Peter Jaap Blaakmeer is a hardworking Entrepreneur, and a skilled Magento Developer with a lot of knowledge about Ecommerce and Magento. Through his efficient work style and communication skills, he always amazes people and produces quick results. Peter Jaap is always ready to deliver his sincere opinion. He is a social, enthusiastic and enterprising person.
Peter also has lots of certifications proving his expertise in E-commerce. Not only that, he’s a programming enthusiast as well.
Cloudways: Peter Jaap Blaakmeer, you are a certified Magento Developer, Magento Front End Developer & Magento Solution Specialist, a Board Member, Owner, Founder and CoFounder of different Ecommerce agencies and organizations. Also, you have great experience as a Programmer and Tester. Share your life story with our readers.
Peter: It’s an honor to be asked for this interview. I’ll try to give some interesting answers 😉
Cloudways: You started your career as a Call Center Agent and now you are the Root Node of different Trees, what challenges did you face initially? How did you tackle your problems? How did it happen that you’ve chosen the field of Ecommerce and ended up working with different companies, mostly all about Magento?
Peter: Wow! you really went through my LinkedIn 🙂 I worked as a call center agent when I was studying. That was terrible and I quickly realized I needed another way to sustain myself. So I started doing freelance development work for a number of companies in Groningen, the city where I studied and still live in. As it goes, a client asked me to build a webshop and I quickly ran into Magento, which was at version 1.3 at the time. I checked it out and was thoroughly impressed with the system. My first shop was a shop in secondhand Nintendo products and the second in Magic the Gathering cards. For the cards shop, I needed to import 40.000 products so that was quite a challenge for a Magento newbie. The key is perseverance. As a programmer, you’re mainly a puzzle solver. A little bit light reading, a lot of trial & error and you’ll eventually get there. Just don’t give up.
Cloudways: Please tell us about your working routine. How does your typical working day look like? Are there projects you’re proud of? You had worked on numerous projects (as mentioned in your LinkedIn Profile), can you share the most complicated or the most interesting project you worked on?
Peter: I try to write code as much as possible. We’re a technically oriented company and writing code is our core business. We try to stay away from internet marketing and design, that’s not what we’re good at and we have really partners for that. So during my day, I try to focus on writing code and solving problems. I’d say about three-quarters of my day I’m actually writing code. People, especially those who run agencies like ours, usually don’t believe me when I say that. But we’ve put everything in place so we can focus on coding instead of overhead. It took a few years to get it right but I feel we’ve hit a sweet spot lately.
I also keep my working hours to a regular 40hour work week. I thoroughly believe in getting your ‘awaytime’ from coding to keep your mind at ease. We’ve all ran into a bug we can’t fix, and we go home, relax, sleep and the next morning it just clicks and the bug is fixed within a few minutes. I like stashing away my code, work on something unrelated and then get back with a fresh perspective. Throwing more hours at it in one go is never the fix.
In my spare time I try to do as many hobbies as time allows. For the past few years I’ve been working on an old arcade machine from time to time and I’ve recently picked up home brewing to try to make my own beer. It’s nice to have a nontechnical hobby that you can spend an entire day with. It’s also a very social hobby because a lot of friends want to join me in brewing and of course drinking. 😉
One of the more challenging projects we’ve worked on lately is Dutchlabelshop.com. It’s a very international oriented business with remote employees all over the world and it’s technically very complex & challenging, both front end wise and back endwise. This is where we can really shine and we all love working with these talented entrepreneurs. It’s also one of the few shops we’ve actually built ourselves; we usually only take on existing web shops that run into a limit of any kind and are looking for developers that can take them a step further.
Cloudways: Magento 2 took more than 1600 days to come about and also it has new releases which include many bug fixes. What kind of further improvements would you say you are expected in Magento 2? Do you think that Magento 2 is effectively all the more better for merchants & vendors?
Peter: First of all, I love Magento 2. I feel like it’s going to do big things for the merchants we help, the community at large and our company. But we’re obviously not at that point yet where Magento 2 rules them all. M1 is still a big contender and it’s hard to do such a dramatic shift from building M1 shops to M2 shops, since it’s a complete replatform. A very necessary one, but still a replatform. It takes time. Adoption takes time, acceptance takes time and training developers in M2 takes time. It’s a slow process but it’s for the best. The technical foundation laid out for Magento 2 is great (although it’s not 100% perfect yet) and will also help attract a younger generation developers that are already accustomed to package managers, advanced concepts like dependency injection & interceptors and deployment structures. I thoroughly hope this will alleviate the burden of finding Magento developers right now.
That all being said, for the merchant it’s hard to commit to a Magento 2 replatform right now. We build new shops on Magento 2 now, and it’s a big investment in terms of time and money to train your developers. But our existing M1 merchants will probably stay on M1 for at least another year. Magento 2 right now is basically a M1.9x port, with very few new features that appeal to the merchant. It’s a developers platform right now, not a merchants platform. Yet. It’ll get there, since development on M1 will come to a standstill and focus will be on M2. I have high hopes.
Cloudways: Is it different to work on Magento 2 rather than Magento 1? And if yes, what should one consider before starting work on Magento 2?
Peter: Yes. As said, it’s a replatform. Developers that know Symfony/Laravel should feel right at home. We have an intern that knows Laravel and he just picked up M2 and ran with it, while he struggled with learning M1 due to its idiosyncrasies and missing modern paradigms & design patterns. Consider reading books about these modern paradigms, especially when you’re a back-end developer. Go and read Design Patterns by E. Gamma et al. to get a grip on the paradigms used in Magento 2. Also buy one of the excellent Magento 2 (cook) books already out there. Usually I’m more a handson approach kind of guy, but I started on Magento 2 with a more theoretical approach and I’m already reaping the benefits. When I read through the codebase, I begin to see underlying patterns and it starts to just ‘click’. That wasn’t the case at all when I first started working with M1.
Cloudways: Magento 2 includes a full testing suite, Magento Testing Framework (MTF). Do you think there was a need of creating such frameworks like MTF? In what ways can it help store developers in Magento 2 improvements?
Peter: Yes, totally. When you look at the PHP community in general, the focus has really been on testing, the past few years. That totally passed the Magento community. We’ve seen Ivan Chepurnyi with the EcomDev PHPUnit extension to do unit testing in M1, but unfortunately it wasn’t really adopted at large. I think Ivan was ahead of the curve there. It’s hard to do deep testing from a community point of view, we really needed Magento’s involvement in this one. Thankfully, they realized this and picked up that glove. And not only unit testing, but also integration testing, functional testing and even legacy testing. Magento absolutely didn’t drop the ball on this one. It helps developers develop quicker (you’ll learn writing code tests quicker than you’d might think) and create less bugs. Bugs in production are a total time sink and causes a lot of unnecessary stress, both for the client and the developer. Get down & dirty with testing and go buy Chris Hartjes book, Grumpy testing. It’s great.
Cloudways: Being a front end developer, what do you think it takes to become a good one? What is your strategy when it comes to make responsive designs and views?
Peter: Funny thing, I’m not a front-end developer! So I can’t tell you about my strategies for responsive design & views but I can tell you what I think makes a good front end developer. It’s exactly the same what it takes to be a good back-end developer; a clear mindset, problem-solving capabilities, an eye for detail and an unwavering fascination for ecommerce.
Cloudways: You are very famous in the Magento Community. What do you think that we all should do to attract more Magento Developers to the industry? People also saw you at Magento 2: First impressions video by Guido Jansen, share some more exciting thoughts about this video to our readers.
Peter: If by ‘famous’ you mean ‘a lot on Twitter and annoys people at conferences’, then I agree. I like how the Magento community knits together both digitally (on Twitter, StackExchange & Slack) and physically at conferences. Just be vocal! I’ve learned so much from just asking people stuff and throwing random Magento stuff on Twitter, I can’t even begin to tell you. I’m a pretty outgoing person so it comes easy to me but when you’re more introverted, it’s a challenge. But try! The Magento community is very nice and when meeting people in person, they usually don’t bite.
Cloudways: You are one of the speakers at Developers Paradise Summer Edition 2016. How do you see DP 2016? Parties, pool, beer, and enjoyment or just Eat, Sleep, Code, Repeat thing? 😀 What can visitors find out from your presentation on Magento 2 + Composer? What other things are you going to focus on in DP 2016? Why is your topic important and who will benefit most from what you’ll share?
Peter: I have no idea! This is going to be my first Dev Paradise. I hope a lot of sun, code, eat, drink, sleep, repeat. Definitely! Last year we went to Imagine and although I had a lot of fun, it’s not the conference for me. Imagine is more commercially focused; I feel like the main goal of the conference is to sell you stuff instead of teach you stuff. That’s why I choose to go to Dev Paradise this year; to hang out with my fellow techies!
Cloudways: Share about your hobbies, and daily interests with our readers. Do you like playing games and watching some movies?
Peter: I already spoke about my hobbies earlier. I really think having interests outside your work field is important and keeps you balanced. I also love traveling, both in a group with my friends and just with my girlfriend. I try to be abroad as much as I can, and working in a digital industry really eases that. This year, my girlfriend and I are visiting South Africa where I’ll be working remotely for 2 weeks and we’ll do a 2-week vacation trip. Talk about worklife balance 😉
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