Eric Hogue on January 16th, 2011

I have been programming in PHP for 5 years. PHP was not a choice I made, I had to learn it when my bosses acquired a company that was using Perl and PHP. At this time, I had to switch from doing desktop applications in C# to doing web applications with PHP. This was a major change in philosophy, and at the time I didn’t know much about web development.

I learned the language and most of what I know about the web by working with it. Today I think I have a decent knowledge of the language, but I know I have some gaps. If I never had to use a part of it, my knowledge of this part is probably limited.

Get A Better Knowledge Of PHP

The main reason I decided to take the ZCE exam, is the preparation. By studying for the exam, I get a very nice revision of the core features of the language. It forces me to take a new look at many things I have taken for granted. By doing it, I also learn some new things. I didn’t know that in PHP you could use ‘And’ and ‘Or’ instead of the ‘&&’ and ‘||’ logical operators. By reading the manual, I learned about those, and I also learned that they have a different precedence.

I have also learned that the empty array evaluate to false. I could have easily try that and find out, but it never occurs to me to actually use an array in a conditional. When I want to do something only when an array as some element, I check the count first. Now I know that I can just use the array. I’m not sure that it’s a good idea, it might make the code harder to understand, but at least it’s a choice I will make.

These little things I learn are great, but I thing the bigger value will be when I’ll learn about functions I did not know existed. I might come across functions that perform things I always do manually. Using a function that is built in the language should make my code easier to read for the other developers who knows about them. They will immediately understand what the piece of code do. It should also make my code more concise by taking out some of it’s complexity directly into the language.

Learn The New Feature Of PHP 5.3

Another great thing about my preparation is that it will forces me to learn a little bit more about the new features of PHP 5.3. I already know the big additions to PHP, but I still use 5.2 at work and on the servers where my personal projects are hosted. So I don’t get to really dig into those. It’s one thing to know that PHP 5.3 have namespaces, closures and late static binding. But it takes more to master them and the way they are used in PHP. Studying them will give me a little more knowledge about them and push me to actually try them on my own. Plus, looking at the new features page in the PHP Manual, I can see that there is more than those features.

Will It Help Me Find A Job?

No, it should not get me a job. It might attract a few headhunters, but that should be it. I have a job and I don’t want to change now. Having a Zend Certification does not make someone a good developer. It shows that when he passed the exam he had a great knowledge of PHP. But it takes a lot more than the knowledge of a language to be a good programmer.

I will never hire someone because he have a ZCE, and I would not want to work for someone who hires based on something like this only. However, the certification might help get your resume on top of the pile. Especially in place where HR filters the resume based on keywords. When your resume goes into the hands of none technical persons, they might give the ZCE a great values and make sure your resume gets passed along. But in the end, in any decent company, you will have to prove your knowledge if you want to get hired.

On My Way To The Exam

So at the end of last year, I decided that obtaining my Zend PHP 5.3 Certification was one of my goals for 2011. I hesitated for some time before deciding to get it because I was not sure about it’s value. I had a nice conversation about this on Twitter with @Richard_Tuin, @alister_b and @PoweredByJAM. In the end I decided to do it for what I could learn from it.

I already started my preparation and I wish to give the exam a try at the end of February.

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