You, me, and TYPO3 ... with Lisa Kreitz

You, me, and TYPO3 is a fresh take on young people that make our TYPO3 community so unique. I want to put the spotlight on the humans behind the computers, and, as we say in the TYPO3 community, inspire people to share—share their stories.

Today, I'm talking with Lisa Kreitz—a full-blown TYPO3 / PHP developer from queo in Berlin who I've met at the TYPO3 Camp Mitteldeutschland—I think you’ll enjoy learning something new from her!

Lisa, when did you first get in touch with TYPO3?

Everything started with an internship for my studies of Media & Computer Sciences at a web agency. I was hired to write technical documentation about a product, but by coincidence this project was postponed so I could do what I love: Coding. This company worked with WordPress, TYPO3 and other CMS, and everybody told me that TYPO3 was really really complex and hard to grasp—so I accepted this challenge.

I have to say, I did not understand WordPress back then. In contrast TYPO3 has a clear structure, and a good basis for PHP developers, it provides a good framework for extending the core code in a much cleaner way.

I already had a bit of PHP understanding, and had learned C and C++ in school, so the way of thinking in PHP is similar to other languages I had known.

Who taught you everything you know about TYPO3?

During my internship, I learned a lot about Extbase, and its concepts around MVC. I learned a lot by myself. I started with the blog example, and continued from there on with other Extbase & Fluid guides.

When I changed my job in 2019, I first sat down next to a colleague for two weeks and just watched him doing all his routines and I learned the “best practices”. I asked him questions about common things like “Where do you structure your code in extensions”, or “What is the naming conventions of your extensions in projects”.

One thing I still do over and over again is look on GitHub to see how other extensions are built. That’s the beauty of open source. I find myself looking at TYPO3’s News extension very often—Georg Ringer has solved cases which I need similarly in PHP already—so I learn from that. StackOverflow, TYPO3 Core code, and documentation are good pointers as well to get started.

What does day-to-day work with TYPO3 look like?

The first thing I do every day is look at our teams’ sprint board and pick the next issue with the label “Backend” or “PHP” on it.

That wasn’t always the case—At first I mainly did TYPO3 Support, a bit of Frontend development, project coordination, and A LOT of TYPO3 updates. That was an interesting experience but I wanted to code more on bigger parts. Which is why I changed my job and started to work for queo in Berlin, where I’m really happy now. We have a team consisting of designers, frontend & backend developers and a project manager coordinating everything—so I can concentrate on cracking the hard nuts in PHP.

So you’re really into server-side development. What fascinates you about that more than current frontend technologies?

Well, to be completely blunt: I’m not creative at all. Building good-looking websites with CSS doesn’t work for me. During my BCS (Bachelor of Computer Science) we had to work with JavaScript - but I couldn’t wrap my head around AJAX back then. I still haven’t managed to get back to JavaScript since then—so I’m currently trying to avoid it. And maybe I’m just not the JavaScript tech person. That’s the good thing about having good JavaScript people in our team. They have more expertise and know exactly how to solve problems on their end.

As you can imagine, I get these weird looks once people find out I’m a developer: “What??? You’re a woman and you’re a developer?” But most of the time, they don’t even ask me what’s my favorite programming language.

On the other hand, when it comes to TYPO3, my fellow students back then said: “You should stick with WordPress, TYPO3 is not going to survive.” I have to disagree. There are just so many companies only focusing on TYPO3 development, where I could easily find a job, and I believe people will continue using and working with it. And that also gives me a huge advantage - I can do TYPO3 - I can do something others can’t! :)

WordPress is just not interesting enough for me as a developer. I download a theme, click on a few buttons, and my job is done. Where can I be challenged here as a developer?

TYPO3 is just more robust and well-structured. Plus, TYPO3’s built-in features like the Page Tree concept—I mean, I don’t have to explain this to anyone who has been using Windows, as the Windows Explorer just works the same way.

What are tools you cannot live without at work?

By now, you can already guess—I want to have structure and control with what I do. Using Git on the command line is a breeze, and I’m in full control of what I’m doing. My IDE at work, PHPStorm, has a very handy plugin called GitToolBox to quickly glance over the previous Git revision and see the author and most recent Git commit. I can highly recommend it.

What do you love most about working with TYPO3?

Yes: Real Configuration! No magic. Simply put: I can configure everything—from user-rights management to any kind of button in TYPO3 Backend.

And I can only repeat myself—I love TYPO3 for its structure. Maybe because I’m a structure fanatic. Even the filelist module, I—and every editor—can organize all the folders as they want to work with it. There are no boundaries to customize the setup for everyone individually.

TYPO3 isn’t complicated, it’s just well structured.

And then there are the little things that you celebrate once you need them: for example, a built-in category system, the form framework, and so many concepts built-in to the Core. 

One thing I fell in love with a couple of years ago is the History module: If the customer tells you that some pages were magically hidden with no editor interaction, I could send a screenshot of the history module, and tell them that they made the changes two hours ago themselves.

What was your most recent "Aha moment" with TYPO3?

Oh, I had so many of them in the past 4 years since I started working with TYPO3. You never stop learning—every day I learn something new about TYPO3. One super small detail which I now love is the method GeneralUtility::trimExplode()—Once you know these API methods, you are so much faster.

Follow Lisa on Twitter

What do you do outside of TYPO3?

I started a Python Course now. As I mentioned, you should never stop learning and another programming language just broadens your perspective on how to become a better programmer.

When not coding, I love everything around Softball and Baseball. I’m also part of a professional Softball team. It’s 2 nights per week for training and during summer times, 1-2 matches per weekend, so this takes a lot of my time. Baseball and Softball aren’t very common in Germany, and the concept of these sports is unusual for a woman. Who would want to throw a ball, hit it with a bat and run after it? Others rather play Volleyball or go to Ballet. But I just love Softball - the combination of all parts of the game makes it so interesting.

What do you like about the TYPO3 Community?

I attended the TYPO3 Camps in Dresden, Berlin, and Hamburg. I’m generally a shy person and when I first attended a camp, I felt like “Why should I go there? I don’t know anything and there are just so many professionals and I probably won’t understand anything!”. But there are always people that are just getting started with TYPO3. Having a “basics” session about TYPO3 is always crowded, and a good starting point to make you feel that you already know a lot.

At TYPO3 events, it doesn’t matter how stupid your question is, you don’t get dismissive comments or laughter because of a simple question. Maybe that’s because I’m a woman. On the contrary—for a backend developer—I never had a situation where my competence and qualification were questioned because I’m a woman.

I was blown away by all of the attendees of being so open and friendly. There is no “No, I can’t tell you this because it’s our company’s secret sauce”—if you ask if people would like to publish the code they presented, they are more than happy to share it. 

What’s the one thing that TYPO3 is missing and you wish you’d had?

I would love to have a visual “YAML Browser” because I want to see what is the actual result of any kind of form where I use YAML, not specifically related to e.g. Form framework. I just think the way the TypoScript object browser helps people so much. Having the same concept for YAML would be a great addition.

And by the way: Where can I get this TYPO3 Baseball Cap I saw at a TYPO3 Camp? I would love to get one of these...

This interview was taken by Benni Mack, TYPO3 Project Lead, in April 2020.