Q&A : Yard Internet – The 10,000th Zend Certified Engineer (ZCE)


Yard Internet Q&A for Zend

Yard Internet is a Utrecht, Netherlands-based full-service Internet agency. Their team of 20+ employees offers consultancy, design, technical implementation, hosting and support. Data-driven dynamic websites comprise their main business; they build these sites mainly using software they built in house called Scrivo, which is now an open-source CMS project. Yard Internet has used Scrivo and other solutions—all PHP-based—to build a variety of solutions, including social networking applications, e-learning apps, webshops, virtual offices and document matrices. Clients include the Dutch Association of Banks, major telecom provider UPC, medical associations and many more.

Technical advisor Geert Bergman was recently designated Zend’s 10,000th Zend Certified Engineer (ZCE). Because he’d taken the certification test with his entire technical team, all of whom passed, we decided to catch up with Geert and the Yard Internet team to learn more about their take on PHP, becoming ZCEs and a few more personal things, like beer.

Zend: Why did you choose to become a PHP shop?

Geert: PHP has always fit the needs of our clients. More than any other language, PHP gives us the ability to develop apps rapidly and iterate frequently to help our clients achieve their end result. It’s always easy to give clients direct, ongoing feedback on the things we change.

We are developing mainly front-end apps, in HTML, JavaScript and Jquery/Jquery mobile. PHP is one of the best languages to use on the back-end, and all of our back-ends are written in PHP. In that sense, it drives 100 percent of our business.

Zend: Why does Yard Internet have so many ZCEs?

Geert: A couple of years ago, I tried to do a certification by myself. It was hard to stay motivated, so I quit. Then, a couple of months ago, my colleague Siebe rallied the whole team to become ZCEs. He said that if we all succeed, we’ll use it as a company to indicate to outside world that we have an A-grade team, and also to boost the average quality of our programming work. When each individual on our team builds his own knowledge, we increase the overall quality of our programming as a team. It’s also good for peoples’ resumes.

I found that ZCE opened me up to corner cases and blind spots that I had in my PHP skills. For example, we’ve been using our own proprietary technology to provide and connect to Web services. It was a real eye-opener to find out that PHP already has readily available clients, out of the box. Our own solutions took a lot of work to build and maintain; only until after the ZCE exam did we realize that we could have procured these solutions out of the box.

Another example is that I had to spend days figuring out about stream context and how use your passport along with it. But when I studied for the certification, it was actually all right there in the certification book, as part of the topic on stream contexts. In addition, the harder things in PHP, like references, are much better understood so now they really can be used to aid development.

Zend: How did you study for the exam?

Geert: We studied as a team, and it worked much better that way. I think that anyone who does the ZCE should make it a team effort. We used the official study guides and found program questions over Internet, but not all online questions give you the right answers, so we spent some time figuring out whether questions were correct. We even thought of our own questions. One guy on the team, who we call “Michali the Magician,” is exceptionally good at that—he came up with several unsolvable questions.

By working in a team, we were able to discuss PHP and form our own opinions about PHP as a language and how best to apply it. This is also possible by yourself, but only with much more effort. As a group effort, you look at the questions differently, and you think harder about how to use PHP skills in your own profession and situation. That group dynamic is really invaluable.

Zend: How do you use Zend?

Geert: I’m a very enthusiastic user of Zend Studio, as are others at Yard Internet. As a company, we believe that our development procedures should be channeled in such a way that our tools adhere to our procedures and processes. Often, the more complicated the environment, the more complicated the tool, but Zend IDE gives you access to quick, simple tools that do what they’re supposed to. I also have a Java background, which makes Eclipse (used by Zend Studio) a great platform for me to work with.

Zend: Can you tell us some fun things about the company culture at Yard Internet?

Geert: At least once a day, the team goes out and play street soccer in front of our company headquarters. I think our neighbors hate us. Also, my colleague Siebe wrote our PHP-based Beer Generator software, which randomly selects a team member to go and fetch our beer on Fridays. We had to make sure that the selection was absolutely random, as to avoid arguments and fights.

Zend: Tell us a little bit more about yourself. What do you do in your free time?

Geert: I spend a lot of time playing guitar—electric, acoustic and flamenco music, among others. I also like to build and fix things: guitars, bicycles, fitness equipment, whatever. I even built my own sound studio. The stuff you build (or at least heavily optimize) yourself is always better than the stuff you buy, of course! That’s also why I like my job as a programmer: I get paid to create new things! It doesn’t get any better than that.

Zend: What’s your favorite software?

Geert: Open source. It embodies the things I value a lot: sharing knowledge, sharing who I am, creating things. All of our products at Yard Internet, such as Scrivo, are open source.

Zend: What kind of music do you listen to while you code?

Geert: In general, I listen to a lot of flamenco music, but it demands all of your attention, so I can’t code to it. While coding, I prefer lighter guitar music and pop music.

Zend: We’ve found, in our Developer Pulse surveys, that a lot of developers like beer. Do you like beer?

Geert: As all of my colleagues know, I have the ability to drink a lot of beer. But now that I’m a bit older, something changed. I prefer wine! Maybe we need a Wine Generator app.