MageTalk Episode 195 – Solution Specialist Redux

Phillip sits down with Peter Manijak, Joseph Maxwell, Emily Dowd, and Caitlin Mekita and discusses everything about the new Magento 2 Certified Solution Specialist Exam.

Listen now!

1:21 Down One Host, Up Four Guests

Phillip lets us know by letting us know that Kalen will not be joining him for today’s episode, but also tells us not fear because Peter Manijak (@PeterManijak), Joseph Maxwell (@josephmaxs), Emily Dowd, and Caitlin Mekita (@CEMekita) are joining him as guests.

3:40 Why are they here?

Phillip asks Peter to talk a little bit about why this particular group of people has assembled on MageTalk today.

Peter lets us know that they all got together in Orlando and wrote an entirely new exam bank for the Magento 2 Certified Solution Specialist Exam. Say that five times fast.

4:34 A Quick Update

Peter gives a quick update on the progress the team has made since last year. They have added a Javascript Exam and a Cloud Developer Exam.

The Javascript exam is for people who know Magento and want to take advantage of their javascript skills.

They have also updated the Associate and Pro Developer Exams to include 2.3 within the past month. But don’t worry about the updates affecting your studying because 98% of the objectives are still the same.

6:08 New Quizzes on the Horizon

Peter lets us know that on June 18 through June 21 there will be an Exam Development workshop in Boston and he’s looking for some experts in Order Management to help them develop the upcoming Order Management exam.

Think you could help? Reach out to Peter.

6:55 Orlando Objectives

Phillip asks Joseph to talk about some of the objectives from the meeting in Orlando.

Joseph informs us that before the group assembled, a blueprint was formed to map out questions regarding each subject that was to be on the exam. Once they worked through the blueprint, each member picked an objective that they wanted to write questions for.

After a quick talk from Peter on best practices for writing questions, everyone set to work to start tackling their objectives. Once a question was determined a “keeper”, that objective would be crossed off the whiteboard to give everyone a quick measure of how much was still left to write.

8:48 How Far We’ve Come

Having collected all four of the original Magento certifications, Phillip asks Joseph to talk about how the recent exams differ from those that have existed in the past.

Joseph says that the old certification focused more on memorization as opposed to practical experience, but the new exam focuses more on the practical experience.

10:35 Question Relatability

Phillip points the mic to Emily and asks her to talk about some of her experiences exam from creating this exam.

Emily brings up that there were several instances where the team read each other’s questions and found them to be relatable.

Emily also discusses how they identified who a Solution Specialist was and what they did, and from there, they were able to base relevant questions on that.

13:24 Client Opinions

Phillip asks Emily what her clients feel the role of a Solution Specialist is and how Corra translates building requirements into functionality.

15:32 Post-Launch Approaches

Phillip turns to Caitlin and inquires if there were any challenges that she had to overcome while trying to characterize the right type of questions that went into the exam.

Caitlin talks about her different perspective on the approach due to the fact that her position has her work with client sites post-launch and after they have already been built. This brings maintenance and technical support into the picture but more importantly: how do you grow a site?

This post-launch perspective really rounded out the team as the majority of expertise was with pre-launch. Caitlin enlightens us with the fact that one of the biggest differences between pre-launch and post-launch is that the client is involved with post-launch.

When you have the opportunity to get hands on and do something you wouldn’t normally do, do it yourself. Don’t delegate it. That’s how you’re going to learn.

-Caitlin Mekita

19:15 A (Notso) Smooth Plug/Transition

Phillip reminds us that SWIFTotter is a sponsor of MageTalk (thanks guys!), but also that it’s a pretty amazing resource if you need to study for the certification exams.

Joseph lets us know that they are in the final stages of a new, free study guide. He also candidly tells us that practical experience is something that isn’t normally covered in study guides but has a larger focus in the upcoming guide.

23:35 Phillip Plays Devil’s Advocate

Phillip bravely asks Joseph how does someone utilize a study guide if the most important component is practical, hands-on experience. If someone is new to Magento, how can you use the study guide to navigate where you begin learning?

Joseph comes right off the bat by saying that the purpose of the study guide is to supplement existing knowledge. Magento recommends at least a year of experience working as a Solution Specialist before taking the certification exam and Joseph’s goal is to fill in the knowledge gaps that might not have been learned during that initial experience.

24:58 Practical Applications

Caitlin tells us her process on how she would use the study guide to steer her learning process and it’s such a powerful tool for self-learning.

26:19 Pre Imagine Prep Workshop

Peter asks Joseph to talk a bit about what he will be doing at Imagine. Joseph lets us know that on the Sunday before Imagine (May 12th), he will be presenting a Magento 2 Certified Solution Specialist Prep Workshop (with lunch included).

Caitlin also talks about “The Incident”.

29:44 Insider Trading? 

Phillip asks Emily to talk a little about what her preparation was before she went to the certification workshop as she has some insider knowledge from her team about what the session would be like.

Emily says that she learned the most on the first day of the workshop when she got her first submitted question torn apart by Peter.

She also goes into some detail about how Corra is implementing Solution Strategist into their organization.

33:08 A Pop Quiz?!

Peter holds a surprise pop quiz for the exam makers and asks them what are some of the things they look for when they have a question reviewed. Some examples are below.

  1. Do we care?
  2. How does it read?
  3. It is technically accurate?
  4. Is it congruent?
  5. Is it relevant?

Phillip also asks how they test questions if they trigger specific emotional responses within the individuals that are reviewing them. Do I sense some personal issues, Phillip?

Joseph ensures us that this most recent test is extremely relevant and contains things you actually need to know.

39:39 Parting Thoughts

Phillip opens up a roundtable for everyone to give their final thoughts on why certification is important.

Joseph opens up by saying that there are two aspects of certifications:

  1. It’s a great way to force yourself to learn about something by giving you an end goal.
  2. From an external perspective, others will look at your certifications and identify you as someone who knows their stuff.

Emily says that passing the certification should be held in high regard and once you pass, it will mean others will look to you for your experience and knowledge. This validation is a powerful tool in furthering your career. She also says that the certifications will boost client relations at Corra.

Caitlin’s number one takeaway from the process is how you should tackle the exam itself. She says to be brave, get in there, solve problems, get out of your comfort zone, be hands-on, and have fun. The exam is very inclusive because it serves people that are not just developers.

45:35 The MageTalk Special

Peter ends with a “MageTalk Special” by saying that anyone who passed the original Magento 2 Certification Exam that wants to take the new exam, can do so (at a tremendous discount) by following the steps below.

  1. Send an email to
  2. Reference MageTalk
  3. Mention that the passcode for the discount is MyCousinVinny



Peter Manijak (@PeterManijak), Head of Certification & Training Programs at Magento, an Adobe Company

Joseph Maxwell (@josephmaxs), Founder, SWIFTotter Solutions

Emily Dowd, Solutions Strategy Manager, Corra

Caitlin Mekita (@CEMekita), Strategic Engagement Manager, Something Digital


Frontend Fundamentals and Chris Hartjes

In Episode 19

Eric, John, and Oscar record together again to discuss the April 2019 issue on the new frontend fundamentals, php[tek], and quite a lot more about web browsers than anyone anticipated.


  • Eric and John get a look behind the scenes into what goes into producing each magazine issue.
  • From the March magazine issue: new features of CSS, caching application output, templating and Twig, managing support issues, and more
  • Chatting with Chris Hartjes, php[tek] testing track chair, podcasting, community conferences and getting the most out of one, and working at Mozilla.

The post Frontend Fundamentals and Chris Hartjes appeared first on php[architect].

MageTalk Episode 194- There and Back Again (w/ Slava Kravchuk)

The boys sit down with Slava Krachuk and discuss his seven-month road trip in which he circumnavigated Africa.

Listen now!

Show Notes

Today the boys are joined by Slava Kravchuk (@slkra) from Atwix.

1:41 Today’s Episode is brought to you by…

…the MageTalk Expert Napper. Also, don’t forget to check out the rest of the items in the MageTalk Store to get your swag game on point.

2:06 Slava’s African Escapades

Today, the boys are going to chat with Slava about his recent escapades across the continent of Africa with Olena Sadoma (@OlenaSadoma).

Slava tells us that the idea manifested suddenly when he saw someone post directions on how to drive from Ukraine to South Africa.

It started with those directions, but Slava ended up circumnavigating the entire country by heading South to Capetown along the West Coast and then North back to Ukraine along the East Coast.

32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers), 1800 US gallons of diesel, 44 countries, and 7 months.

And yes, Slava converted these numbers for us. 

This entailed driving 6-7 hours, 6 days a week.

5:21 The Point of No Return

Phillip asks if there was any point of the trip when Slava felt as if he had made a mistake. Slava is delighted to let him know that that point was never reached. Slava also lets us know that in some of the more remote parts of Africa, the nearest escape point could be a five-day drive away so it’s a good thing that he never threw in the towel.

However, some of the days were hard and some of the countries were more dangerous than others. An example of this was when he entered Nigeria and travel advisories warned him not to go to cities that he had to pass through. Let’s just say that there were threats of pirates, kidnapping, and ISIS all in one territory.

12:50 A Quick History

Before they get into the reasons for the trip, Slava gives a breakdown of his history and involvement in the Magento community.

13:30 The Aim of It All

Slava goes into the mission of the trip and what he hoped to accomplish on his journey.

He ran some real-time reporting on Instagram and Facebook to try and share his impressions on every country that he visited. One of the key takeaways from this was that before this trip, Africa seemed like a single entity to Slava. He had very little knowledge of the geography of the continent or how different each county is from one another.

Slava was blown away by the differences between not only each country but from town to town. It also made Slava realize how disconnected we are from basic life and how narrow our perspective is.

15:42 The Vehicle

Kalen asks Slava about the car he took on his journey. Slava lets us know that it was a 2005 Toyota LandCruiser 79.

Slava also talks about the struggles to not stick out in a vehicle when traveling through Africa as well as some of the ways he interacted with the people.

18:18 How Do You Plan for Something Like This?

Phillip asks Slava if any of his project management skills aided him in planning for a trip of this magnitude and scale.

Slava enlightens us that he procrastinated for a large part of the year leading up to the trip. For example, he got the car two months before the start date.

Slava also tells us some of the intricacies of planning a route through countries that don’t necessarily have roads that connect with each other. For example, they only had three Visas before leaving Ukraine and got the rest while traveling to account for the constant changes in the route.

20:58 Setting Out Without A Plan

Phillip asks if it is scary to set out on a journey with so little planned and set in stone.

Slava lets him know that its just part of the process and something that you have to get used to if you are going to take on a trip like this.

22:50 Life-Changing Moments and Shifts In Perspective

Kalen asks Slava if along the way he experienced any life-changing moment or things that caused his perspective to shift in how he views his life.

Slava lets him know that a lot of the changes are gradual and you only really notice them when you get back home.

You probably don’t realize how much convenience you have until you’re in a situation where you will have to plan to be without.

-Phillip Jackson

26:53 Unexpected Meetings

Slava talks about some of the unexpected meetings he had on his trip and how unbelievable some of these meetings actually are.

Some of the most humanitarian and selfless people are in the world and trips like this help introduce you to these people.

34:04 How many dangerous moments were there?

Kalen asks Slava how many dangerous moments he experienced while on his trip.

Slava informs him that, thankfully, there were not that many. But this doesn’t account for moments when they could have been in danger, but just didn’t know it.

Slava then goes on to talk about a time when he was crossing the border between Kenya and Ethiopia in the midst of a local conflict between tribes. People began throwing rocks (all while holding AK-47s) and thankfully Slava was able to get through very quickly.

36:58 What were some of the highlights for specific countries?

Kalen asks Slava to talk about some of the more country-specific highlights.

Slava talks about the deserts of Mauritania, the beaches of Sierra Leone, and the forests of Gabon.

He was surprised at the lack of animals in a large portion of the countries he traveled through, but Gabon was the first place where they encountered some of Africa’s famed wildlife.

Elephant GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Namibia and South Africa were also highlights of the trip because of how developed they were. In these places, it was easy to rent a car and Slava was able to partake in some of the conveniences and hospitalities of more modernized countries.

Zimbabwe was also a special location for Slava due to the laid back and hospitable people who reside there despite the economic crisis that the country is going through.

East Africa and South Africa were great for their National Parks and for seeing lots of animals.

Ethiopia is a wonderful place for culture as it is one of the only countries that has not been colonized.

Sudan used to be off limits due to wars and sanctions and has recently been opened up. Slava also ran into difficulties here because Zoom was blocked from Sudan so he was unable to get on his conference call. The Magento dev docs also cannot be opened from Sudan.

47:18 Experiences That We Lack

Phillip asks Slava if he now has a better perspective on how truly blessed and rich we are in regards to our modern conveniences.

Slava lets him know that the experiences are going to stay with him for a while. Even things that seem basic such as safety are not constants throughout the world and after being extremely cautious for half a year, Slava won’t take that for granted again.

49:10 Namibian Geocache

Last year Kuba Zwolinski (@snowdog) was running a marathon across Namibia and he planted a geocache in the desert and then sent the coordinates to Slava.

Fast forward half a year and Slava followed the coordinates and found the cache. Kuba planted it in a pile of old tires and warned Slava that there might be snakes…

51:35 The Show Must Go On

With the large chunk of time spent away from the business, Kalen asks Slava to talk about things went with Atwix when he was away.

Slava says that he had some time to plan and he gradually delegated things that were dependent on him before he left. He also did a test run of how things would work without him before he left.

Spoiler: things went well.

Slava was excited to get back into the work zone right away once he got back from his journey.

56:29 Any Publications on the Horizon?

Phillip asks Slava if he intends to publish anything about the trip.

Slava says that there is already enough material for a book on his Instagram and Facebook accounts and it has to be edited and put together.

There is also plenty of great material on Olena’s Instagram.

There are also lots of really great videos that chronicle on the trip on Slava’s YouTube Channel.

58:28 The Magento Association

Kalen asks Slava to talk a little about how the Magento Association is going.

Slava mentions that there might not be that as much communication going out right now as people might want to hear, but the Association is quickly progressing through lots of the tedious initial tasks.

Slava also lets the community know that the Magento Association will be present at Imagine this year and they will be able to talk much more about what the Association will be doing for the community.


Slava Kravchuk (@slkra) from Atwix


MageTalk Episode 193 – Slapping Elevators

The boys discuss Magento Order Management, Phillip dropping his album, Page Builder, and the new Adobe Commerce Cloud logo.

Listen now!

Show Notes

This episode was also live-streamed so if you wanna the boys’ beautiful faces, click here.

1:19 Gotta Get Some Shares Out

The boys guesstimate how many days out we are from Imagine. Respect the estimation skills.

Kalen also talks about going “full metro” if he ever worked for Something Digital.

3:10 April Fools Day

Phillip lets us know that it is April Fools day and his daughter’s birthday and that he has already been tricked several times before recording this episode.

4:14 “This Is My New Vibe”

Phillip hears a strange sound from Kalen’s audio and Kalen lets him know that he’s recording from his garage and that it’s his new vibe.

Phillip also asks Kalen to prove his darts skills. This is quality podcasting.

6:04 That Album Drop Tho

Kalen just did an entire Periscope talking about Phillip’s album that just dropped. Kalen is also very impressed at the fact that Phillip was able to drop an album amidst an onslaught of other activities and pursuits.

Phillip talks about the changes he made in his life that have allowed him the time to record the album and how these changes have evened out other facets of his day to day life.

Not to say I predicted the album drop but did I predict Phillip’s musician persona last year? You tell me.

12:13 The Spotify Thing

Kalen asks Phillip what it’s like to be on Spotify. Phillip lets it slip that the last time he recorded a project, it was recorded onto physical CDs. Gasp.

The boys then talk about how they still use CDs today.

Phillip talks about the platform he used to distribute the music on multiple streaming platforms (called DistroKid). He then lets us know that Instagram now has a music streaming service as well.

The boys also let us know their ages.

14:09 Atwix Is At It Again

About a year ago, Atwix did some MageTalk Artwork. Well, the boys are thrilled that the Atwix team has created another set of wallpapers for 2019!

Check out the sneak peek below!

Kalen fills for time when Phillip has to step away for a bit and lets us know that Slava Kravchuk (@slkra) from Atwix will be on the podcast soon to talk about his recent trip to Africa.

16:46 Stay Tuned

The boys will also be having several people from the Magento Certification Team on the show soon to talk about some of their recent certifications.

16:55 A Quick Throwback

Phillip mentions how amazing the most recent MageTalk Episode with Lee Goldsworthy from was. If you haven’t already done so, have a listen.

19:24 Does MOM Need a Certification?

Phillip asks if Magento Order Management is pervasive enough to require its own certification. Do you think it needs one?

Phillip might be deprecated soon with all these new certifications.

Kalen asks what the difference is between MOM and ERP.

24:47 Phillip’s MOM Situation

Phillip brings up a situation he was in recently where Magento Order Management would have been helpful for him.

Here’s a hint: it’s about shoes. Due to an error, Phillip accidentally ordered 4 pairs of the exact same show. Find out how he thinks this could have been prevented.

There also might be a show title in here somewhere…

Find out what Phillip means by slapping elevators.

30:17 Kalen Talks About Titles

Kalen talks a bit about how everyone uses different job titles for the same thing and how it’s impossible to tell the difference between some of them. Pretty much, a lot of different titles mean the same thing with different pay rates.

31:15 Shoutout for the Show Notes

Phillip (very kindly) gives a shoutout for the show notes and how he has recently used them to reference the content of previous episodes. Kalen also calls the show notes an “underrated gem”.

This was pretty much my reaction.

32:00 More Banana Content?

Phillip mentions using the show notes to find out when the inception of Kalen’s “pornographic” banana obsession took place.

We also find out that Kalen just bought three banana racks from Bed Bath & Beyond recently…

Some things never change…

34:05 Integrated Ad Time

The boys “seamlessly” work in an ad for MageMojo for all your Magento hosting needs.

They’re pretty cool if I don’t say so myself.

Kalen also creates a new MageMojo dance.

36:35 Phillip Has a Question

Phillip asks Kalen what he knows and feels about Magento promising that Page Builder would be a module, and then changing their minds and saying that it would no longer be a module.

Did Magento ever actually commit to Page Builder being a paid module in the marketplace? Phillip also lets Kalen know that the Magento Twitter community doesn’t seem too happy about the change.

Kalen lets us know his thoughts and also informs us that he hates parallax scroll.

41:34 Ward Has Left The Building

Phillip casually mentions that Andrea Ward (@awatpa) is no longer at Magento (because she went over to Adobe) and Kalen is taken by surprise that she no longer focuses on Magento at all.

Phillip cautiously brings up (at the risk of losing his MC of Imagine gig) the fact that Brad Rencher (@bradrencher) has recently left Adobe.

42:57 The New Adobe Commerce Cloud Logo

The boys talk about the new Adobe Commerce Cloud logo that was unveiled at this year’s Adobe Summit.

Check it out.

Phillip says that if you look hard enough and cross your eyes a little bit, the logo looks like the demogorgon from Stanger Things… He also says that it kind of looks like a demented “M” smiling at you.

Phillip also breaks down exactly what Adobe Commerce Cloud is and the fact that it is a completely different product from Magento.


-Slava Kravchuk (@slkra)
-Andrea Ward (@awatpa)
-Brad Rencher (@bradrencher)

Livestream of This Episode
Phillip’s Album
2018 MageTalk Wallpapers
2019 MageTalk Wallpapers
MageTalk Episode 192-“Lee Goldsworthy, Unfiltered”