An Interview with a Multi-talented Magento extrovert – Fabian Schmengler
As promised, we’re back with another inspiring interview with Fabian Schmengler, a multi-talented Magento extrovert. He comes under the very first certified Magento developers. Fabian Schmengler is well-known for his tremendous contribution to Magento community.
Read on to get an interesting insight into the career journey of this Magento solution specialist and find out more regarding his Magento experience as Fabian shares about the difficulties faced by an average merchant, Magento-centric events, Magento 2, difference between Magento 1 & Magento 2 testing, Magento BI, Magento Order Management, Magento Cloud Edition, Magento B2B Edition, Magento testing tips and many other things. And, here we go!
Envision Ecommerce: Fabian, you are a well-known Magento Certified Developer (One of the first Magento Certified developers) and Solution Specialist. Now, you offer your services mainly in Magento development and Magento training. So why did you prefer to connect yourself only with Magento? What difficulties did you face when you started your career in Magento? Please share your career experiences with our readers.
Fabian Schmengler: It was mostly by chance. In 2011, I had a company with two partners and we had some capacities for new projects. An existing client wanted to migrate his home-grown os:commerce shop to Magento and after having contacted some agencies, he was not happy with the cost and asked us if we could do it. We said “no idea, but we are willing to learn”. Magento was in high demand at that time, it was not the first Magento related request, and we sensed an opportunity. They paid us by the hour, a relatively low price, but all learning time counted.
What I liked about Magento was that it was a relatively well-architected system, in comparison to other popular PHP applications of the time. Relatively… there were many things that I hated actually, and that now got better with Magento 2: Lack of interfaces, no dependency injection, global state everywhere, hard to test.
These were some of the technical difficulties. I had the advantage over early adopters, that in 2011 (Magento 1.5) there was already a huge amount of documentation by the community: Books, and blogs like those from Inchoo or Alan Storm, were very helpful to get started and to understand the framework.
If I’m looking back at my first two or three years with Magento, the biggest difficulty was not technical wise, but related to project management and communication: I did not have experience with big client projects, my biggest projects so far were not for clients. And eCommerce has special needs! So the difficulty was to understand what the customer actually needs (which is not always what they say), and also to focus on sensible solutions and not on technology.
Envision Ecommerce: We found that you are a writer, a blogger, speaker, consultant, educator, Magento solution specialist, web & script developer and a person fond of Software Development Process and Testing. You’re really talented in multiple areas. What do you enjoy the most? Did you always want to be what you are today?
Fabian Schmengler: Ha, I once wanted to become a graphic designer. But I was interested in programming since I was 12 years old, so the foundation for this career was laid early. Although I did not have eCommerce in mind for a long time.
What I’m enjoying the most today? In my day job, conception: Understanding a business problem, coming up with solutions at large scale, the software architecture part of development. I also enjoy a lot to travel around conferences, giving talks and training, and meet many people from all over the world. The community around Magento is so friendly and has lots of interesting people!
But I still code a lot and enjoy that too!
Envision Ecommerce: You have been an attendee of lots of Magento-centric events like Meet Magento DE, Developers Paradise, etc. As a Magento developer, what benefits do you get from such events? Our readers are eager to know some of your best moments from such events. What other Magento-based events are you going to attend in upcoming years?
Fabian Schmengler: As a developer I always come home with new inspiration for my job. You can learn a lot at developer centric conferences, but it’s always just an appetizer: I get ideas for topics where I want to learn more about or what I’d like to try out. At the event, the so called “hallway track” is often even more useful than the talks: the conversations in between, one on one or in small groups. Personally, my best moments are from the social events around the conferences. This is where business acquaintances can become friends! I’m thinking of the legendary parties from Developers Paradise 2016 in Croatia. And I love the venue of Mage Titans Manchester, an old cinema with a very special atmosphere.
I don’t plan ahead several years, but in 2017 you can still see me on stage at Mage Titans Manchester (Nov. 10) and MageTestFest (Nov. 17). There’s one event where you will find me every year though: The MageUnconference. This is a conference without schedule, where the attendees decide what they want to talk about, what they want to hear, or what they want to discuss. If you’ve never been to an unconference or barcamp, I highly recommend it. The next date is Oct, 27th/28th 2018. Keep an eye on http://www.mageunconference.org/ to stay updated.
Envision Ecommerce: Being a certified Magento developer & Solution Specialist, how do you envision the future of Magento after the release of Magento 2? How do you think Magento 2 will impact the eCommerce industry and eCommerce merchants using Magento?
Fabian Schmengler: Magento is going to further increase its market share, not only because of Magento 2, but also because they are building a more holistic ecommerce toolset around Magento with their latest additions, like Magento BI, Magento Order Management, Magento Cloud Edition and last but not least, Magento B2B Edition.
But while winning big clients and B2B merchants, they will lose the small merchants on Magento CE 1.x, that simply cannot afford a migration to Magento 2 or even the increased maintenance costs. This will make place for other less enterprise solutions like Shopware or Shopify.
I’m very curious how the latest initiatives regarding progressive web apps and headless Magento turn out. With these, Magento might really have an impact on the industry, off traditional web shops, towards a new API powered shopping experience on completely different devices.
Envision Ecommerce: While talking about testing in Magento 2, how is it different from Magento 1? What tools do you prefer or use for your testing practices? What would you like to recommend to those who are new to testing in Magento?
Fabian Schmengler: In Magento 2, test suites are already part of the core and it is tested in different granularity: unit tests, integration tests and acceptance tests (functional tests and functional API tests). In Magento 1 this was unconceivable. Automated browser tests were possible, but you had to jump through several hoops to get useful lower level tests.
My main tool for testing is PHPUnit. In Magento 2 I’m writing unit and integration tests with it. For Magento 2 integration tests I am currently developing a fixture library, that makes it easier to set up test data https://github.com/tddwizard/magento2-fixtures.
For somebody new to testing I would recommend learning unit testing outside of Magento first, for example with a small internal or side project, or with exercises, so called code katas. I collected some on my blog earlier this year at https://www.schmengler-se.de/kata
For a quick win to start with Magento testing, I recommend a smoke test suite of functional tests. Smoke tests warn you if the site is completely broken: can you search? Open a product page? Add a product to the cart? Go through the checkout? These tests are relatively easy to create with tools like Codeception and provide huge value in return.
Envision Ecommerce: Being an active & well-reputed member of Stack exchange, what are the most common questions you encounter with developers as well as store owners? What are the common issues that cause quite a problem among developers and store owners lately?
Fabian Schmengler:Good question, nowadays I mostly look at the tags I subscribed to, so I might be biased. But questions that always recur are related to installation and updates: Issues with applying patches to Magento 1, issues with installing Magento 2, issues with minor version updates, or questions about data migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2. This shows that Magento is not a system that the average merchant can just install and maintain by themselves without developer expertise.
Envision Ecommerce: As a part of our interview process, we request you to share a picture of your workstation or the best moment that you have captured in any events. Please share with us.
Fabian Schmengler: This is my desktop, I share a room with one human colleague and Waschbär, our raccoon:
Envision Ecommerce: Now, we can see that you’re a great inspiration for many because of your first-hand knowledge and expertise, but where do you find your inspiration? Please share some names who have been your role model in your career?
Fabian Schmengler: In the Magento space I have to mention Vinai Kopp, first for his profound knowledge of Magento itself, nowadays for thinking-outside-the-box and overall for being a great and inspiring teacher.
I also follow a bunch of interesting people from the broader PHP and software engineering ecosystem (Twitter, Blogs). I can’t name anyone specifically as a role model but can recommend it to learn new things and not stay trapped inside the Magento bubble. This way I find inspiration and see things from different perspectives.
Envision Ecommerce: Everyone here knows that a developer’s life is too busy, so how do you maintain a balance between your personal and professional life? Besides your professional life, can you please share your personal interests with our audience?
Fabian Schmengler: I have two kids and it’s most important to me to spend time with my family. Other than that, I like to play board games, pen and paper, role playing games, and to go to Heavy Metal concerts and festivals.
Envision Ecommerce: Is there anything we missed to ask you that you want to add here? 🙂
Fabian Schmengler: You could ask me, how many stickers there are on my laptop. The answer is 28 (and counting).
Or you could ask me about the progress of my “Test Driven Magento” book, which would be a great question but I’d have to admit that at the current pace a release this year is optimistic. But I’ll try to make more time for it and get it out sooner. Visit
Envision eCommerce team would like to thank Fabian Schmengler for sharing Magento insights, tips and thoughts with us and our audience.