January 29, 2019
Magento Masters contribute a lot to the Magento Community so, naturally, people want to know what makes them tick. In this Magento Masters Spotlight, we’re chatting with Phillip Jackson, eCommerce Evangelist at Something Digital
Phillip was selected as a Magento Master for 2018 based on his 2017 contributions through organizing the South Florida Magento Developer Meetup, moderating and answering questions on Magento StackExchange, co-hosting of the community podcast MageTalk, and speaking about Magento and at Magento-centric events.
Who are you and what is your role?
I am Phillip Jackson and I am the eCommerce Evangelist at Something Digital. We’re a Magento Enterprise Solutions partner based in New York City and we have offices in Los Angeles and West Palm Beach Florida.
How and when did you first get involved with Magento?
I was hired a little over ten years ago now to start an eCommerce team at a vitamin and supplement company at a company in Boca Raton, and in 2007 eCommerce frameworks really didn’t exist. Outside of OS Commerce, open source commerce were really hard to find, let alone a fully realized, full blown platform. So we started building our own on something called Zen Framework and lo and behold, we found someone in an IRC chat in mid-2007, a guy named Yoav Kutner, someone I had never heard of before. He said we have this thing we’re working on and it’s an offshoot of this work we’ve done in OS Commerce, would anyone like to take a look? And I said, yeah! So I got into a private beta and that was an eCommerce platform which came to be known as Magento.
We looked at it and said this is way better than anything we could have built ourselves. It’s further along than we were, and it had all these pre-baked integrations. Things like UPS, and it had multi-language, and PayPal integration which was supposedly coming quickly. These were all things we had on our roadmap too. We thought, we love open source and we love this project so let’s dive right in and launched later that year on 1.0.
We never looked back. We bought full into the community and at the time we didn’t realize we were one of the highest-volume Magento stores in the world. We were solving all kinds of technical challenges with the platform, and that’s the beauty of Magento. From day one we were contributing back to the platform. We’ve been contributors from the very beginning. Love Magento.
What made you decide to contribute to the Magento Community?
It was sort of in our nature as a team. We used a lot of open source and when you use as young platform like Magento, you inevitably find issues along the way and we were solving them for ourselves anyway. We took that as part and parcel to what was effectively beta software ten years ago. We started solving challenges ourselves and when we solve them for ourselves, why would we hold onto those? It’s part of the open source ethos to give back. Because we had already been using the platform for about a year to great benefit, so we started contributing back. It’s easier these days to contribute, and contribution to the core framework looks a little different because today. Your work can get right back into the core very quickly. Ten years ago, we were very focused on helping other people in the community understand and learn the platform. We began to contribute on places like Stack Overflow, and eventually Stack Exchange and other forums, places where you can learn, contribute, and communities form around them.
How has the Magento community impacted you?
It’s impacted me in every way. Some of my deepest friendships are with people in the Magento community. I found an incredible career in the Magento Community. I found incredible personal satisfaction and challenged my own growth as a person and an individual, all by virtue of having met people in this community. I feel like I’m personally fulfilled by contributing back in this community. So, in every way Magento has shaped who I am as a person.
What is one thing the Magento Community may not know about you?
I have a podcast and I’ve had it over four years going on five. I’ve put a lot of myself out there, so it would be hard to find one thing people don’t know about me. Many people don’t know this but as a teenager I wanted to be a competitive rollerblader. I got my sweet skates and I would grind on curbs and poles, much to the dismay of my mother. But that was short lived. I fell and broke my hand in a few places. I also wanted to be a famous musician and play guitar. Eventually I stopped the dream of wanting to be a competitive rollerblader competing in the X-Games and all that to give in to my true love of music. That’s something people may not know about me.
Do you have a tip for merchants and developers to maximize partnership?
One tip for merchants and for developers that I think will bring them closer together and help them understand Magento as a platform and understand each other is that—for developers in particular—that not every solution is in code. This is a very capable platform which has very well thought out solutions to everyday problems. To wit, there is a huge community behind it. It’s the most flexible eCommerce platform meaning it has the biggest community we can really leverage to our advantage. So, not all solutions end in code.
For merchants, I would say that not all code ends in solutions. If you’re hiring and retaining developer talent and you’re being told all the way through that new code authorship is the solution to every problem, I would take note of that. Honestly, Magento today is so capable and the community is so vast there’s a lot of existing functionality we may not be making use of. In actuality a lot of the Magento testing and certifications these days revolves around making sure developers understand the capabilities of the platform, so we don’t architect redundant solutions
What does being a Magento Master mean to you?
Honestly, it’s not about having a title or a trophy at the end of the day. The people I stand next to in the master program are my heroes. These are people I look up to every single day. They inspire me to do better. It’s nineteen or twenty of the best people you’ll ever meet. But they are exemplary of the hundreds of people who I have through this whole community. If we can all look at them not as individuals who are held at this particular standard or people who are high achieving. They are representatives of the type of people we should all want to be. People who contribute, people who give back. People who are very selfless and very smart but very accessible. That’s what the master program is really all about.