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Interview With Anna Völkl—Certified Magento Developer & A Good Samaritan

Updated on  18th November

9 Min Read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Anna Völkl should be an inspiration to all. With sheer determination and hard work, she has become a Certified Magento Developer, a title that recognizes the expertise of a Magento developer. In Austria, she has become an icon in the field of Magento development. However, it is not the only she is good at.

Anna also works closely with Red Cross and other voluntary organizations. She regularly invested her time with youth in mentoring them. And after doing all of this, she still has some time left to sit and talk with me about Magento and her life. A super heroin I must say,

So, enjoy reading this frank interview.

Anna Völkl Interview

Cloudways: You have been working as a at web developer at LimeSoda for the last 3 years. How has been the experience? How did it all start? What kind of challenges did you face during the initial years? What are the advantages of being a certified Magento developer?

Anna Völkl: I created my first HTML website when I was 12 years old. I was always interested in technical things, especially computers, and this was my first contact with web development at the time.

Working for and with LimeSoda is cool. 🙂 I was a good PHP developer when I started working for LimeSoda, but until then, I had never worked with Magento before. It was Matthias Zeis who introduced me to the platform. To be honest, during my first weeks with Magento, I was not always completely sure what I was doing as the framework is quite big. I read a lot of blog posts, online forums, and websites, tried my own solutions, and worked over time.

After working for two years with Magento, I decided to take the Magento Developer Certification. Despite the fact that there were only 3 other certified developers in Austria at that time (which was a good motivation), it was a great self-affirmation for myself that showed me that I actually got the basics right.

Cloudways: Magento has become the choicest open-source platform for developing ecommerce websites. With continuous development within the industry, how do you foresee the future of Magento, especially after its acquisition by eBay?

Anna Völkl: I tend to be cautious with any predictions on this, but as long as Magento and eBay manage to work together with the great Magento community, they can achieve a lot.

We heard about the layoffs in the Magento division of eBay earlier this year which was not the best news, but it seems to me, their promise, to put more effort in Magento Community and Enterprise Edition became true. Having lots of new features in the newly released Enterprise Edition 1.14.1.0 and soon-to-be-released Community Edition 1.9.1.0, it appears to me there’s a lot of power behind the development and growth of Magento now and I hope we’ll see this continuing in the future.

Cloudways: The release of Magento 2.0 is much more anticipated now. With 2015 being the year, do you expect a complete overhaul in Magento’s core functionality and infrastructure? Will it just be a tweaked version of what we all have experienced with Magento 1.x? What improvements do you want to see in Magento 2.0?

Anna Völkl: One of the main goals of Magento 2.0 is the updated technology stack. This is what we should focus on at first. Don’t expect a completely new Magento e-Commerce system at the beginning.

Having the current functionality of Magento 1.0 updated in Magento 2.0, the development for new features can continue.

For the future of Magento 2.0, I’d love to see a practicable way regarding Magento Connect and extension management and advanced mobile and security features as these two topics are about to have lots of impact in 2015 and beyond.

Cloudways: Magento uses modules and extensions. Name 5 of your extensions that you can’t live without while developing your Magento website.

Anna Völkl: Nearly all of Aoe_*, especially Aoe_Scheduler and Aoe_Profiler:

  • Aoe_Scheduler: Cronjob scheduling & running made easy
  • Aoe_Profiler: Profiling load times and database queries
  • N98-magerun: A really great CLI too. Speeds up routine tasks such as flushing cache, enabling/disabling template hints, dumping and importing the database, etc.
  • FireGento_Logger :Working with multiple logger interfaces such as logging in to the database or in an advanced format to the files which makes the filtering really easy

Two more issues that need attention during development: configuration management (Config import/export) and protection against unintentionally actions on live-environments. That’s what we’ve created our own modules for:

  • LimeSoda_Environment Configuration: Our own tool to configure different environments after a database import. I would never ever want to work without that. A similar approach is taken with HarrisStreet ImpEx
  • LimeSoda_LiveGuard: Check against the configured variables for your environment and stops execution so that you won’t accidentally work with live-data/interfaces/…

Cloudways: Magento performance is divided into two parts: Front-end and Back-end. List 5 tips for optimizing Magento front-end & back-end performance.

Anna Völkl: There are actually quite a lot of big and small things that can be done to optimize Magento performance. My top 5 tips for front-end and back-end (with reference to the number of times I’ve seen shops with these performance killers) are:

  1. Combine CSS & JavaScript Files and set Expires Headers.
  2. Check & adapt image dimensions and file sizes, especially for the home page.
  3. Check for slow queries or non-performing modules in your own and 3rd party code.
  4. Use the latest PHP version.
  5. Install a by-code cache like APC.

Cloudways: Let’s get aside of Magento and talk about your personal interests. I followed you on Instagram and I found that you love cats. How many do you have and what are their names? Why do developers usually prefer cats as their pets? And what activities do you enjoy the most during your spare time?

Anna Völkl: I am a quite an active person: A big part of my spare time goes into volunteering at the Red Cross. I’m engaged in ambulance service on a regular basis and work with youth. I’m also part of the emergency response unit IT and Telecom for international disaster response.

Apart from that I also enjoy working in the garden, being outdoors and having a good time with my husband and friends. And, I love travelling.

I always loved cats and after we moved from a flat to our house, we decided to take care of two cats: one male and one female. Their names are Eve and Marvin.

Fensterbrettkatzen #cat #cats #pet

A photo posted by @rescueann on

It might be a bit nerdy but their names come from cryptography as my husband and I are both into IT Security and IT Security Management. I don’t know why especially developers prefer cats, the whole internet prefers cats as it seems. Latest observations from our MageStackDay showed that there are also developers with dogs and other animals. Cloudways: You have also worked as the Head of Youth Service and Project Manager at Austrian Red Cross for 4 years. How was that particular experience? What were your responsibilities down there? Any memorable incident would you like to share with our readers? Anna Völkl: I was a volunteer at the Red Cross for some years when I got the chance to take over a new online project which was being initialized at that time.

#freiwillig2013 #roteskreuz   A photo posted by @rescueann on

I was responsible for the project management, technical requirements, cooperation with other organizations etc. Besides the project, I was responsible for youth projects such as national and international youth camps and I attended international work groups. One of the most memorable moments is that I got the chance to join an international camp in Kenya and attend the 150 years celebrations of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent in Solferino, Italy.

The projects were really interesting and the Red Cross is a great organization, but after the online project was done, my job became less technical which was not in my favor.

Cloudways: I know that web development is quite a different kind of job altogether. How, being an experienced Project Manager, has helped you cope up with the responsibilities in this current job?

Anna Völkl: Knowing the technical and also the management side of projects is an advantage in terms of cost and time estimation, as well as creating concepts and communication with customers.

A good Project Manager for Magento projects should understand the technical basics of the platform as well as a good developer should have the big picture in mind and know essential parts of project planning.

Figuring out the customers’ goals and expectations regarding a Magento online shop and certain features helps to identify important criteria.

Providing information about certain features and setting priorities can support a customer in the initial phase and it helps the team to focus on important parts.

Cloudways: IMAGINE—the flagship Magento event—is a great source of motivation for Magento lovers and enthusiasts. Have you attended any such event? What other events do you attend except IMAGINE and why those events matter?

Anna Völkl: I have attended some community events in the past, such as the Meet Magento in Germany, Hackathons, and our regular Magento Meetup in Vienna. I have not been to IMAGINE yet, but I’d love to go there once.

There are lots of great Magento events and it’s sometimes hard to decide which of those to attend.

Anyway, being at Magento events brings a lot of personal motivation as well as new ideas and contacts to other members of the Magento community. Conferences and Hackathons are great to exchange the best practices and different experiences and to learn from others. I think the motivation to learn new things among the participating developers, is really high and they strive to get the most out of these events.

Cloudways: Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. have become a vital component of thriving online businesses. There are many groups and communities active online. What’s your opinion about their impact on Magento-based websites? What are some online open forums, communities, groups you go to discuss different topics about Magento?

Anna Völkl: Integrating social media functions into online shops has become an indispensable part, but only sharing some information somewhere online is not the key to success. It is really important to have a social media strategy, especially when the online shop is the customers’ main business.

Also we as developers love to share our knowledge and learning online, but it would be useless if no one consumes it.

A widely accepted way of sharing solutions, which I also contribute to, is the Question & Answer platform StackExchange, where you can provide answers to very specific technical questions related to Magento.

Beside this, there are lots of interesting Magento blogs from developers around the world, along with a very active Twitter community and IRC channels.

Cloudways: Every one of us likes to follow some influencers. From whom do you get inspiration? Name 5 of the top Magento influencers, who have inspired you, or have helped you stand where you are today?

Anna Völkl:

  • Matthias Zeis, my colleague, with whom I’m always having interesting discussions about Magento and web-development in general.
  • Vinai Kopp, who empowers us with his talks and blog posts to become better Magento developers.
  • Fabian Blechschmidt and the FireGento guys who gave me a warm welcome at my first event and who showed me how cool the Magento community is!
  • Alan Storm’s website where I happened to strand quite often when I started with Magento and learned a lot from it.
  • Sander Mangel for organizing the MageStackDay with me.

magento experts

Cloudways: Most of the Magento-based websites are vulnerable to security threats, such as, credit card misuse, hack attacks, etc. In your opinion, how these websites can be protected against such attacks? Is there any remedial solution in place?

Anna Völkl: Security will continue to be a big issue in online services. Online shops are a valuable target for hackers. Some of my most important recommendations:

  • Use HTTPS on every Magento web store
  • Use a reliable and experienced hosting provider
  • Work with experienced developers
  • Give your developers enough time to check third party extensions, (it also helps to prevent performance issues) and perform security checks on your shop
  • Apply Magento security updates and use the latest Magento version (apply shop-updates)
  • Do not store credit card data unless there is the absolute need to do so
  • Have a recovery/backup plan

There are a lot of individual settings that can be adjusted in order to increase the security of an online shop. Reliable hosting providers and experienced developers will implement most of these settings by default and can give more information on special needed adjustments.

Cloudways:  Anna, you live in Vienna, Austria. What are the major attractions of the city? Which places you like to go out for a lunch or dinner or even for a cup of Coffee? One word about Austria.

Anna Völkl: Actually, I don’t live in Vienna. I live in a nice and small city on the countryside and go to work to Vienna every day.
Major attractions of Vienna are the Schönbrunn Palace and Zoo, the Prater including the giant Ferris wheel (Riesenrad) and St. Stephen’s cathedral.

Wiener Riesenrad #travel #vienna #austria #österreich #wien #riesenrad

A photo posted by @rescueann on

I recommend having coffee in one of the nice typical coffee houses, having drinks in the bar at the top of the public aquarium in a converted flak tower (Haus des Meeres), having food at the Viennese market (Naschmarkt) and partying hard in one of the bars in the “Bermudadreieck”.

Apart from that there’s nothing better than having an evening with friends and typical Austrian food and drinks at the Heurigen.

Some words about Austria: historic, green, clean, safe, a good place to live.

You can follow Anna Völkl (@rescueAnn) on Twitter!


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Saad Khan

Muhammad Saad Khan is Growth Hacker & Content Marketing Strategist at Cloudways. He is a columnist at VentureBeat and a full stack marketing advocate. He works on business growth, influencer engagements, and innovative content strategies.

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