In continuation of our tradition of inviting influential Magento experts to share their success stories and life experience, today we have with us Gareth James – gamer, Magento community enthusiast, and developer. Gareth has tons of experience with Magento, PHP, and many other platforms. Besides, he is keen to share his knowledge with the community through major Magento community events.
Let’s hear it from him on how he got introduced to Magento and how his success began.
Ashmal: Hi Gareth, it’s lovely to have you with us! Could you please tell our readers about yourself?
Gareth: I’m Gareth James and I’m a Magento Developer from the UK. I started working as a PHP developer in the web industry in 2006 and have pretty much always ended up working on ecommerce projects at the agencies/product teams I’ve worked with.
Projects I’ve worked on include a custom ecommerce platform used by a UK greetings card company, a staff training platform for earning points and buying rewards and an ERP integration that covers a big number of ERPs. In my current job, I handle the integrations to PHP-based ecommerce platforms (including Magento 2) for PureClarity, an intelligent ecommerce personalization platform.
Ashmal: Was there a special reason you chose to work with Magento over the other ecommerce platforms available? What would you say is the importance of using Magento to you?
Gareth: I didn’t choose Magento, Magento chose me! I started working for an ERP company about 8 years ago, and they were already using Magento. I clicked with it right from the start though, and have really enjoyed working with it.
For me, I love the complexity and challenge of working with Magento. It’s not the simplest platform to work with, but that means that every day is interesting! It’s also constantly evolving, so it enables me to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of development.
Ashmal: You have several Magento developer certifications. Were these difficult to achieve? How did they help change your skillset and career?
Gareth: They were quite difficult, especially the Adobe Commerce Developer – Master (formerly professional developer plus) as that really pushes you to investigate the depths of Magento.
Studying for the certifications allowed me to see areas of the commerce side of things that are perhaps less commonly used, but this gave me a greater understanding of those areas and how they fit in with Magento as a whole. It’s enabled me to factor these into the work I’m doing, which helps avoid compatibility issues and lets me make the most of the platform.
It’s also been great for validating the experience I have. I feel like I know the platform well and being able to get a certification to prove that is great. The icing on the cake was being the first person in the UK to get the Adobe Commerce Developer – Master certification!
I do feel having these will help my career in the long run, as it gives others a guide to how well you know the platform and it may open opportunities down the line.
Ashmal: What resources do you think newbies would find helpful to learn Magento development?
Gareth: The Magento DevDocs is a great place to start. Magento has done a great job with documentation for Magento 2, and the community has been great at helping with this too.
Ashmal: How would you compare Magento 1 with Magento 2? Have you tried Magento 1 after EOL?
Gareth: From a developer perspective, Magento 1 was simpler to work with at times, and easier to get into as a developer, but less flexible so it could be quite cumbersome to work with at times.
Magento 2’s biggest positive is the flexibility you have with customization. It’s so powerful in that respect, which makes it a better platform to work with. Though you have to be careful as things can get a little complex depending on how deep your customizations are!
I haven’t tried Magento 1 after EOL yet, though I try to keep an eye on things coming from OpenMage for M1 and I will probably give it a try sometime in the future. Given how many stores were using Magento 1, it’ll be around for a while yet!
Ashmal: What are your thoughts on Headless, PWA, and other related technologies? How are they going to benefit the merchants and ecommerce industry?
Gareth: They’re going to be a big part of the future of ecommerce. They can make things much easier for developers as it creates a clearer separation of concerns for developers, really decoupling the frontend from the backend.
There seems to be a bit of a race at the moment to see which platform will be most prominent, which is driving innovation and pushing performance up. This will benefit merchants as they’ll get better-performing websites, which will hopefully help them see better conversion rates. It’ll also be good for SEO if you take Google’s Core Web Vitals changes into account too.
Ashmal: What do you think about the Magento community? How important is it for the growth of the Magento platform?
Gareth: The Magento community is vital to the growth of the platform. Whether you’re contributing, learning, teaching, or just talking about it, it keeps people invested and interested in the product which will help it grow even more.
It’s a bit like a feedback loop, the more people are talking, the more people will be inclined to come and take a look, which means more sites and more developers.
Ashmal: As we have seen, you are a highly active member of the Magento Community. What are your thoughts on online Magento events and which events are you excited about for this year?
Gareth: While I do prefer face-to-face events, I’m a sucker for watching all the talks at an event, and online makes that so much easier. I’m currently looking forward to Meet Magento UK in July. The team at JH always does a great job with their events!
Ashmal: How do you think these events improve the Magento experience?
Gareth: I’d say if you’re working with Magento these events are a valuable source of knowledge, because you can see some of the cool and interesting things people are doing, which may give you ideas to use in your own work.
There’s the networking aspect of it too, you can forge valuable connections to people who you can share your experience with. You’ll find other people who’ve done similar things to you and faced similar problems, but also people who’ve faced entirely different things that you may not have faced yet. Conversations with these people at events are another great way to stay on top of your game with the platform and the community.
Ashmal: Where do you see Magento in the future? Any predictions for 2022?
Gareth: I think we’ll continue to see a growing gap between the out-of-the-box features for Adobe Commerce and Magento Open Source, with more competition appearing in the plugin space to fill the gaps for OS merchants.
Also, we’ll see more AR/VR type features start emerging as innovation around remote shopping continues to expand.
Ashmal: Can you please share a picture of your workplace? And any tips on making a productive workstation since many of us are still working from home?
Gareth: This is my workspace. I was lucky enough to be able to convert a small brick shed in my garden to create a dedicated workspace.
While having a dedicated space is great, I’d say the most important thing for me that helps with productivity is clutter. If my workspace is disorganized and cluttered, then that makes it harder to focus, so I like to make sure my desk is regularly cleared.
Gareth’s Work Station
Ashmal: Who are the top influencers that inspire you?
Gareth: There are so many great people in the Magento community, there’s quite a large list of people worth following. To choose some key players who I think are always doing cool things and giving solid advice I’d say Karen Baker, Vinai Kopp, Willem Wigman, Jisse Reitsma.
They are all solving some big problems in the ecommerce industry and are all doing a great job of it too. I’m always learning from them!
Ashmal: What does your work-life balance look like? Are there any activities you enjoy in your spare hours? You can share any pictures you like here!
Gareth: I’m a bit of a gamer so I spend a fair chunk of my spare time gaming with friends, though usually not until after my kids are asleep! I like playing multiplayer games like Dota 2, Rocket League, Sea of Thieves, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and more. If I’m not in an online game then I’ll usually be on an epic RPG like Fallout 4, Skyrim, or Final Fantasy (IX is the best!).
I happen to live in quite a rural part of the UK, so I like to take nice big walks with my wife & kids (and my labrador!) in the great outdoors to get away from the screen! We have some great scenery around here.
Gareth James Day Out!
Ashmal: Please share your tips and advice with our readers.
Gareth: If you’re just starting out as a Magento developer, start small. Focus on a small “hello world” type extension/theme and try not to worry too much about the features you haven’t worked with yet. When you do start looking at all the features, focus on one at a time, otherwise, it can be a bit overwhelming!
On the certifications front, the key thing is experience. While it may be tempting to try and go for the exams as quickly as possible, take some time to get to know the platform with real experience first.
Work on a couple of projects, build some extensions, tinker with a theme – doing all of this will help give you a great platform to go on and get those certifications. Then, if you are able to buy them, the SwiftOtter study guides are amazing for helping you prep for the exams themselves.
Ashmal: Again, thank you so much for your time 🙂
Gareth: No problem 🙂 I’m glad to be able to help and share my experience!
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Ashmal is the Magento Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves helping out merchants and developers in establishing and maintaining online stores. In addition, he is often busy interacting with the Magento community and figuring out integration tactics for emerging tech. When not working, you could find him playing COD & CS GO. Feel free to contact him at [email protected]