Austin McNicholas Learns a New Skill Every Week with the Mendix Low-Code Platform
In today’s maker profile, we are featuring Austin McNicholas, RAD solutions consultant at EPI-USE. As a business-oriented developer and analyst, learn how Mendix helps him do his job efficiently and discover the apps he has created for clients.
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?
I studied technology and information management at UC Santa Cruz, California. I have a computer science degree combined with business studies. When I started using Mendix, I had no previous development experience; just a little exposure to development in college.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
My role at EPI-USE is my first job since college, and it’s here that I came across Mendix. I was intrigued by the platform from the start. I still find it really cool how you can build an application using visual modeling; I’m a visual kind of person.
3. What was most helpful when learning Mendix?
I did the Mendix rapid developer course. That was a great introduction. I find the Mendix online training academy the best tool for my hands-on learning now, the resources within the academy are really robust. I also confer with the Mendix developer community.
4. What have you built using the platform? Which app/project are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of a banking application that I helped build for a mortgage company. The app was integrated with the company’s order tracking system. The company dealt with a lot of mortgage refinancing, there were a lot of loans going into people’s bank accounts and of course repayments being received. Before we built the app, two of their employees had to constantly look at various bank accounts on the screen to spot new transaction postings, and there were then about 600 a day. They would then cut and paste information about each transaction to their order tracking system. When the company wanted to pay funds out, they had to do this manually too, visiting the firm’s online bank account to instruct payment.
The application we built directly integrated with their bank and was able to import new transaction receipts, match these to an order and then post to the order management system. For outgoing payments, we built a batch process so the company could instruct multiple transactions at the push of a button. For the mortgage company, it cut manual input significantly and also prevented user error, which had sometimes led to incorrect payments.
5. Have you had any “a-ha!” moments using Mendix?
Every week I learn something new. Existing features are always being improved and new features are constantly being added. Recently, the capability to publish REST services was added, which really speeds that process up. Another aha moment came from the instant update performance enhancement. The time when running locally has been reduced significantly, which results in more time to test new features and fix bugs.
6. What advice would you give to other Mendix developers?
I’d suggest to anyone who’s new to developing on Mendix that the best way to learn is to practice. Take advantage of the resources in the Mendix training academy portal, the online modules are very robust and there is a good amount of documentation. I also suggest asking the Mendix community for help, they have always been there to answer my questions.
7. How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
For me, the platform really speeds development. It takes away a lot of the tedious tasks I’d otherwise have to go through to build and launch a web application. For example, creating databases, creating HTML pages, and linking back to the database are all tasks that all really quick with Mendix. This gives me more time to do other tasks. It means I can focus on key aspects of my job, such as business analysis and solving business problems, rather than on technical detail. Also, Mendix means I can cover more than one role. I’m a business analyst, developer and project manager all rolled into one. I’m very comfortable with that.
8. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is a tool that allows anyone from any educational background to develop web and mobile applications.
9. What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?
I have a desk job, so I am always keen to pack my free time with lots of physical exercise. Every week I swim laps in the pool.