Speaker Spotlight: ‘Feature Flags: A Practical Place to Begin’ with Peter Fox

Feature Flags, Dark Launching, A/B Testing? What the hell is the difference? At the latest PHP Sussex meetup, Peter Fox answered those questions and explained how you can start and evolve to potentially do all of those things. Following the event, we caught up with Peter to learn a little more about him…

Can you tell us a bit about you and the work that you do…

I’m a senior software engineer, specifically working with PHP & Laravel. I work for Amiqus, Scotland’s fastest-growing tech company.

I also, in my spare time, write a few tech articles and work on open-source projects.

What was the inspiration for your recent talk?

I’ve been using feature flags for a while now, but there’s still little adoption within the PHP community. I believe over time, using feature flags will become more common.

Any key highlights / takeaways for anyone who missed it?

Feature Flags has some enormous advantages for companies struggling to scale the amount of work that they do. It doesn’t take long to start implementing the strategy and seeing the benefits come into play.

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

Mostly yes to the traditional route. I started wanting to build websites when I was 10, but I did not have the resources to learn anything beyond what I could work out myself. At 16, I started learning PHP and was already proficient at building and setting up computers.

That said, I was never very good at most things at school outside of my love for playing around with computers, but I ended up doing a BTEC for programming at college and later decided to do a degree in computer science as I felt it was the best way to be able to land a job in software development.

Is there a moment that helped define your career?

Honestly, I don’t say so. At one point in my career, I was fortunate to get some mind-blowing training in Test Driven and Behaviour Driven Development.

Doing that levelled my abilities from being a competent software developer to being confident in building robust systems and working collaboratively. It also got me to shift my mindset in that if I was going to be a great developer in the future, I needed to invest more in myself. Until then, I would always spend time working with open-source tools and free learning resources, which are great, but sometimes you need those great resources to accelerate your learning.

If you love what you do, you’ll find a way to justify those costs. It’s equally got me to a point now where I work for a company that recognises that passion in people and helps fund that learning directly by providing a professional development budget.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be too risk-averse to spending on your learning might be something to take from the last answer!

Another piece of advice is to try and reach out to the community in whatever you enjoy doing. I love working with Laravel because of how helpful the community is on Twitter. Eventually, you can give back by writing articles about what you learn, which is decisive for your career. You can be a fantastic programmer, but it means very little if you can’t develop the skills to communicate that to others in your field or potential employers.

Writing articles was a real boost for me as it helped others solve problems and helped me think about how to communicate complex ideas with the least effort on the readers’ part to take in those ideas.

What’s your big tech prediction for 2023?

It may not be a prediction, as it’s already here, but OpenAI and their work on things like ChatGPT. It’s all fantastic stuff, and for developers, it will change how we work. I don’t believe developers will be replaced any time soon, but there’ll be a level shift with more people getting the basics of programming quicker than previous generations.

My other prediction will be feature flagging. There’ll be more people taking it on board in the future the same way over time automated testing or doing code reviews are common practices.

Silicon Brighton wouldn’t be here without people like you giving back to the community so… what does the word community mean to you?

Community is a great way to learn. It’s often inspiring to me to see the amazing things others come up with daily, and it drives me to want to add my ideas back into the community and see others hopefully feeling that same inspiration.

Anything else you would like to share?

Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/SlyFireFox or catch up with my PHP/Laravel articles at https://medium.com/@SlyFireFox

Missed Peter’s talk or want to watch it again? Check it out here…