Avertra’s Ron Kratz creates opportunities with Mendix
In today’s maker profile, we talk with Ron Kratz, Customer Success Lead at Avertra. See how Ron went from having very little programming experience to developing organization-shifting applications in a matter of weeks, all with Mendix.
Tell us about your professional background. How did you get into programming and how’d you get into Mendix?
My professional background has mainly been in retail. After I exited the retail profession, I entered government service with a water utility and 311 call center. That’s where I was exposed to utilities and SAP. I worked there for about a year and then transitioned to the support division that supported that actual call center. I worked as the SAP Support Manager and led a team of analysts who supported the entire implementation. That was always in a business support capacity, never as a programmer. The only programming I’d ever had was in high school, with the basic programming languages.
Mendix was brought to Avertra by our CEO and Matt Daniels, our director of product development. They discovered Mendix in late 2017. I remember Matt coming to me with this excited look on his face. He said, “I have found the coolest thing. You’re going to love it.” He sat down and explained Mendix to me and how it was going to revolutionize how we approached product development.
I was skeptical because I don’t understand programming languages; they’re too complicated and I didn’t have an interest in programming languages, but I kept an open mind. We began in January 2018 with the online Mendix tutorials. Our director also led us through a three-day training session with a much deeper dive into our particular domain model. I began to see that this was actually something that I could do. Not just me, but other product owners and non-programmers. Everyone in the training was excited, including non-developers. This was a new direction for our company.
What was your ‘a-ha’ moment with Mendix?
When I was working through the tutorials, and I actually saw my application working and doing what the instructions said it was supposed to do. Having had a background in SAP, programming has always made sense to me, but I couldn’t read and fully understand code. But seeing it in Mendix, especially the domain model, I was able to actually read it and understand it versus something like Java or PHP. I could actually look at Mendix and say, “Okay, I understand how this attribute is being affected. I understand how it’s going to display on the screen and I understand the interface.” That was the exciting part of all of it: being able to understand and know what I could do with it.
The “a-ha” moment came when I realized that developers and myself were going to speak the same language.
The “a-ha” moment came when I realized that developers and myself were going to speak the same language. I could talk to them about entities, attributes, and expressions, and they could say the same to me, and we would be able to be on the same page when it came to troubleshooting or development. I still work with developers. Some of the things that we’re doing with Mendix are extremely complex, and that’s not my wheelhouse, but understanding Mendix certainly helps me describe to developers the functionality that we’re building in a way that I couldn’t before with Mendix. I’m even able to bring part of the code into my local system and troubleshoot to see if I can fix something before I even engage with a developer.
What was the first problem that you solved with Mendix?
I’ve been part of our internal product transformation where we’ve been taking our existing product and transitioning it into Mendix. So, there haven’t really been any problems we were resolving necessarily; it was just getting the functionality onto the new platform. But in the next few weeks, we are about to start development for one of our clients where we’re going to create a dashboard visualization of their work orders so their executives can have a high-level view of their team’s productivity. That’s normally something that would take a couple of months, and we’re projecting to have it done in a couple of weeks.
Being in customer success, is it gratifying to be delivering quality outcomes in a short period of time?
Absolutely, it’s going to make our jobs easier. Once our clients see the turnaround time and the quality we can provide, they’re going to want more. It’s going to give us the opportunity to get more of our products into their hands and simplify their lives. Then, they’re going to get the WOW factor.
What sort of new opportunities do you think Mendix has created for you in your career?
Before, I said that I didn’t understand programming languages fully and didn’t have a desire to learn them. Now I have a desire to learn more about the Mendix platform. It opens the doors for me to move into other areas of the company like product development where I can leverage my knowledge of our clients’ business to directly and more quickly impact our products.
One last question: Do you like pizza?
I like pizza, with pepperoni, bacon, and jalapenos, but it doesn’t like me back.