Interview With Rouven Alexander Rieker

by Fayyaz Khattak  September 5, 2016

Rouven Alexander Rieker is an experienced Magento Developer. He has 8+ years of experience in Web Development and currently he is the CEO of Semaio and also works as the Senior Digital Director at JoussenKarliczek GmbH. Rouven is the Magento Certified Developer, Solution Specialist, and Front End Developer. He is a football fan and also a famous member of Magento Community.

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Cloudways: Rouven, you have great experience in Web Development, specialized in Magento Core Development and as a freelance author. How did you start your career? What challenges did you face? Tell us more about yourself.

Rouven: Thanks for having me! It’s an honour to be asked for this interview.

I founded my first company (itabs) back in 2006 with my former colleague Alexander (whom you interviewed a couple of weeks ago). We focussed on developing custom web-based software solutions and ecommerce solutions based on osCommerce and xt: commerce. Back in 2007, I stumbled upon a new, hip ecommerce solution called “Magento” and – as a software developer – was fascinated by the approach the Magento team took. The system was very complicated, though, especially for shop owners. So we decided to write some books about Magento and ecommerce in general, to give people a hands-on book for a quick and easy start with Magento.

Apart from business, I love traveling, enjoying a glass of good whisky or wine, spending time with family and friends and reading books (currently: “What if?” by Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd).

Cloudways: With 8+ years of experience under your belt, you are a Freelance Developer & CEO of Semaio and currently work as the Senior Digital Director at JoussenKarliczek GmbH. A company that has specialties in ecommerce & Magento Development. How did you come across Magento? Share some interesting experiences and some challenging times of your career with our readers.

Rouven: In February 2016 I started as Senior Digital Director at JoussenKarliczek (JK) – an ad agency focusing on brand strategy, marketing consulting, communications design as well as print and web design. At JK I’m responsible for the digital department, managing all digital projects, consulting our customers about the digital trends and developing digital concepts/solutions for our customers. So basically almost no programming any more, which is quite a change after many years of programming full-time.

But I still love programming, so in my free time I’m working on some small Magento projects in my own company, Semaio, or attend Magento hackathons or conferences.

Cloudways: Former CEO of 21st Century Fox “Rupert Murdoch” said:

“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

As a CEO, what are your views about this quote? What are your tips for newbies who are thinking and want to become good future leaders?

Rouven: I absolutely agree with Rupert Murdoch. If we look at our world today and let’s say 10 years ago, we can see that change moved rapidly and still continues to move at a very high pace.

Look at technology: When I got my first PC, I was very happy about 64 MB RAM and a 56k modem where you could only be on the internet OR call someone. Nowadays even smartphones get more RAM than my old PC, and the speed of our internet connections have increased rapidly. Or when Apple released the iPhone and other vendors (like Nokia) “overslept” such trends.

Or look at the way we communicate: you rarely send postal mail or call someone anymore. People write emails, texts, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. You can communicate with people from all over the world instantly with a simple click and even use video.

This has a very big impact on businesses and merchants all over the world. You can no longer work hidden on a product for several years before you release it, someone else may already have done the same thing.

So, be flexible and adapt your processes accordingly, always look for opportunities to make your processes more efficient. Monitor trends and changes in your industry and stay aware of what’s on the horizon – and if you identify opportunities make sure to act on them. Don’t be a perfectionist and try to build the “eierlegende Wollmilchsau” (there are some German words which are rather hard to translate 😀 In English you might say – which is not a direct translation – Swiss Army knife), a product with contains all the features you could hardly imagine and implemented to the highest perfection grade. Start with the right set of features, start small and improve incrementally.

Cloudways: We all know that there is tough competition within the ecommerce industry. With the emergence of Opencart, Shopify, PrestaShop, WooCommerce, etc. How do you predict the future of Magento? Do you think Magento fulfills the above statement of Rupert Murdoch?

Rouven: Well, if we look at *cough* Magento 2 *cough* this may not fulfill the statement. It was released 1626 days after its initial announcement (thanks ismage2ready for the exact number). But I think it was worth the while.

If you’d pick one Magento 2 feature, then you could say: “What were they thinking? This is not good”. But I think you need to look at the big picture: Magento 2 is a (sort of) new product with great features and a great technology stack which set and will continue to set a new standard for professional ecommerce solutions.

The great thing now is, that they actually listen to merchants/partners/community now. They opened the core itself for contributions which already produced a big number of great enhancements to the platform. Or look at the endless “less vs. sass debate”, where Magento will now move from LESS to SASS.

Personally, I think it is good that they no longer belong to eBay because they can now act as an independent company without being chained to the whole eBay structure and processes. This opens up the opportunity to watch the market very closely and react to such changes in a faster timely manner.

But as Ben Marks already said during Meet Magento Netherlands/Dutchgento:

“We’re not part of eBay anymore, but Magento 2 wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Without the huge investment of eBay, who knows how the future for Magento would look like. Because the other vendors also don’t sleep and continue to improve their products. 😉

Cloudways: As a Magento Certified Developer, Solution Specialist and Front End Developer, what are the most important steps to take if you want to start working with Magento? Share some tips with our readers. How important are the official Magento certifications? What are their advantages? Can a Magento developer grow in this field without any certifications?

Rouven: My general tips for starting to work with Magento I will answer in one of the next questions.

I think that the certifications are important that you can show a certain level of expertise in a specific area of Magento. The certification tests are certainly no piece of cake. But if you work every day with Magento and your are interested in general ecommerce topics (especially for the Solution Specialist certification) then you already learned so many things that you can take the test.

I don’t think that the certifications have many advantages, except for showing a certain level of expertise. And they can come in quite handy if you’re applying for a new job.

But in the end, you have to show your expertise in your everyday work. And no certification will help you in doing or keep the job.

Cloudways: The German ecommerce market is rapidly growing. How do you see ecommerce growth in Germany in the next 5 years? Do you think Magento is the best platform for ecommerce?

Rouven: To be honest, compared to some other European countries (e.g. Denmark, Sweden, etc.) I sometimes call Germany (in an ironical sense) a third-world country regarding the digital trends and ecommerce adoption.

So I see a huge potential for ecommerce growth in Germany. But the market will get harder (and already has gotten harder), the necessary budget (design, development, marketing, customer support, etc.) to start a great ecommerce store and the complexity of the ecommerce stores will increase.

Magento is definitely a great product for many companies and ecommerce concepts. But Magento is not the only solution in the market. So it’s now more than ever important to take a step back and really look at the customer requirements and then choose the right solution for the project.

Cloudways: There are many students and young developers, who want to pursue a career in Magento. What suggestions and advice would you give them?

Rouven: Trial & Error. Learn the hard way. Don’t simply try to follow tutorials to get the job done but instead, try to understand the concepts in Magento. And don’t be afraid to ask your fellow developers.

At FireGento association we regularly organize Magento Hackathons which are a great opportunity to meet and connect with other Magento developers, learn new stuff, work on interesting projects/challenges and grow as a developer. 🙂

Cloudways: Let’s take Magento aside and talk little about your personal life 🙂 I saw your Social Networking Accounts and noticed that you love football. Do you often play football or you are just like other crazy fans, who watch it live on TV? Which other sports do you like to play?

Rouven: I’m just a football fan, to be precise: FC Bayern München fan. I’ve been to the stadium several times but definitely prefer watching it on TV with friends.

Personally, I used to play table tennis but nowadays I’m more into playing golf – I really like being outside, going to the driving range.

Cloudways: How do you spend your vacations? Do you love traveling? 🙂 Share your best traveling experience with our readers.

Rouven: I love traveling! I absolutely love Sweden, especially Stockholm – but maybe I’m kinda biased here since I started learning the Swedish language 😉

I think, if you are planning your next vacation, you should definitely put Stockholm on your list. The city is very beautiful; the people are very nice, and you can experience a lot of great things: nature, museums, good food/drinks, concerts, etc.

Besides traveling to Sweden, I’ve spent quite some time on several road trips through Canada and the United States (over 10,000km in total) and in several European countries.

As you can see, I preferred the western countries and didn’t go far east yet. Maybe one of my next trips will lead me to Japan, Australia, New Zealand – we’ll see. 🙂 There are so many nice places in the world!

Cloudways: There are always some people who stand out in the crowd for you. Name some individuals that inspired and motivated you in your professional Magento life and the personal family life.

Rouven: Well, this question is quite hard to answer since you can encounter people who inspire and motivate you in very different ways throughout your life. This may be your parents, friends, colleagues, customers or your experiences while traveling, being outside in the nature, etc.

I think, it’s important to be open to such encounters and experiences and go through life with open eyes.

Some people who really stand out in the Magento community, in my opinion, are Ben Marks, Vinai Kopp, Alan Storm, Fabrizio Branca, Christian Münch. But the list can be continued indefinitely.

Cloudways: Cloudways provides 1-­click Magento installation with awesome speed and famous cloud infrastructures embedded within the platform. Would you prefer shared hosting for Magento stores or a cloud hosting environment like Cloudways offers?

Rouven: I only heard/read about Cloudways through your great blog posts and interviews with so many great people. Didn’t get a chance though to test the solution yet but will definitely try it in the near future.

The hosting for Magento stores has always been a big topic – since the beginning of Magento in 2007 😉 Also, Magento 2 increases the requirements for good hosting.

So my answer is: it depends on. Check your requirements and choose the solution which suits your store, your expected traffic, etc. – Cloud hosting environments definitely helps merchants who need a flexible and scalable hosting solution compared to dedicated servers.

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About Fayyaz Khattak

Fayyaz is a Magento Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed Magento Hosting Platform. His objective is to learn & share about PHP & Magento Development in Community. Fayyaz is a food lover and enjoys driving. You can email him at m.fayyaz@cloudways.com

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