominent name in international PHP community. Would you like to mention few inspiring personalities in PHP community whom you think are doing some extra awesome work?

Rafael: Thank you for saying that, I’m happy all the work I put back into the community helps other people. There are so many good names out there and good people doing amazing stuff, that it’s even hard to isolate them.

Frank de Jong from Flysystem is a name that pops up, apart from maintaining an amazing project that has helped so many people, he has also been growing a lot as a speaker, he is a great guy.
Stefan Koopmanschap is also someone who has always contributed many great things to the community and I love the work he has been doing with his blog and the lessons he has learnt from Amanda Palmer’s “Art of Asking” book. We have also been investigating the use of Patreon and sponsorship tools for OSS developers lately and that is something i find has lots of potential.

Cloudways: What is your idea about frameworks. Laravel 5 released recently. What impact will it make in the market? Expert developers like Cal Evans don’t recommend frameworks. They practice in composer. You are also a speaker of composer. What would you like to recommend to our audience?

Rafael: Frameworks and composer actually walk hand in hand. I do think the age of the monolithic framework has come to end end, you can see this in the current trend of componentized frameworks, like Symfony and ZF have done.

The recent evolution of PSR-7, the HTTP message standard, have really brought forward the use of the Middleware pattern in PHP. This is going to stir the pot a bit and really give us new tools and ways of building our tools. That ties into the componentized trend very well, you will se more and more the use of micro frameworks based on Middlewares, like Zend Expressive, and a mix of various code components from many other frameworks, as opposed to selecting one framework and using everything it has.

I’m very excited to see what we can do with this.

Cloudways: The top development in the field in 2015 was the release of PHP7. What impact do you think PHP7 is making? What new trends do you expect in PHP in 2016?

Rafael: It was absolutely amazing to be part and to follow the release of PHP 7. It really is a huge step in our ecosystem, not just technically but in every aspect.

PHP 7 will deliver plenty performance and lot of new features that will bring PHP code to new levels of quality, allowing people to do some amazing things and really push the limits of what we can do.

I don’t think all the trends in PHP will come just from PHP 7, it will be a pushing force and hopefully show us that we can do faster adoption of new PHP versions, but what i mentioned above with PSR-7 and frameworks will make many more waves in the ecosystem.

Cloudways:  Cloudways made Cloud Hosting simple by giving a platform where you can setup custom PHP websites in a few clicks. It takes minutes to deploy applications on Amazon Web Services, Digital Ocean, Vultr, and Google Compute Engine. What do you think about the features and performance of the platform?

Rafael: I recently did a Trial on this service and it looked very cool, it really did simplify management of some of the server setup. This clearly has some big advantages especially for small companies without dedicated devops people and for developers who want to maximize time spent on creating an app and not configuring servers.
I especially like all the server hosting options, being a huge fan of Digital Ocean myself.

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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.


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