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René Morency

Interview With Alex

On his Green Room placement year, we have a chat with our PHP prodigy Alex Longshaw and find out how he’s found his first couple of months in London town.

How have your first few weeks at Browser been?

Brilliant. It’s a great working and learning environment. On my first day, there were three of us starting on the same day so it was nice not to be the only new guy. Friday has to be the best day, not that it’s the weekend approaching, but lunchtime means “Curry Friday” and at 4:30, a beer appeared on my desk. That was definitely a nice surprise.

Have you found it a big leap from university?

In some respects. Having to get out of bed in the morning for a start! Deadlines can feel more daunting but there is actually less pressure. If you’re running behind there is usually someone that can help you out. No exams make a nice change too.

Favourite Shoreditch haunt so far?

So far? Well, I definitely haven’t been around long enough, some more “research” will be required. I had a good evening in The Bricklayers Arms with the guys after work – it’s just down the road.

What kind of work have you been doing?

I’ve had varied work which has been good. In the mornings I check the support system and resolve some of the tickets. They range from simple bug fixes and change requests to new features. Mostly though, I’ve been doing PHP using the Symfony 2 framework. It’s been an education looking at my colleagues’ work and seeing what I’ve done wrong over the years. So far I’ve worked on intranets, e-commerce systems and other websites.

I have also been working on a wiki to store in-house documentation – I’ve definitely learnt that I shouldn’t be trusted unsupervised with design-related work! Luckily, James was on hand to give me a few pointers.

What have you learnt so far?

Don’t touch front-end work when Dave is watching! He’ll catch any slip-ups.

Browser uses Pivotal Tracker to manage its agile approach to web development. It has been interesting to follow this workflow and use Git as part of a development team rather than just personal code revision backup.

I’ve been trained on Symfony 2 and Jellybean, Browser’s in-house CMS and Matt has since been training me on the job as and when something new comes up.

Do you think that your time here will be useful for your final year at uni?

Definitely. I’ve put into practice things I have only studied in theory at University. I have a much deeper understanding already of MVC and the Symfony framework, skills which I will be able to put to use in my final year project.

Matt has taught me some best practices that I hadn’t heard before which will definitely benefit me. I’ve also started using Vim which was slow progress at first but I’m becoming a lot more efficient.

How many cups of tea have you drunk so far?

No one told me I had to keep a record?! But I’d say about 60 so far. 

What’s it like working in the same space as Uvd and Gloople?

It’s great working in an office filled with like-minded individuals. If I have a problem, someone else has already been there and done it before. Something that may have taken an hour for me to resolve can be done in minutes which I can learn from.

What problems have you had to overcome?

Getting to work in the first place. On my first day, somewhat eager not to be late, I arrived an hour early. No one was around so I had to take refuge in a local cafe. On my 4th day, I was staying in a different house. I got on a bus going the wrong way and had to find another to get to work. I arrived at 5 to 9, cutting it nice and close for my first week.

I’ve also been getting used to OSX. I arrived to find a shiny Mac at my desk. Being an Ubuntu fan it took a little getting used to but I get to use Linux on my development VM which makes it all okay.