Magento Q&A: Courtney Heitman
April 12, 2018
Courtney is a scrum master and UX developer for the Magento team at Gallup, in Omaha, Nebraska
Tell us about your unusual upbringing.
I grew up on a farm right outside of Council Bluffs, Iowa. We farmed corn, soybeans, and had a few cows. I also had a horse growing up. I’m always surprised at how well the tech industry relates to the farming industry. Today there are self-driving sprayers and all sorts of other technological advances that have changed the industry. It was cool to be able to live with the cross-over between these two industries that most people don’t see or experience.
There can’t be many similarities in eCommerce and agriculture?
Well, I think the project management side of eCommerce has a lot of similarities to farming as well. eCommerce is a lot about knowing the market and knowing where you fit. In farming, you might farm a field and then make the decision to put all of that grain into a bin while the markets improve in order to achieve a better ROI. Then you can plan for when a specific crop should be planted so you can take it out at this date because it takes this long to grow.
It’s growth management.
Right. And when you know you’re gonna to launch a new product, there are certain steps to do first.
How did you transition to eCommerce?
I taught myself HTML and CSS around age 11 on a dial-up internet connection! I knew when I went to college that I really liked user experience, though I didn’t know it by that name then, and I knew I loved web design. I went to a college that has a great agricultural program and ended up in their web design program and I was able to combine these interests in the tech industry.
What websites sparked your passion for design?
Back in the day, there were microblog sites like Xanga and LiveJournal, and that type of stuff. You could create custom themes and I would get a theme and realize I wanted to tweak a few things that were bugging me. I just played around until I figured it out.
What was your first paid gig?
I didn’t get paid for coding and design until my internship in college, so it was a side hobby until then. I really loved photography too so that and design were hobbies. Then I got an internship as a Flash developer.
[Laughs]. Sometimes I still open up old Flash files and say ‘oh, I miss Flash!’ Developing in Flash was a fun project.
How did you discover Magento?
I joined Gallup in 2014 and we use Magento for our eCommerce platform. We have a team of six devs in-house that work on Magento. I happened to be friends with the lead dev here, and he knew that I was a PHP developer and said, ‘I need someone to come and do CSS for me, come work on my team I’ll hold you hostage!’ I really ended up liking it and my love for Magento has grown.
What’s the Magento scene like in Nebraska?
Sadly, in the Omaha area, there are hardly any Magento devs. We convince people to move to Omaha to work for Gallup, which is not the easiest of sells, but there’s not really a huge Magento community. I follow a lot of people on Twitter, including Danielle Mundle and Rebecca Brocton. I’m also pretty active in the Practical Dev community.
What do you like best about Magento 2?
When I saw the announcement for the B2B module, I thought: “This is all we’ve ever wanted.”
Tell us what you’ll talk about at your Imagine session.
My breakout session is about user journey mapping and empathy mapping. Basically, it’s how to figure out the quickest, easiest way to solve user problems as a team, in-house, without usability testing. Not that I don’t advocate for user testing, I used to do it all the time for Gallup, but sometimes our users are having a problem and we need to fix it today.
Who else is speaking with you?
I have a co-presenter, Elizabeth Davies, she’s our lead UX dev on Gallup.com.
Are you looking forward to Vegas?
Totally! I’m ready to be in Vegas, it is 33 and raining in Omaha right now.
Weather aside, what’s life like in Omaha?
So, I am blessed. Gallup truly cares about people’s well-being. We have a gym and personal trainers on campus here at the Riverfront in Omaha. I wake up, throw on my gym clothes, brush my teeth, drive to work, and meet two other UX devs and then we work out. Afterwards, we go downstairs, eat breakfast and talk about UX! Then we go off to work, it's amazing.
What time are you at the gym?
I aim for 6.30am!
Being a UX dev, you treasure your 8-9 o’clock hour because that tends to be when you get the most work done... because no one is around to bug you.
What’s the last cool thing you bought online?
I have a subscription to Care/of, they do customized vitamin packs. They have a cool interactive questionnaire about your lifestyle, they ask if you’re veggie or vegan, or suffer from high levels of stress, and they recommend vitamins. They ship it to you in daily packs in a box, you grab one for the gym bag. Their site is one of the coolest, personalized experiences I’ve seen in a while.
And how do you manage your busy work life?
I’m a little type A. I have two to-do lists. One for today, the other for the near future.