Sean Breeden

Full Stack PHP, Python, AI/ML Developer
"4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42" --LOST

Arpatech Interview With Sean Breeden

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Interview of Sean Breeden by Wajid Hussain


Sean Breeden is a Magento Certified Developer and Developer Plus. He is currently working at Jamersan as a Magento Developer, and has a vast experience working in different organizations in senior and leading positions. He was awarded the “StackOverflow Magento Badge” which is a sheer proof that he is a super-active member in Magento community. So, we contacted him and got in touch with him to know more about what he’s up to nowadays. So, read along and let’s find out:

Arpatech: Sean, you have a vast experience of the development side. From 2006 to 2016 you were working in InteractOne as Senior Developer. How was your experience with InteractOne? What challenges did you face in these years? How did you start your career with Magento? Share some interesting experiences and some challenging times of your career with our readers.

Sean: Like any developer in any agency, my experiences in the decade that I was with InteractOne had its ups and downs. I always tried to be helpful to developers who were just starting out and provided support to everyone whenever it was needed. I’d like to think that I taught as much as I learned over the years. Even though I have moved on, I do wish them all the best.

I got started with Magento on the recommendation from a friend when it was still in beta. After spending some time evaluating Magento as a possible alternative to our current e-commerce solutions, I brought it to the attention to our VP. It was very frustrating trying to work with Magento at first but as time went on, it became more familiar. Now, I love it and can’t imagine not working with it every day.

The most difficult challenge early on was getting clients to make the jump to Magento. Few people had heard of it and were skeptical about making the switch. It seemed that e-commerce was in a state of flux in the mid-2000s with a lot of companies attempting to make a great online shopping package but no one had anything that was secure and affordable. There were the usual expensive giants out there and there was also no shortage of smaller, loosely maintained packages. No one stepped up to the plate the way Magento did. I knew it was the way to go and I’ve never regretted my decision to specialize in it.

My first professional project with Magento was a site that needed a brand’s page with images that linked to detail pages. Figuring out how to write my first Magento grid and uploader was challenging so it took a few weeks to complete the project. It’s something I could do in less than an hour now. Looking back to the beginning it amazes me how far it’s all progressed in a relatively short period of time.

Since then I have worked on projects ranging from very small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

Arpatech: Currently you are working in Jamersan as Senior Developer, What are the common queries you faced during your work? When did you realize that you have a passion for programming?

Sean: Jamersan’s team has some of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. It’s a fast-paced environment with an emphasis on continuing education. Our boss, TJ, wants us to be the best and makes sure that we have the tools we need to reach that goal.

Every day presents new and interesting challenges. The types of tasks I work on range from small code tweaks to creating in-depth custom modules to meet the client’s requirements. I enjoy figuring out the best Magento-friendly approach to solving problems. It’s very rewarding to finish a task then commit a well-formed module. Getting positive feedback from everyone after watching my code go from concept to production is a great feeling.

The earliest memory I have of wanting to be a programmer was when I started tinkering in Basic on a TI-99/4A when I was 11. Soon after, I wrote a blackjack program and a non-player character generator for Dungeons & Dragons in Basic on a Commodore Vic-20. Later on, I spent many days typing out the Basic programs from Compute magazine on my Commodore 64. It was around that time that I knew that programming was something that I never wanted to stop doing.

Arpatech: Nowadays, Magento is a very popular e-commerce platform. What are some useful features in Magento 1x for developers? Share some tips for newbies who want to get started with Magento?

Sean: There are some built-in developer tools in Magento that are good to know. Under System -> Configuration -> Advanced, there’s a section named “Developer” that has the Template & Block Hints feature. That’s a pretty commonly used built-in feature but there are third-party utilities that make troubleshooting Magento a lot easier.

The oldest and most useful utility I would recommend for Magento developers is CommerceBug by Alan Storm. He recently released CommerceBug 3 which has support for Magento 1 and 2.

Another good tool that’s educational and useful is Chris Manger’s Enhanced Developer Tools Extension. It has a lot of really useful features for Magento developers and people who want to learn about Magento. When a developer types in a word that’s in a block, then it provides the block’s name, class, template file, layout XML file, and other miscellaneous information.

n98-magerun is another must-have for any serious Magento developer. The site describes it as “a huge set of well-tested command line commands which save hours of work time.” That’s it in a nutshell. There are versions for Magento 1 and Magento 2.

The most important advice I can give to someone starting out with Magento is to choose a good IDE. I highly recommend phpStorm with the Magicento plug-in. If you’ve never tried phpStorm then what are you waiting for?

Arpatech: In 2014 you were awarded StackOverflow Magento Badge, How do you feel about achieving these awards? What was your reaction when you were nominated :)?

Sean: StackOverflow is great and I try to participate as much as time allows. Achieving the Magento badge means that my answers have helped a lot of people.

According to StackOverflow, my answers have reached ~456,000 users. I’ve had co-workers and other developers tell me that they were looking for an answer to a problem and my name came up from SO during their search. Programmers everywhere use it regularly to find answers to their problems. To be able to get help from talented people like Ben Marks, Vinai Kopp, Marius Strajeru and too many others to name, makes StackOverflow and Magento StackExchange an incredibly valuable resource.

Arpatech: Sean, You have multiple Magento certificates (MCSS, MCD+, MCD). What’s your recommended learning platform for Magento certification? What are the advantages of being a certified Magento Solution Specialist and Developer Plus?

Sean: I learned a lot by filling in the study guide outline provided by Magento for the MCD exam. I don’t think it’s a good idea to get a certification just for the sake of having it. A certification should be something that happens organically as a programmer’s skill level improves.

In March of 2011, I was able to attend Magento U led by Ben Marks and Vinai Kopp. I learned more in that week that the previous years of working with Magento.

I took the beta MCD certification at Innovate in 2011 and failed in it. I tried again in 2012 and missed it by 3 questions. I’m a horrible test taker and tend to blank out during tests. After that failed attempt, I spent every spare minute of the next three months studying. By the time I re-tried I passed by a very comfortable margin. Don’t get discouraged if you fail. You only truly fail if you give up!

The main advantage of having any Magento certification is that it helps confirm that I’m familiar with the platform. The MCD+ demonstrates that I understand the back-end/coding side of Magento Enterprise and the MCSS lets people know that I’m familiar with the Magento admin and that I know how to use Magento to meet a client’s business needs.

Arpatech: Extensions are very useful. Which extensions do you recommend for speeding up Magento 1.x? Or do you recommend coding your own extensions? Share some useful tips for those developers who want to build their own extension.

Sean: Mirasvit’s FPC extension is a great full page caching module for speeding up Magento 1. Of course, simply following best coding practices is crucial to keep a Magento store running quickly. When a client has speed complaints from a site and they’re on a decent web host then chances are they have some improperly coded features bogging things down.

More recently I’ve been working with Google PageSpeed. It’s an amazing server component but it takes some server admin experience to get everything working properly. I have been very impressed by the results of a finely-tuned PageSpeed configuration.

I recommend coding your own extensions whenever possible. Purchasing extensions can be a huge time-saver as long as it’s high-quality and has ongoing support. It can be overkill if the goal is to add a minor change to the site.

Arpatech: How do you see Magento in the coming years with Magento 2? How can merchants improve their sales with Magento 2? What further features are you excited to see in Magento 2? If you get a chance to include some features in Magento 2, what would be those features? What are your expectations for Magento 2 in 2016?

Sean: Considering that there’s still sites running older e-commerce platforms that pre-date Magento, I don’t expect Magento 1 to go away at it’s prescribed end-of-life. It wouldn’t surprise me to see someone fork it to continue improving the platform after Magento officially stops supporting it.

Any developers that think Magento 2 is like “starting over” need to remember that the Magento developers have taken all of the lessons learned throughout the course of building Magento 1 and incorporated them into 2.

I’m still learning Magento 2 but it’s all really clicking into place for me. I like it very much! I look forward to being as engrossed in Magento 2 as I currently am in Magento 1.

Merchants can expect better performance and scalability with Magento 2. It has a more contemporary feel to it and is built with responsive design in mind from the beginning. A faster site with multiple browsers and mobile device support means that a Magento 2 site can reach a larger audience with faster page load times which will result in higher conversions.

Arpatech: You were an attendee of Magento Imagine 2015. In your opinion, what are the advantages of attending the Magento conferences like Magento Imagine, Meet Magento, Mage Titans for amateurs who want to involve themselves in the Magento Community? Share some of your interesting moments from Imagine with our readers.

Sean: Magento goes all out at their conferences. They’re a lot of fun and even someone who has just started learning Magento can benefit from the experience. Being able to attend lectures hosted by the top people in the community is awesome.

It would be impossible to pick a specific moment that stands out because the entire event is amazing!

I always learn a lot, whether by watching a presentation by a Magento master or chatting with other attendees throughout the day. I always leave feeling like the costs to attend were well worth it.

Arpatech: Sean, Which conferences you are going to attend in the future? In 2011 you made a big Magento group “Magento Certified Developers” on Facebook. So, how has your experience been so far with the community members? Which social platforms are you using to stay connected with the Magento community?

Sean: I’m planning on attending Magento Imagine in 2017. I look forward to seeing what’s in Magento 2’s future first-hand, straight from the mouths of the developers and other giants in this industry.

I started the Facebook group in 2011 before the MCD certification was released. The goal was to create a social media forum that was focused on helping people find resources to learn about Magento. There’s close to 3,000 members now and no spam allowed. I will only approve posts that contribute something to the community.

I love the Magento community. I don’t think there’s another group out there more willing to help it’s members and freely share knowledge for the overall good.

Arpatech: So, Sean, let’s put Magento aside and talk about your personal interests. How you spend your time besides work? Do you like Sports? What’s your favourite place and how many international trips have you taken so far?

Sean: I’m not really a sports fan. I enjoy what I do so much that a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work, so my work and hobbies sometimes overlap. In my free time, I follow augmented and virtual reality closely. I’m very excited to see the technology finally start to catch up with the VR dreams of thirty years ago.

My favorite place is where I live right now here in Port Orange, Florida. We were slammed pretty hard by Hurricane Matthew but luckily my area was spared a lot of the devastation that people close by experienced. My fence was blown away and we had some superficial damage but that’s obviously nothing compared to what others have lost. I was very fortunate but it’s bittersweet to be relieved about that since so many lost their lives and homes.

I don’t travel a lot but I visited the UK (London) for six months in 2010. It was interesting to see how life is in another country. One of the major highlights was when my wife and I went to see Stonehenge on an after-hours tour where they allowed a small group of us to walk inside the circle of stones for an hour.

Arpatech: The Magento Community is huge. There are always some individuals who stand out in the crowd. Name some peoples that inspired and influenced you in the Magento world and inspire you with their work?

Sean: I tend to listen to everything that Ben Marks and Vinai Kopp have to say about Magento. I enjoy Vinai’s Mage2Kata series and would like to see more developers do similar things.

I worked directly with Ryan Street for a while and have learned a lot from him. He’s a very talented individual!

Alan Storm always gives back to the Magento community with his blogs and is very helpful. I have the highest respect for those that have taken the time to give back like he does.

A few months ago Alan Storm asked a question about Magento 2 on Twitter. I responded by posting “It makes me nervous when you have to ask Magento questions. You usually are the one with the answers.” He replied, “I have the answers because I ask the questions.” That stuck with me. I’ve never been afraid to say “I don’t know” and seeing a talented programmer like Alan Storm ask others for help has been motivating me to ask a lot more of my own questions.

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