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Liam: One of the UK's youngest Zend Certified PHP Engineers

I Became One of UK’s Youngest Zend Certified PHP Engineers

My name is Liam Walder; I’m 18 years old and I work at Magma Digital. I first joined the team when I was 16 – just three months after completing my GCSEs in September 2012. I started off as an apprentice web developer and I am now one of the full-time permanent Zend Certified PHP Engineers at Magma Digital.

My apprenticeship lasted for 15 months. It consisted of four days a week working at Magma Digital, where I was learning on the job, and one day a week learning theory in Manchester.

Upon completion, I had two City & Guilds qualifications, one in ICT Systems & Principles for IT Professionals and another in ICT Professional Competence.

Having worked at Magma Digital for almost two and a half years, I felt the time was right to set myself a new challenge by taking the Zend Certified PHP Engineers (ZCPHPE) (formerly known as the Zend Certified Engineer or ZCE) exam.

Magma Digital specialises in the PHP software programming language and I was quietly confident that my technical skills in PHP were up to scratch. Holding that qualification represents a measure of distinction within our industry and many of my colleagues in the software development team were already certified.

Therefore, I bit the bullet and booked myself in for the exam. As the date approached, I spent time learning, revising and practicing, in order to prepare myself.

Passing the exam has helped prove that I have a firm grasp and understanding of the technical tasks I complete every day. Undertaking this process has progressed my PHP development skills and helped me consolidate all the knowledge I have accrued so far.

Moving forward, this experience will be beneficial to me in a number of ways. First and foremost: in my everyday work. Studying for the exam enabled me to learn about areas of PHP programming that I hadn’t touched on before, which means I am now a more accomplished software engineer.

Furthermore, it will also help with my career prospects, as I will have more respect and recognition within the PHP community. Acquiring the qualification before I turned nineteen was an ambitious target I had set for myself and I’m pleased that I have made this ambition a reality.

When I began preparing for the test, the number of things I needed to know at times appeared overwhelming. However, I revised most nights in the months running up to the exam, working through concepts and technical functions until I knew I could apply them perfectly.

I used flashcards to learn array functions and string functions, which I found helpful as I could see the function name on the front, then the returned value, description etc. on the back.

I took advantage of various online resources to help me with the more difficult topics. Moreover, in-house training at Magma Digital was pivotal in giving me the knowledge that might have been difficult to pick up simply from book learning.

The exam process itself was relatively straight-forward. I took the exam at my local test centre. The questions were displayed on a screen and it was clear what the examiners wanted from you.

At the end of the test, I was presented with a grid of questions: flagged, unanswered, answered. This allowed me to ensure that I had answered every question, which I found helpful when it came to reviewing my answers.

When I was happy with my results, I clicked ‘finish’ and was instantaneously presented with a ‘congratulations’ message on-screen, meaning that I had passed and acquired my ZCE certificate.

My Advice to aspiring Certified PHP Engineers

If I was asked to give my advice to others in a similar situation, these are the points I would make:

  • Don’t approach the exam with too much trepidation and if you are debating whether or not to put yourself forward, just go ahead with applying to take the test!
  • Once you have applied, it gives you the motivation to start revising and working towards your goal.
  • The overall achievement is that you can gain a qualification that is globally recognised and demonstrates a very high degree of PHP proficiency, which is well worth it!

*We contacted the examination body to find out exactly how many Zend Certified PHP Engineers there are that are younger than Liam, but they do not hold information pertaining to age. Magma Digital are operating under the working assumption, that at just 18 years old, it is impossible for Liam not to be amongst the youngest in the UK to possess the certification.