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Building an Open-Source CLI for Cross Compiling: Leading & Innovating at Phoenix Contact

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Project Overview

Stepping into a lead developer role at Phoenix Contact, I helmed a compact but dynamic team in creating a CLI interface tailored for cross compiling C++ applications for PLCnext controllers. This CLI, now open-source, stands as a testament to our collective endeavor and innovation in streamlining development processes.

Challenges & Technical Triumphs

One of the most intricate tasks was crafting an extensible template system. Through this, C++ projects could be seamlessly initialized, and during the build phase, boilerplate code was auto-generated. This required a novel solution: creating a C++ parser from scratch based on a rudimentary grammar I stumbled upon. It was a foray into uncharted territory, and the result was a powerful tool that enhanced our CLI’s capabilities.

Collaborative Dynamics & Leadership

Our close-knit team comprised three developers and two testers. The close proximity of our workspaces facilitated frequent communication, allowing us to swiftly address concerns, feedback, and reviews. By demarcating specific areas for each team member, we ensured focused contributions and maintained a steady project pace.

Half a year was what it took to roll out the initial version, but I continued my journey as the lead engineer for three more years. During this tenure, the CLI underwent substantial architectural enhancements, reflecting our commitment to continuous improvement.

Reception & Continuous Enhancement

Today, our CLI finds its place in the toolkits of numerous users and enjoys the distinction of being open source. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve been graced with constructive improvement suggestions from the user community, which we’ve been proactive in implementing.


One profound lesson this journey imparted was the significance of early communication, especially concerning innovative ideas. I spent considerable time working on an event-driven architecture without initiating preliminary discussions. The eventual feedback made it clear that it wasn’t the right fit for our product. This reinforced the importance of early ideation sharing to align with team and project goals.


This project was more than just developing a tool; it was about leading a talented team, innovating continuously, and most importantly, learning from every step of the journey.

Engage & Collaborate! 🚀

Have thoughts, insights, or experiences related to this project? I'd love to hear from you. Reach out via the contact form and let's connect!


  • C#
  • C++
  • Autofac
  • CommandLineParser
  • Named Pipes
Time Investment: 3 years