The Artisan Files / November 14, 2014

The Artisan Files: Alex Dover

Alex Dover

Can you tell us about yourself?

I’ve been in web development for almost 15 years now. I fell into it in some ways. I made a last minute decision to take a batchelors degree, which covered a wide range of topics, including networking, IT project management and web development. After four years I managed to graduate with first class honours.

One of my tutors at the time was very much into open source web stuff, so I found myself using PHP to deliver a lot of my assignments, when I left university I quickly started working at a local marketing agency delivering numerous web projects. Unfortunately that company didn’t last very long so I found myself setting up a small web agency with a couple of others. I was involved in that for 8 years. After the birth of my first child I decided to have a bit of a change and so went freelance.

You are a freelance developer. Can you tell us about that?

I went freelance almost 3 years ago, in that time I’ve worked on some great projects for the likes of BT, Maybelline and Network Rail. Going freelance coincided with discovering Laravel. I delivered a number of projects using version 3, then quickly adopted version 4. Right now, pretty much all my work is with Laravel.

Being freelance has plenty of advantages for me, the main one being that I get the flexibility to work around my family. But there are a few downsides, the main one is keeping a steady stream of work. So often all the opputunities come at once!

The more I work freelance the more I am trying to specialise. Staring out it is very easy to take on anything and everything, which I was guilty of, but as a result it is very difficult to really get to know a technology.

At the moment I try to spend a day or two a week working on open source too. Right now I am getting a Laravel based CMS, called Coanda, ready for a beta. Working on this has been great, I have learnt so much about software architecture and package development. I’ve tried to create something very developer focussed, so I hope it will be something the community can use. It is based on a lot of my experience with systems like Drupal, eZPublish and Silverstripe so can be used for sites of varying sizes and complexity. I got some initial feedback at Laracon EU and it all seemed pretty positive.

What is your typical day like?

I normally tend to get up around 6am. I have breakfast with my family and then drop my daughter off at nursery. I try to start work between 8-8.30am. Typically I will start off by reading and responding to emails and trying to get my head around the work I will be doing that day. Most days I will head to the gym mid morning and follow that up with a quick lunch. If I haven’t got any meetings then I will work right through until 5.30pm when I go and pick up my daughter from nursery.

During the summer we tend to take the dog for a walk around our local woods before trying to put the kids to bed!

If I have a lot of work on then I sometimes work a bit in the evening too. If not, then I enjoy cooking, getting outside in the garden or watching/reading about sport.

Can you tell us about your local environment?

Alex Dover Mac Screen shot

I am a Mac user, have been for a number of years now. I love their products, plus they have the added bonus of still having some of the underlying Linux features.

I’™m using a 13′ MacBook Pro retina right now. Over the last few years I have scaled down from a massive iMac, to a 17′ MacBook and now to the 13′. I have been trying to get used to having less screen space so it makes it easier for me to work anywhere. Most weeks I will spend a few hours on a train to London or working in a clients office, so being able to setup and work anywhere is important.

I made the switch from Sublime to Phpstorm about 3 months ago, it took a bit of getting used to, but I really glad I did. I use GitX 2 to manage my git repositories. I switch between Chrome and Firefox for front end work. I normally have a few terminal windows open for running commands on VMs, I am a big fan of Vaprobash and have used that to configure the virtual machines I use for development.

You enjoy working out and running. How often do you workout?

Fitness is pretty important to me, I go a bit stir crazy if I can’t get to the gym, or go for a run, every few days. I normally get to the gym 3-4 times a week. I started lifting weights about a year and half ago and now love it. I run when I can, anywhere between 3 and 10 miles a couple of times a week. I’ve done a couple of half marathons and have entered another on early next year, so I need to start running more over the winter!

Just for fun, who do you think would win between a Superbike and an F1 car?

Well. It’s funny you should ask that. A couple of years ago Mark Webber in his f1 car went up against Casey Stoner on his MotoGP bike. The bike gets away quickly, but in the end the f1 car wins by quite a margin. The aerodynamics of a modern f1 car are unbelievable, they go around corners like they are on rails!

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