Samantha Quiñones is a Director of Engineering at Skillshare. Over the course of her career, she has built software and led teams for some of the largest names in technology. Samantha is an internationally renowned speaker and sits on the PHP-FIG Core Committee. She has been recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the top Latin Americans in Media and is a 2015 recipient of the DCFT Powerful Female Programmers Award.
Where do you work, what is your current role?
I am a Director of Engineering at Skillshare in New York. I lead much of the product development here.
How do you use PHP professionally?
I’ve used it on and off through my career, but pretty consistently since 2013. AOL and Etsy are both large PHP shops, as is Skillshare.
How and when did you get involved speaking or writing in the community?
I’ve been speaking at conferences since early 2014. I got involved through my local meetup when I was working in DC at Politico. My first real talk was about CI/CD which I gave at the DC PHP meetup!
What’s your best conference memory?
Probably the PHP world where Ed Finkler had the audience sing me “Happy Birthday.” I wish it had been recorded!
What advice do you have for someone going to their first conference?
Don’t get too bogged down in the sessions. They’re fantastic, but you need both downtime to absorb all the information that’s coming at you, and to meet your fellow attendees.
What’s your primary OS: Windows, Mac, or Linux?
MacOS in recent years. I used to use Linux almost exclusively, but I was lured in by never having to configure things. Almost never.
What keeps PHP relevant in today’s web development landscape?
PHP is a fantastic and evolving language. Honestly, fights over languages have raged since long before I entered the industry and they’ll never stop. Like anything else, there are applications that PHP excels in and some that it doesn’t. As far as web-centric languages, though, I think PHP has an extremely clean model and more-or-less treats web concepts like first-class citizens. That gives it an edge for me.
What would you tell someone looking to grow beyond copy-pasting PHP from the web?
There’s nothing wrong with copying and pasting, by the way. The next step from there is tweaking and modifying. Many of us learned through trial and error. If you’re serious about developing mastery with the language, the only thing you can do is practice. Contribute to open source, if you can and feel comfortable doing so.
What’s one lesser-known feature of PHP that you use a lot or appreciate?
I don’t know if they’re exactly lesser-known, but I love the map/filter/reduce paradigm.
Is a degree in Computer Science critical to be a professional programmer?
A fundamental understanding of how computers work is important. At some point, a solid grasp of some basic computer science topics becomes important. A degree isn’t essential, especially for most real-world software engineering jobs. I certainly don’t have one.
In your experience, what skill or ability do excellent programmers practice?
Excellent programmers are excellent communicators. They listen and empathize, they teach and collaborate.
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