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Seasoned Magento Trainer, Deryck Harlick discusses Magento Training, User Experience, and Community!

Updated on May 10, 2017

10 Min Read

In his own words, “My training style is informal and relaxed which encourages delegates to ask questions – I find a delegate who ask questions leaves the training having the most valuable experience.

A Magento and ecommerce Trainer par excellence, and man of multifaceted tricks and trade, Deryck Harlick loves what he does to the core. With more than 15 years of experience under his belt, he is one of the most celebrated Magento Certified Solutions Specialists within the United Kingdom. He is currently working as the Lead Trainer at Future Clients Marketing and Training Ltd. He is credited with introducing innovative, and niche-based training courses for Magento end-users.

With his informal style of training, he has won the hearts of his peers and customers.

We are honored to have Deryck Harlick on board for our famous interview series He runs a Magento end user training business. Deryck oversees the course development at MageTraining by producing technical material, step-by-step guides and facilitators guides.

Deryck Harlick

It is imperative to market a business properly, and at MageTraining, Deryck is in charge of the task. His team executes marketing campaigns through a variety of channels.

Deryck also takes on the role of a Magento instructor, and an approachable, friendly instructor at that!

During this interview, he shares valuable insights on the Magento Community and gives us some technical advice as well.

Cloudways: Deryck! you are the owner and Lead Trainer of MageTraining . How has the journey been until now?  What challenges did you face during your initial years?

Deryck Harlick: Firstly, I feel lucky that I fell into the Magento world. I used to run a small agency that had an in-house ecommerce system. It was getting to the point where it was too hard and expensive to maintain, so I decided that it was time to look for something more ‘off the shelf’. As it happens, these were the early days of Magento and it was clear to me – when evaluating it – that it was head and shoulders above the competition. And amazingly it was free. Of course things have changed a lot since then but I am still constantly amazed by the depth of flexibility of Magento.

With Magetraining our biggest challenge in the early years, as it is with many businesses, was making people aware of what we had to offer. The company started in a recession when training was quite low down on the list of priorities for most. Making people aware of the value of good quality training and letting them know we are there to deliver that did prove a challenge for us. But we knew we were in it for the long game.

Magetraining

In the early days, it was all about scheduled open training courses. Now, our main focus is delivering onsite training. We have also expanded our reach to North America with a partnership with Wagento and earlier in the year, we hosted our first open course in Chicago. It’s exciting times for us.

Cloudways: You are a Magento certified solution specialist. When did you realise that you have that unique ability to work as a Magento trainer? What is the reason behind starting Magetraining?

Deryck Harlick: It all happened by accident. My previous company had to close down. Myself and a colleague found ourselves in limbo. In our previous roles, we had trained our clients on how to use Magento and decided to publicise this to earn some money while we thought about what we could do in long term. The first course we advertised sold out and although I can’t say it’s been a perfectly smooth ride since then, it was clear we had stumbled on to something unique.

As time has passed, we have developed our courses a lot and we are often referred to by our clients as trainer/consultants because we always try and solve our clients’ real life Magento problems during training, if we can. This really is a differentiator for us and one of the ways we maintain a reputation as one of (if not the) best Magento Merchant trainers.

Cloudways: Deryck let’s talk about Magento events like Meet Magento and Imagine and Magento Live. How do you promote the Magento Community and cause at these events? Share your experience with our readers regarding Magerun.

Deryck Harlick: I wouldn’t say I am a proactive promoter of the the community but I am a strong advocate of it. The community is the main reason why I love Magento. If I ever left the Magento ecosystem, the community is what I’d miss most.

I’m always telling my delegates to familiarise themselves with the Magento community – it is where the true power of Magento resides and there is almost an infinite amount of knowledge out there to be used and contributed towards.

I think when I really got the uniqueness of the community was back in 2012 at the first Magento Imagine in Vegas. I took part in the Magerun – a desert run – along with approximately 20 other community members. The run itself was a great experience (although the first 3 miles were uphill if I remember which was exhausting for me in the Nevada sun) but what was even more fantastic was the camaraderie between  everyone, for most of whom this was the first time I had ever met them.

Cloudways: Being a Magento Trainer, you have been involved in different startups and large organisations in Europe, USA, Australia etc. Tell us, what are some of the biggest challenges currently facing startups, especially those running their ecommerce websites on Magento?

Deryck Harlick: We have trained and helped a very diverse range of organisations. From multinationals to back bedroom niche stores and in the last 12 months we have ran courses in the UK, USA and Spain – we’ve not cracked Australia yet but maybe soon.

For me, the biggest challenge at every level is to find an agency that fits your business and you can trust. Obviously not all agencies are the same and if I was to have a guess I would say at least 50% of delegates on our scheduled courses have more than just minor gripes with the agency. I’ve been on both sides of this fence and the reasons for this are many – poor communication, unrealistic expectations by the client, poorly specified project and so on. It also concerns me how many agencies there are particularly at the low and mid end of the market who clearly do not know Magento thoroughly enough to, in my opinion, offer it as a service.

The most common grievance I hear is that the ‘web developer has not done what we expected’. This may be because the customer has higher expectations than what was agreed or it could be that the web developer does not understand the project.

I have a simple solution for this. Understand Magento and what you can do with it, don’t rely on a third party to tell you this. After all this is probably going to be one of the most important income channels in your business.

It is really up to you to do the due diligence and make sure it is the right product. Task yourself and your team to build much of the site yourself using the admin tool. I’m talking about the product, content pages, and even transactional emails. Leave the complex tasks to the developer. Developers are generally the most expensive part of a project, so leave them to do the hard stuff while the customer gets familiar with the Magento product they will end up using day to day.

This approach will help the client feel in control, the developer is generally happy as they tend to focus on the interesting technical challenges.

Cloudways: In your opinion, what functionality improvements are more competitive today, frontend features for customers or backend refinements for Magento admins? Share some Magento security tips with our readers?

Deryck Harlick: The functional improvements that are most competitive depend very much on the clients. I see a lot of excitement from enterprise users who discover segmentation for the first time. I think this is an area where customising the customer experience based on past purchases, product views or pretty much any criteria is an area which has some interesting players involved. The push for all things to be omni-channel is also an area which has a lot of competition and some great products.

A rethink of the backend of Magento with a heavy focus on usability would be my suggested next step. I have looked at the Beta of Magento 2 and it looks like some work is being done here. I’m looking forward to the next major release (the Merchant Beta in July) to see how this has progressed.

The main competitors to Magento at the small and mid store range have good user interfaces and minimal jargon/lingo that may intimidate novices. This  level of simplicity has great appeal to small to mid sized business and can form part of the decision process. For Magento to maintain its presence in this market it does need to ensure usability is catered for better than perhaps Magento 1 does.

I’m not really a security expert. My main piece of advice is, don’t have the backend admin login on the /admin url. So many don’t change this default and it is relatively easy to change (ask an expert though).

Cloudways: Magento’s ecosystem is built around extensions and modules. Name five of the most important extensions that you cannot dream to live without, which you suggest during your training sessions and to your clients?  

Deryck Harlick: It’s a fact that customers want extensions. I would refer back to the comments Kuba Zwoliński made in a previous interview you did – you need to understand completely what Magento is capable of before you start considering extensions. I try hard to recommend they keep this to a minimum. The ones that I talk about most are:

Cobby by Mash2 – This still seems to be relatively low on the radar and I can’t understand why it has not exploded into the Magento world. Cobby allows the client to run their Magento catalogue in almost real time from excel. It’s a great tool and I always tell delegates to at least take a look at the demos.

Yotpo – If you are not already allowing customers to leave product reviews then this is a lovely extension attached to a SaaS package. It has a free package that can be upgraded. Social proof is so important for many online stores and this is a good part of that mix.

Sweet Tooth – If a client is considering any type of reward system then I suggest they take a look at the depth of features on offer.
Some kind of email recovery – MageMonkey, MageMail and Dotmailer (they are all good)
I have a soft spot for Fooman extensions. Thier solutions feel like the functionality that Magento was supposed to have and they are well built.

I’ve recently been looking at extension by Genmato. They have a lot of extensions that are all about improving efficiency for the merchant. I like that side of Magento development as the out of the box functionality particularly on the order processing side does not work well for stores that are taking more than 20 orders a day.

And of course, for shipping requirements that are not handled by Magento, I generally suggest that clients take a look at the suite of products on offer from WebShopApps.

Cloudways: The much anticipated release of Magento 2.0 is just around the corner. What are your expectations with that particular release? Do you foresee a total overhaul in Magento’s functionality and infrastructure? What are the 3 things / functions, you would like to change in Magento’s frontend?

Deryck Harlick: I operate mainly on the back end of Magento and don’t get too involved in the architecture. I know there are some big changes in this area but my focus is how usable is it for the merchants. So far I have not heard about any significant feature changes for merchants but I am sure Magento has something up its sleeve, particularly for the Enterprise version (or what ever the name is that they decide on).

Cloudways: On the lighter side of work, what do you do other than Magento Training? I think you love traveling. Would you share some adventure tips and experiences with our readers? Are you a family guy? Can you talk a little bit about your family life? 🙂

Deryck Harlick: I’ve always loved travelling. I don’t think I do enough and then my wife reminds me that in the last 18 months I’ve visited Melbourne, New York, Romania, Spain, Poland, Minneapolis and Chicago. Seeing new places is a big motivator for me – I’m a sucker for a trip abroad.

My son is nearly two and is truly great fun to be around. I’m obviously very biased but he has such a funny and lovely character that I just enjoy spending as much time with him as I can. Don’t get me wrong, he has his moments… he is only two 🙂 Ultimately I am looking forward to the day when we get the Scalextric out and we race each other and go on camping trips.

Cloudways: Unlike other content management systems, Magento’s online communities seem to be relatively conservative in their approach to sharing ideas and valuable knowledge. How have online communities of Magento fared in bringing people closer, where they can enjoy sharing their ideas? Name ten of the most  influential Magento people, who inspired you.

Deryck Harlick: I have to be honest. Outside of Magento, I don’t have much experience in other online communities. I find that when I have a question I can quite often find the answer I need in a forum or Stack Exchange. But to try and answer the question I think that the historic approach Magento Connect has made some wary because of what appears to be systemic copying of others intellectual property. This looks like it is being addressed for Magento 2 so hopefully we will see a positive change.

Sherrie Rhode – I could not be happier that Sherrie has become Magento community manager. She is a living proof that if you are determined and talented enough, you can get the job of your dreams. She has always made sure I feel included in the community and for that I am very grateful.

Tom Robertshaw – Most people justifiably have a high regard for Tom. My reason for including him is that I admire the approach that he (and his business partner Nick Jones) have at running Meanbee. He’s quietly building a quality business with a talented team and you just have to spend 10 minutes talking to Tom to realise that he is very open about his business journey.

Ignacio Riesco & Kimberely Thomas– I got to talk in New York because of these guys. There is so much work that goes into organising the Meet Magento events that I wonder how they get any time to do proper work!

Kuba Zwoliński – He’s already had one mention in this interview but I like Kuba a lot. He is clearly a talented business man but he is also very committed to the Magento community.

Brent Peterson – Everyone knows Brent. I recently did a talk with him at Magento Live in London and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. His jokes are so good that it sometimes takes you a day or two to finally get them. Brent is also a strong supporter of Magetraining and is helping to get the business up and running in the USA.

Others of note are Guido Jansen, Talash Seeparsan, Bill Curtis and Steve Deckart. All of these guys have been of great help over the last few years and I have a great deal of respect for the work they do both on the products they are involved in, and their Magento community involvement.

Cloudways: We provide 1-click Magento installation. Experience the fabulous speed of your cloud server on Cloudways cloud platform. I would highly appreciate it if you have any suggestions or feedback. Don’t hesitate to share your opinions of Cloudways for Magento hosting.

Deryck Harlick: Many clients now want autonomy when it comes choosing hosting and are increasingly likely to want this to be separate to their web agency just in case something breaks down in the relationship – we all know it happens from time to time.

A hosted platform that also offers a level of management, periodic clearing down of log files and other maintenance, monitoring and optimisation tasks would be a great value added service – like a hosting package. This would really suit clients who are not tech savvy but want to keep the hosting independent.


You can follow Deryck Harlick on Twitter!

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Abdur Rahman

Abdur Rahman is the Magento whizz at Cloudways. He is growth ambitious, and aims to learn & share information about Ecommerce & Magento Development through practice and experimentation. He loves to travel and explore new ideas whenever he finds time. Get in touch with him at [email protected]

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