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Building the Magento Community – Interview with Sherrie Rohde

Karthik Chidambaram
November 30, 2016 |

As the Community Manager for Magento, Sherrie Rohde connects people with resources and with each other.

With a background in Graphic Design, Sherrie, gives us a peep into her past on how she became a Community Manager at Magento and her experiences on building a vibrant Magento Community.

Karthik Chidambaram , Founder, and CEO of DCKAP caught up with her on the sidelines of Magento Live Australia 2016 for a quick interview.

Karthik Chidambaram (KC) – Sherrie thanks for joining us and thanks for agreeing to do an interview with DCKAP.

Sherrie Rohde (SR) – Absolutely.

KC – We know that you have a graphic design background and you’ve been a Magento developer yourself. How do you actually get into Magento community manager or how did you get hired?  I’m just curious.

SR – Right out of university I was an interactive developer at a small business and they needed to move onto an e-commerce platform. I was looking at a few options, including osCommerce, and in the process stumbled across a post talking about Magento and how they were this new kid on the block in open source eCommerce. This was September 2007, so they had just gone public beta.

From a designer’s standpoint, it was a massive improvement. Additionally, at the time there were too many hacks needed to make osCommerce functional as it hadn’t had a new version in quite awhile. I started working in Magento and convinced my boss at the time that it was the way to go, so we waited for it to hit 1.0 and launched on it.

In the meantime, I knew database programming already but I didn’t know PHP. At that time no one knew Magento. I got really involved on the forums asking questions.  I was teaching myself PHP and Magento, and as I found answers I started helping others with their questions I had learned the answers to.

My first Imagine was in 2011. It was the first time that I met people from the community in person, which is why Imagine is always a special event for me. I still talk to most of the friends that I met there and most likely would do so even if I wasn’t in the Magento world anymore.

Through a series of events, I went to work for Sweet Tooth, an extension company, where I focused on partnership development, UX and supporting the Magento integration. Following that, I freelanced frontend development for a few solution partners and ran eCommerce strategy for a Magento Enterprise store. I accidentally landed out of eCommerce for about a year, but I was still working in user experience, product management, and community strategy.

At this point, I wasn’t sure what was next, but I woke up one day to a tweet from Benno Lippert saying “sounds like the perfect job for Sherrie Rohde” in response to Piotr Kaminski’s tweet that Magento was looking for a Community Manager, so I applied and here I am.

It’s great to be in a place where I can apply knowledge from having walked in the shoes of a small merchant, enterprise merchant, extension company and independent developer. Using my past experience, I can work together with both the community and our company to help move us all forward.

KC – Awesome. We didn’t know that you had such a long history with Magento. We also know that you started the Magento Master’s program. Is that right?

SR – Yes, I did. When I first started out at Magento there were a few needs. We needed a way to really identify who makes up the community: numbers, demographics, what they’re focused on, etc. Additionally, there are, and have always been, so many people doing great work contributing to Magento and the community and we really had no official way to recognize them.

Now it’s easy for us to identify who our top contributors are when we need to reach out for various opportunities, initiatives, etc.

KC – I think it’s a really successful program. I see that a lot of developers really want to be a master and to be recognized on stage. Congratulations on doing that.  So what are your tips to be a successful Magento Master because that’s a question which our team and I’m sure a lot of other Magento developers also have? Do they just respond in forums? Can you tell me two things which will make them a Magento Master?

SR – Well, I can’t share the Magento Masters algorithm details, but I’ve been pretty transparent about the kinds of activities that Masters are qualified on.

In general, these are any area of contribution such as: speaking on Magento or at Magento events, organizing meetups and conferences, writing books about Magento, contributing to our core on GitHub and our documentation, helping out on the forums and on StackExchange. It’s not about quantity as much as quality.

To be a Magento Master means that you are someone who’s really helping others in the community move forward and I strongly believe it’s important to always keep that focus at the core of the program.

KC Ben Marks is also involved in the community.  How do you guys split work? Does he do most of the traveling and you kind of manage the forums? I’m seeing you travel too. We are interviewing in Australia right now.  So how do you guys split work between each other?

SR – Ben is actually my boss. He is more focused on community outreach, both Magento, and the greater PHP community, and I am more focused on community programs. I do travel when it’s impossible for Ben to be in two places at once, but I largely focus on things like our forums, Magento Masters, supporting meetup organizers and connecting the community with various initiatives that arise from UX, documentation, training, etc.

While many have said it’s not a real Magento event unless Ben is there, I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that in addition to the Magento events, he’s also at PHP events. He’s played a really necessary role in working with others in our community to build Magento’s reputation within the PHP community, including Magento’s addition to FIG. Our reputation in the PHP community is essential to growing our ecosystem.

No matter where he goes, he’s been able to bring back essential feedback from the front lines that our entire company is able to learn from and implement. In fact, both of us are consistently advocating for the Magento community internally and the great thing is they really look to us to let them know what the community has to say whether it’s for a new initiative, on-going project or the product itself. Ultimately, all of us at Magento want to succeed and there’s an understanding that involving the community is the only way to do so.

In fact, both of us are consistently advocating for the Magento community internally and the great thing is they really look to us to let them know what the community has to say whether it’s for a new initiative, on-going project or the product itself. Ultimately, all of us at Magento want to succeed and there’s an understanding that involving the community is the only way to do so.

KC – One final question. What’s your advice to merchants? How can they leverage what’s happening in the community?  I’m sure merchants find a lot of value in the forums. Anything special you know you want to share with the merchants.

SR –  I’d urge merchants not to forget that they’re a part of the community, too; a very important part. Even in the Magento Master demographics, you’ll find merchants along with independent developers, agency developers ,and individuals at hosting companies. Sometimes a merchant is extremely technical, especially when they have in-house developers, but you don’t need to be technical to be an active member of the community.

It’s important to know that we do want you here, and we do need your voice. Your feedback is essential because you are the ones using the product every day. At the end of the day, developers, our team, hosting companies and agencies are all working together to make merchants successful. If the merchant isn’t succeeding, then the rest of us aren’t succeeding. We need your voice too so that we know how to make this what you need us to be.

KC – Thank you so much.  Thanks for taking your time to interview with us.  

SR – Thanks for having me.  

KC Thank you. Bye.

As the Community Manager for Magento, Sherrie connects people with resources and with each other. Sherrie was originally introduced to Magento as a developer for a merchant and, while an active community member and forum moderator, was able to experience working with the platform from a technology partner and solution integrator as well. She also co-produces a weekly broadcast for community professionals called #CMGRHangout. An ENFP, Sherrie is obsessed with innovation, terrified of status quo, and motivated by adventure.

Karthik Chidambaram

Karthik Chidambaram is the Founder & CEO of DCKAP. He bootstrapped the company from his small apartment in Chicago, Illinois. DCKAP simplifies commerce for distributors. DCKAP was started with 2 people, 2 computers and 2 desks and is now a global and distributed team. Karthik reckons industry setbacks and renders solid & practical solutions to organizations. He holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. You can read more about him on his personal blog here.

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