Whether you simply stumbled into the industry or knew you wanted to work in eCommerce back when everyone else wanted to grow up to be an astronaut, everyone gets into this business differently. For those interested in working in eCommerce, we discussed the employment journey with some of our resident eCommerce experts: Matt Trimmer, Associate Business Analyst; Gian Genovesi, Delivery Lead; and Derrik Nyomo, Lead Magento Certified Developer; as well as Michelle Kowalski, UI/UX Designer; and myself, Hannah Gierosky, Content Writer.
What made you want to be in the eCommerce industry?
Matt: I had used eCommerce and found it interesting, and eCommerce is more interesting than what most people do—I’ve helped sell door glass, bull semen, and prom dresses. Whether you realize it or not, eCommerce is taking over everyone’s lives.
Gian: Anyone in our age bracket is going to relate to it (eCommerce), you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t purchased something online or at least investigated something they were going to purchase. It is an ever-changing and challenging industry.
Michelle: I was not very familiar with the eCommerce industry and had no idea how many elements had to come together in order for me to buy shoes online. I was interested in seeing how design fit in to the equation.
Hannah: I had never even thought about the behind-the-scenes aspect of eCommerce, but I am on board with anything related to online shopping (or “research” as I call it.)
How did you get to the position you are in today?
Matt: I knew someone in the ecommerce business (Gian) that recommended that I apply for an internship, as he had seen my leadership and organizational skills.
Gian: I was never super interested in developing; I was more into using technology to help people do things. I fell into the eCommerce industry when a guy in my fraternity started an eCommerce business. For a while, he was only hiring people from the fraternity. Initially it was just WSC but then I started working on huge, poorly scoped and implemented projects as a lackey, and getting the experience on the ground floor helped a lot in understanding not only how not to do things, but better solutions as well.
My prior experience in technology helped but there was still a lot to learn. Unless you’ve taken a technology-consulting curriculum, you would never know this stuff. You learn as you go, that’s really the only way to learn. The best way to learn is being involved in real world problems.
Derrik: I started around 2006 at a different company doing systems. Their web guy was leaving for another company, so I took over his job responsibilities. In that position I learned ASP classic with VB and I got to take over their homegrown proprietary ecommerce system. I took care of the site, most of which was front end or aspects that interacted with the database. When I was hired onto Briteskies I started as just systems, focusing mainly on cleaning up internal operations. At that time, Briteskies was looking to move towards a (very early) Magento, so I started learning PHP. I started with small Magento tasks, then earned a spot on the team, I got Magento certified, and since then I have been on every Magento project we’ve had.
Michelle: I ended up in the eCommerce industry kind of by accident. I went to school for Graphic Design and had previously been working in package design. Briteskies contacted me about a User Experience design position and I was ready to explore different areas of design. I was very interested in how design could be used to improve and streamline experiences.
Hannah: Michelle was a recent Briteskies hire when she found out they had an opening for a writer, so she recommended me. Above all, Briteskies appreciates someone’s ability to grow, so I think my eagerness to learn helped my cause, despite the fact that I had absolutely no experience writing about this industry.
What are some useful skills that helped you get the job?
Matt: I had zero background in eCommerce; I learned everything through my internship. There was really nothing besides hands-on experience I could have learned that would have helped me. Working in ecommerce one way or another (or software development or consulting) is really where things are picked up.
Gian: I didn’t have any ecommerce experience but I did have a lot of experience and interest in technology in general, at least for a college kid. I did a lot of reading though that helped me focus on what was important for the business aspect of things. (list of books from Gian)
Derrik: I know more about the implementation than about eCommerce in general, but knowing PHP and Magento have obviously been helpful. It is also important to try to understand how you can implement a technology in a way that meets the business’ needs, as well as find out what a customer wants while keeping it cost efficient with room for growth.
Michelle: Working with clients is a huge part of my job, but I had previous experience working on client projects, so I understood how the client-driven design process works.
My design background is a great asset, because though the medium may change, the general rules of design remain the same. Both in packaging and eCommerce, the goal is to encourage users to make a purchase, and the way the content is displayed is critical to help consumers make that decision.
Also, I buy a TON of things online, so I have a lot of experience on the consumer side of eCommerce. To make sure I am creating the smoothest possible experience for the users, it helps to get into the mindset of an online shopper (and now I have justified my out of control online shopping problem).
Hannah: Even though this isn’t a journalism position, my journalism training was a selling point I think. Getting information from people who are more used to coding than writing a blog post takes some interviewing skills.
What would you suggest to someone who wants to be in your position? How can they help themselves get there?
Matt: You need to be flexible! People who are rigid in any aspect of their work life won’t survive. You have to be prepared for the certain personality traits found in eCommerce consulting. You also need to be able to quickly evolve or switch gears; on a daily basis you can be switching from project to project, and you need to be able to give them all the proper amount of attention while staying understanding of all the projects. As a Business Analyst or Project Manager, you also have to be willing to be client facing and willing to interact with clients, whether they are friendly or hostile.
Gian: It depends on what you want to do ultimately. If you want to be a Business Analyst then it’s a good idea to read a lot about how to think things through properly, although that’s important for any position. You really just need a good frame of reference and decision-making process.
From an Agile perspective, it’s important to have a constant feedback loop because in the world we’re in today, innovation is the most important thing. There is something to be learned from every experience and, more often than not, it’s how not to do things, especially early on in a career. This isn’t a job for someone who just wants to be a cog in an operation, and it definitely isn’t for someone who doesn’t like change because change is the only constant.
Derrik: I focus exclusively on Magento and I’m self-taught. I never did any formal Magento classes and most of the stuff I’ve learned online or through peers. There are a bunch of good books to read about Magento as well as some great PHP tutorials online. Magento changes dramatically so getting up to date info is important
In this line of work, domain expertise within the technology (both the stack and the application) is very important. It is also important to understand how the platform or framework can be leveraged and how it is best leveraged.
Michelle: I would suggest that anyone looking for a job in eCommerce should familiarize themselves with HTML and CSS. ECommerce is (obviously) online, and it is important to have the ability to manage, or at least safely edit, the content on the sites without the code exploding. I am doing a bit more coding than I initially thought I would, but it is nice to be able to make edits and updates myself without having to wait to snag some developer time.
Additionally, pay attention to the products and services you are using every day. Notice the elements of websites that work really well and appreciate the small things that improve your experience. Someone intentionally created those small details, which can be easy to overlook when you are on the consumer side of things.
Hannah: Be open to trying something new! I definitely never thought I would be writing about eCommerce, ERPs and integration (that’s what we do here, right?) but by paying close attention and learning what seems like a whole new language, I have been able to familiarize myself with the subject at hand and have gotten better at my job.