Andrew Pemberton is a Magento Certified Developer with over 15 years of experience in creating PHP-based websites. He currently works as a Web Developer at Interactive Web Solutions. So, without further ado, let’s see what Andrew has to say.
Cloudways: Andrew, at the moment you are a Magento Web Developer at Interactive Web Solutions. Could you share the highlights of your development career with the readers?
Andrew: I started development when I was about 13. I played around with game website development.
This continued during my time at college and university. During this period, I also worked for some large gaming networks (Gamespy, Wireplay) and I developed and released a moderately successful open-source Content Management System (this was before the days of WordPress!).
I eventually wound up working at iWeb. Here I started as a bespoke developer, building sites from the ground up over and over again. Fast forward another 10 years, and I am still here; 100% focussed on Magento.
Cloudways: What made you start with Magento? What challenges did you face initially and how did you tackle them?
Andrew: It was around 6-7 years ago when we started to get more and more leads from customers actually requesting Magento as a product.
Initially, I absolutely hated it. Coming from a bespoke background, I thought it was an over-engineered, over-complicated awful, awful piece of software. What used to take me minutes on a bespoke site would now take a day or so.
Over time, I began to understand more and more why things had been done (and had to be done) in a certain way, and although I was still spending my entire days frustrated with its complexity, I slowly began actually to like the platform.
Fast forward many many years and here we are. I love Magento, Magento 1 that is.
Cloudways: If I am not wrong, you have worked with other ecommerce solutions. If Magento was not there, which ecommerce solution would you choose to go with and why? How Magento compares with other similar ecommerce solutions?
Andrew: Historically, I had worked with many bespoke ecommerce solutions. The beauty of Magento over this approach was that out of the box it gives you so much. Imagine having to implement a login, registration; a forgot your password – that’s pretty much where I was 6 years ago. I don’t think a client is paying for those type of things represents good value. Having it all there already means you can focus your time on implementing the bespoke client specific logic and the result is that the customer gets a better product.
If Magento wasn’t around today I’m really not sure what solution I would go with, to be honest, it would probably end up being something cloud-based since that seems to be where everything is going.
Cloudways: As a Magento ecommerce agency developer, how do you maintain the quality of work for your clients? What workflows and tools would you recommend to fellow Magento developers?
Andrew: In an agency environment, I feel there’s a delicate balance between ‘quality’ and ‘cost.’ Sometimes this can be quite difficult; knowing when something is ‘good enough’ and will achieve what the customer requested is a tough thing to get.
Things often change during the lifecycle of a project as well, e.g., customers see their ideas in action and decide they want to remove/amend/replace them. To cope with this, I break small chunks of functionality down into their own (site-specific) modules. The result of this means we do have some sites with 100’s of modules on, but some of the modules can be as simple as showing a block on the detail page. Doing it this way makes it easier to share code between my colleagues and other customers and makes it easier to change the functionality during the project.
Tools-wise, we manage our projects using Trello. We have hundreds of clients, so we’ve built a custom interface that uses their API to make a weekly to-do list for every developer effectively.
Aside from this; I guess it’s a norm for most Magento developers – Git and PHPStorm are a must. We develop locally and then have a staging and a live site for the majority of our projects.
Cloudways: The sunset for Magento 1 is around the corner. What are your thoughts on Magento 2 and its impact on the ecommerce industry?
Andrew: Honestly, It feels like I’m going to be losing my best friend. *cries*
I don’t think we’re going to hit that date and Magento 1 will suddenly disappear; though it’s going to be around for a long time after this date. I hope that the community takes a fork of it (pretty much like https://github.com/OpenMage/magento-lts) and support it for a while after that.
In regards to Magento 2 and its impact on the industry, the platform feels like it’s very much in its infancy, so I don’t think it’s made a splash in the industry as of yet. I’m confident it will get there, and maybe the sunset on M1 will aid with this.
Cloudways: What are common development related issues in Magento 1 and Magento 2? What should be the focus of Magento 2 development?
Andrew: I think Magento 1 has been around enough now to have weeded the majority of them out. There’s a tutorial/example code/stack overflow question on pretty much any problem you come up against, and if you do happen to stumble upon a new issue, there’s plenty of experience on the community forums and StackOverflow to assist.
Magento 2 is a whole different ballgame. Getting a development environment setup and actually getting it installed is where I’ve seen a lot of people fall down (and often give up completely), the barrier to entry now is just massive, and that’s even before you’ve started coding.
In regards to M2 and what to focus on, I think Magento needs to make the platform a little easier to get up and to run and develop. You don’t see that many *new* Magento developers are coming up through the ranks and you have to question why that is. Is this because new developers are not interested? Or is it because it’s too hard to get going? I think it was a great start when they made the M2 training available free of charge (albeit for a small period) so I’d like to see more of these things.
Cloudways: You are a Magento certified developer. What are the most important tips for passing the certification? DO you think these certifications are worth it? Please share your favorite resources for learning Magento development.
Andrew: I think good two years of solid development with Magento should be enough to get anyone through the certification exams without any extra learning. If you wanted to do it a bit quicker than 2 years, then the official Magento training would help speed things along, since that covers a broad range of topics that are touched in the exam.
In regards to whether or not they’re worth it, if you were a freelance developer then I don’t think it would make too much difference; if you’re looking for a new job, it definitely helps set you aside from other candidates. It’s also a great way for an agency to brag about their staff too “we have x number of certified developers, ” and it definitely impresses customers (and potential customers) when they hear about how many certified developers you have.
Cloudways: What would be your suggestions for beginner Magento developers?
Andrew: Have a long hard think about what they’re getting into!! 😉
Seriously, I would advise them to get stuck in and start building things. Look at Magento’s own code and community code for examples when possible, make mistakes and learn from them.
Cloudways: I always ask interviewees to share their work desk. Same goes for you 🙂 Please share a picture of your work desk with our readers.
Andrew: The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice a few things: my mouse mat and the fact that I use a PC.
I’m a huge Microsoft Fan Boy; I love Windows, and I’m proud of it. Until recently, I think I was one of the 10 people in the world who used a Windows Phone too!
The mouse mat was a leaving gift from my best buddy and everyone’s favorite YouTuber Rebecca Troth. If you haven’t watched her videos yet, then you must have been under a rock for the past year!
Cloudways: On your Twitter profile, you have mentioned that you are a plane crash survivor. If you don’t mind, would you share this story with us?
Andrew: Heh I’d like to say that I crash-landed on a magical Island and there was a ‘monster’ there or that I spent four years by myself surviving with only a soccer ball for company. However, in reality, I was on the runway, and a luggage cart crashed into the plane. Some people say “that’s not a plane crash, ” but it’s an excellent ice-breaker for people.
Cloudways: What are your hobbies? Tell us a bit about how you spend your free time?
Andrew: Between working and being the world’s greatest husband, I actually get very little free time. With the time I get, I usually take my dogs out for a long walk or play some first person shooter type game on my Xbox.
Cloudways: Andrew, Everybody has influencers who inspire us with their work. Name some influencers who have inspired you. Whom would you recommend, I interview next?
Andrew: This is a tricky one; I’ve always been very self-motivated and hungry to learn without the need of someone to look upto.
The group of people I work with at iWeb are all brilliant. There is such a diverse array of knowledge across all ranges of web/software development in the office. So if I HAD to say who inspires or influence me – I would say my colleagues of the past and present.
I would love to see more interviews/opinions from people outside of “the usual suspects” in the Magento community. Everyone has a voice, but sometimes people need a little coercing before they make their voices heard.
Cloudways: Cloudways provides 1-click Magento installation with impressive speed & great cloud infrastructures embedded within the platform. Would you prefer shared hosting for Magento stores or a cloud hosting environment like Cloudways offers?
Andrew: Do people actually use shared hosting these days? 😂 Take me to the cloud baby!