Tomislav Bilic is the Founder and CEO of Inchoo – A Leading Magento and Ecommerce Solution Development Agency. In his initial days, he worked as a Developer and Manager. Nowadays, he only looks after the Management. At Inchoo, his role is to organize the Business, HR, and Marketing.
In his spare time, Tomislav keeps himself relaxed and likes to have a Saturday morning coffee with his old friends. So without further ado, let’s read his interview.
Cloudways: Tomislav is a man with vast experience in Development and Management and also the Founder and CEO at Inchoo. By chance, if someone doesn’t know you well, could you please introduce yourself?
Tomislav: Hello Fayyaz. I’m 37 now, family guy, husband of a beautiful wife and father of 3 young boys. I’m living in a small town of Osijek, Croatia (small country in Europe). I graduated from Osijek University with a major in business, but I was a self-taught programmer all my life. My first attempt at programming started with Commodore 64 when I was trying to develop few games using Simons’ BASIC add-on.
I jumped in ecommerce waters in 2003 when I started working with osCommerce and later on with its fork – CRE Loaded. I was following Magento’s growth since version 0.6. That’s when I concluded this platform would be the next big player. Fortunately enough, Inchoo’s inception was in 2008. The same year Magento went live with 1.0 version.
Cloudways: You’ve worked hard in the past and that results in building an experienced Magento and Ecommerce Development agency/team. What challenges did you face in your initial days? How did you tackle your problems and difficulties?
Tomislav: As I’ve said, Inchoo opened the office in a small town in Croatia with a population of 100.000. The goal was to build a local team from the local pool of talent. At the same time, these people were supposed to work with a new enterprise platform on the market. This new platform was tough and had no documentation whatsoever at that time. With that said, I think you’ll understand what these initial challenges were.
I was extremely lucky to be able to identify tremendous talents who, at the time, had little technical knowledge. My first hire was Branko Ajzele. He is now an extremely talented architect that became quite recognized in the Magento community. However, when he was hired, I was teaching him the difference between GET and POST. Branko was hard-worker and fast-learner who had a huge influence on future employees. He set the expectation standard for technical excellence. Other employees who were hired in the first year: Toni Aničić, Ivan Weiler, and Željko Prša are also some of the recognized faces in Magento Community to this day.
In all of these 9 years, people training always had a very high position in the priority list. We have Ivan Weiler now on a position called Technical Educator. An inside joke in the company is that all new employees need to pass Weiler before they get to production.
Cloudways: What inspired you to begin using Magento as an ecommerce solution? If Magento was not developed, what would have been your recommendations for ecommerce?
Tomislav: If Magento were not developed, then there would probably be some other platform that would fill the gap. I started using it because platforms in 2007 were a mess. They were fast, and development was easy. Using dirty techniques was acceptable because platforms at that time were written with messy code. Magento brought order to the chaos and ecommerce community was jubilant for that gift.
Cloudways: Magento 2 is now updated with many fixes. What would be your suggestion to merchants who are hoping to upgrade from Magento 1 to Magento 2? Do you think that it is the right time to adopt Magento 2 as a complete and perfect ecommerce platform?
Tomislav: As always, it depends on. Magento 2 is still not where we all hoped it would be. Last year, at Developers Paradise Conference in Croatia, people were quite surprised that nobody launched M2 site. We have much more sites in production today, but the penetration is slower than expected. Magento 2 is the future, and it is still the top choice for the merchants who need unique customer experiences and multiple integrations with their business systems. Therefore, M2 will shape the future of Inchoo in the years to come.
Many structural changes are still introduced, so I would not recommend urgent migration for the websites that have many custom features and integrations. If you have Magento 1 site that works well and no evident pressure – then wait. If you have a lighter online store with more default features, then you can start the migration process.
Cloudways: In your opinion, where is the room for improvements and enhancements in Magento 2 with respect to Frontend highlights and Backend refinements?
Tomislav: I’ll be honest, I just scanned the Magento 2 code myself and went over the folder structure. Therefore, I’m not the person to answer these questions. I didn’t do any client development work since 2010 or 2011.
Looking at Magento 2 from my role, I wish that developers found it more enjoyable. I still hear many “why did they build it this way” questions, even from people who have 8 years of Magento 1 experience. Conferences like these help a lot if finding out ways and filling gaps, especially when we have fantastic Magento Inc people coming over.
Cloudways: Since you have Leadership and Management skills as well, how do you see the growth of Magento Commerce in coming 5 years? Do you think that Magento has been effective in making life better for merchants, vendors, and developers?
Tomislav: Magento was very effective. Let’s not forget that Magento was launched by Varien, company that had 15 employees at that time. First Magento meetups were at small rooms with 20-30 people. When you look at it now, the growth is remarkable. Magento had and still has an enormous impact on world commerce ecosystem.
Cloudways: You are a Magento Certified Solution Specialist. In your opinion, how important is it for a Magento Developer to be certified and from where should one prepare for it?
Tomislav: We set the high bar for technical excellence in the company and Certification plays an important role in the career path of every Inchooer. It is a form of external recognition, and I see that every individual sees this certification as an important moment in his evolution.
On a sales side, we see that many clients are curious about some certificates we have. This gives them confidence that they will be in good hands.
Cloudways: What would be your advice to newbies who are thinking and want to become good future leaders? Also, share your motivational words with students.
Tomislav: First things first. Find what you are good at and do it. When you are younger, focus on building your area of expertise. Building a team will follow naturally in that case. Surround yourself with good people and fire assholes. Good people attract good people. Assholes attract assholes.
Cloudways: You have attended a lot of Magento events. Events…?? Oh yes! I remember something! The Developers Paradise! <3 😀 You are the mastermind behind the arrangements of this awesome and one of the most successful Magento event. How would you describe it? Parties, Pool, Beer, and Enjoyment or just Eat, Sleep, Code, Repeat? 😛
Tomislav: Hehe. After 5 years in Spain, we took a challenge of bringing Developers challenge to Croatia. I’ll share you a secret – I was not a mastermind behind this event. Thomas Goletz tried to talk me into organizing this conference, but I was not hot on this idea. A lot of effort was needed, and I knew I’d not have time myself.
Then, our office manager Nandino came to me and asked to give him permission to organize it. He wanted this conference to be his big project. (Btw, office managers always struggle in building authority in developer’s company. It is common case that developers respect nothing more than other developers).
With Nandino as a real mastermind behind the project and a fantastic organization team, the conference was a huge success. We met every expectation, and we were happy with so many positive feedbacks. If you have time, check out the photos from the conference! They speak for themselves.
Cloudways: Please share the importance of these types of events. What do you think are the advantages of such events for the Magento Community, Developers, and the new participants?
Tomislav: For me, the most important part is sharing experience and learning from other experiences. I have many friends from these events. These are such people that I don’t only consider just business partners. Hearing about how they run a business make me question our own processes and eventually shape them to be better.
Cloudways: I saw that video back in September 2016, you were shifted to the new office and to be very honest, I just loved it and willing to visit there soon. How did it make an impact on Inchoo’s workflow? Did you personally notice any work efficiency in your team after shifting to the new office?
Tomislav: Absolutely. People feel much better in the new environment, and the work efficiency grew. One employee said “I now feel like I need to be smarter, work harder and think more. We now have higher stakes.”
Cloudways: We’ve spoken a ton about Magento. Let’s digress a little. How do you invest your free time? Could you share your personal interests and hobbies with our readers? Do you like playing games, watching movies, and hangouts with friends and family?
Tomislav: I have three small kids. I don’t have free time. 🙂
I’m a regular guy. I was a gamer in my student days. I enjoyed old-school strategies and RPGs. Now, I like traveling as much as I can. I like good wines and good beer. I’m following trends in interior design. I’m quite engaged in shaping the local community where I started a local association called Osijek Software City that promotes software development as a career path. I’m trying to be a good example for my kids and trying to spend as much quality time with them as possible.
Cloudways: Cloudways provides 1-click Magento hosting installation with impressive speed & great cloud infrastructures embedded within the platform. Would you prefer shared hosting for Magento stores or a cloud hosting environment like Cloudways offers?
Tomislav: Cloud hosting environment! Of course.
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Fayyaz, a passionate Motorbike tourist, works as a Team Lead — Magento Community at Cloudways - A Managed Magento Hosting Platform. His objective is to learn & share about PHP & Magento Development in Community. You can contact him at [email protected]