Editor’s Note: Today’s interview brings us in touch with Joseph Maxwell. He is the president of SwiftOtter solutions, a digital marketing agency known for “building Magento websites that actually work”. With more than 8 years of hands-on experience in Magento, Joseph is one of the most respected individuals in the industry. At the request of the Plumrocket Team, Joseph kindly agreed to become a part of our Interview Series and shared his valuable insights on a range of e-commerce and Magento topics. So, without further ado, let us start with the first question.
1. Joseph, many thanks for taking the time out for this interview. You are a known personality in the Magento community. What motivated you to stick to Magento rather than any other shopping cart?
JM: My pleasure. As a developer, what attracted me most (and has kept me here) is the flexibility and customization that Magento offers. I have seen no other platform that is as mature and flexible as Magento. I’m quick to say that Magento isn’t for everyone, but it is incredible for those that it is intended to serve.
2. What were the difficulties that you faced at the beginning of your Magento path? How did you manage to solve them?
JM: this was back in 2011, I think. The challenge was the information that was out there was often as low-quality as it was sparse. Plus, it was a complete paradigm shift in my development thinking. We ended up contracting with Lee Saferite who acted as a mentor to me. This made all the difference in the world and helped me get on my feet in the system. Over time, reading and preparing for certifications has helped me gain knowledge. Writing code has helped me gain experience.
3. As the founder and director of SwiftOtter, what inspired you to launch the project? What can you suggest to those developers/agencies who want to provide Magento development services?
JM: I am an entrepreneur at heart. It is my passion to help people. Building websites on Magento is an outlet for this. When we help people achieve their goals (make more money, streamline business processes), I feel as if I have done my job well. We take customer success very seriously and will do almost anything to achieve that.
My advice sounds cliche, but it is to always put your customer first. The smaller you are, the easier (and harder) it is. It is easier because you have better control over projects and can do what it takes to be successful. It is harder because the project’s success sits on your shoulders.
4. Being 8x Magento certified, please guide our readers about the advantages of being certified and how can the certification help in career growth? What advice would you give to our readers who want to get certified?
JM: for the smaller players like us, I see certification as proving skills. As agencies, or partners, get bigger, their validation comes through partner status. But, until we can achieve this place, we look to other things for this validation, namely certifications. In fact, our study guides and practice tests came out of our intense desire to learn and prove that capability. I studied and took notes. Then I took the test. This greatly helped me, and I am glad that we can help others.
5. The United States hosts Meet Magento in New York. In your opinion, why is the “Big Apple” the only place to conduct a conference in the US. Regarding Canada, there are no Meet Magento events at all. What do you think is stopping it?
JM: Frankly, I am not sure. One thing is I believe that residents of the United States are fairly happy to travel to other places. Airfare is decently cheap and that might have an effect. Another aspect is given the relative size of the United States, there are somewhat few developers in a given region. In my opinion, that is why some Magento meetups flourish (South Florida, New York City), and others are having a bit harder of a time getting going.
6. Magento has a great repository for its extensions and modules. How should a user select a reliable Magento plugin? What are the criteria for choosing the perfect Magento module (e.g. price, support period, refund policy, documentation, etc.)?
JM: At SwiftOtter, we have a fairly high standard with regards to Magento extensions. The first things I look for is 1) no encrypted code 2) a good return policy and 3) Composer integration. If a module has encrypted code, it is almost guaranteed a no-go. The return policy is often an indicator as to how much the company stands behind their modules: better support, better return policy. We often purchase a module and review it. If we find references to curl in it as a means of license verification, that is a massive red flag (I get why this is done, but, to me, it poses a security risk).
7. What are the blogs or books that you draw inspiration from? Who motivates you most from the Magento community or maybe outside of it?
JM: I keep wishing for time to be more involved in listening. I occasionally have time to listen to the great MageTalk and benefit from every episode I listen to. Otherwise, I enjoy reading leadership-style books and attending workshops at conferences, like Imagine.
A couple of heros that have helped or encouraged me are: Lee Saferite, Phillip Jackson and Ben Marks. Follow their Twitter and learn from them, too.
8. To summarize, what should the Magento community expect from Joseph Maxwell in the nearest future? Are there any plans, conferences, projects that you would like to share with our readers?
JM: We are pushing hard on writing more study helps for Magento certifications. It is encouraging as I hear how these resources help people achieve certifications. My passion is helping people, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate here.
We’re tremendously thankful to Joseph for sharing his priceless career memories and life-experience recommendations with our readers. Stay with us to discover other experts’ interviews and success stories in the near future.
Want to know more about e-commerce and Magento news? Take the time to read our previous interview with another Magento expert Rafael Corrêa Gomes. He discusses how he came into the industry, set up his first online business with Magento and became a certified professional.
Note: If you want to equip your Magento e-store with new functionality – Plumrocket Store is where you need to start from.