My path as an eCommerce merchant-support monkey-developer-executive-partner

Winding Mountain Road

This article was inspired by this response from Piotr: https://twitter.com/piotrekkaminski/status/461551105554386944

For some reason, the 'what about regular [...] devs' part struck a nerve and made me realize that many people aren't aware of my varied background in eCommerce and even with Magento.

Long before Magento existed, I was a developer. My first experiences with eCommerce took place before the dot-com boom and bust; at roughly the same time I began shopping online (everyone thought I was nuts) and developing eCommerce sites. These sites were in pure PHP (PHP 3, at that), and it was so long ago, a majority of people had never heard of this crazy new thing called PayPal.

Fast forward to 2004 and in addition to development work, I was given the opportunity to become involved with a startup-stage eCommerce merchant. So, I found myself working as both a developer and an eCommerce merchant. At the time, we were using osCommerce. Dark days. I continued to freelance as a developer, working with PHP, WordPress and osCommerce projects primarily.

Now jump ahead to 2007 - I was in the middle of leading a complete revamp of our website, and in desperate need of something better than osCommerce. Given that Ruby on Rails was all the rage at the time, I decided we should write our own eCommerce site, from scratch, using Rails. That project struggled for a few months when I then discovered this cool new thing that would eventually become Magento. It solved all of our gripes with osCommerce and seemed to be the perfect platform. I actually rewrote a good portion of the osCommerce importer that was provided in the early versions of Magento so that we would be able to make the jump from osCommerce to Magento.

In 2008, I realized that my freelance eCommerce development work was taking more time than my work with the eCommerce merchant, so I founded Creatuity and began to focus more of my time there. I believe I've always had a unique perspective because of the work I did as a front-line employee at that eCommerce merchant as well as the ongoing consulting I've provided to them over the years; I know the ins and outs of being an eCommerce merchant on various platforms, so I tend to see things a bit differently than the average developer.

In 2008 and 2009 my work consisted of a mix of osCommerce, WordPress, general PHP and Magento. In late 2009, one of my largest contracts was with Interspire (now known primarily as BigCommerce), where I was a support monkey and then PHP engineer on two of their products for almost 2 years - their eCommerce platform (which eventually became BigCommerce), Interspire Shopping Cart, and their CMS system, Interspire Website Publisher. Between those two products and the two roles I served in at Interspire, I was able to work with literally thousands of eCommerce merchants, and I was able to watch Interspire grow from literally a handful of employees to 50+ people almost overnight.

During this time, I made the decision that Creatuity would go 'all in' on Magento - I had seen a number of different eCommerce platforms and it was clear to me that the one platform that met the needs of both merchants and developers was Magento. This was also when Creatuity went into a very exciting, but very challenging, period in our growth - we grew from 1 employee to over 20 employees in a very short span of time. Founding Creatuity and my goals for Creatuity is an entire article by itself, though - I basically wanted to create a company that I would love to work for, because I hadn't found one yet. I didn't set out to build the biggest company, or make the most money, but instead to build a positive environment that both clients and employees would benefit from.

So that's my experience as an eCommerce merchant, support monkey, developer and executive. Surprisingly enough, I didn't have experience as a Magento Solutions Partner until relatively recently - Creatuity joined the Magento Solutions Partner program in 2012. Not joining the partner program sooner is something that I regret, but to be honest, I had a fairly jaded view of the partner program when it originally launched, as I think many community members did at the time - and some still do.

This winding path through the world of eCommerce and especially Magento gives me an interesting take on things. I spend most of my time these days on executive/partner type work, but I enjoy things related to development work the most and when I discuss eCommerce, I find myself thinking from the standpoint of an eCommerce merchant most of the time.

The path I've taken definitely makes it challenging when the Magento Imagine registration form asks what my role is - for some reason, there's no option labeled 'merchant-support monkey-developer-executive-partner'. Maybe next year?

Photo credit: The featured image that appears when you view this story from the homepage is from jstephenconn's Flickr photostream. Seemed like an excellent metaphor for the path I've taken thus far in eCommerce.