How Carolien Leutscher-Steyn Became Proficient in Mendix with No Prior Development Experience
In today’s maker profile, we’re featuring Carolien Leutscher-Steyn, a consultant for Mendix partner Magnus, a technology and consultancy services firm based in the Netherlands. Hear how she uses Mendix to create enterprise applications for use in omni-channel sales and operations management.
What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?
I have two degrees. First, I went to school to become a baker. My second degree, at Hogeschool Utrecht in the Netherlands, was in Management Economics and Law (MER). I specialized in Business Information Management (BIM), to become the bridge between the business and IT. My first job was as a relationship manager at the branch platform for ecommerce called Thuiswinkel.org.
How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
In my previous job, there was a Mendix project being implemented by an external supplier. I coordinated the project, and I did all the testing and had all the contact with the developers. I saw them working with Mendix and thought “I could do this, as well.” That’s when I applied at Magnus.
My initial reaction to Mendix? It was my first development experience, so everything was very new. I didn’t know a lot about data models or entities or microflows. I learned quite fast. It was very good for my confidence that I made the right choice to do this, to do something new.
How long did it take to learn to work on the Mendix platform?
After a week I had my first assignment, so I had to learn very fast. I had a small role in a big project, and that was a good start to learn about the large range of possibilities Mendix offers. I’ve been working with Mendix now for two years. To fully be able to be productive working on my own, it took maybe three to four months.
What was most helpful learning Mendix?
The most helpful thing was just doing it, actually. And I’m convinced that’s the best way to learn Mendix: Just jump in and learn. I did watch some of the training videos. But by then I already knew everything that was in the video.
What have you built using the platform? Which app/project are you most proud of?
At Magnus I worked on what we call the Omni-channel Integration Layer, or OIL. It applies to retail, where a company wants to create an omni-channel environment. At the back-end all external suppliers and warehouses are integrated, the retailer has access to all the omni-channel data he needs. What we do is we integrate with the web shop and cash register, ERP, the warehouse, the post office and the bank. We keep everything up to date. It’s a very large application, and it works very well. We have implemented this solution at a lot of retailers, for example WE Fashion and Floris van Bommel.
Using the Mendix Platform, we’re able to make changes and keep improving the product. It’s pretty much an entire new project every time because we work with a different web shop, logistics party or bank. The heart of the application stays the same, but there are always changes around making the projects client-specific that we are able to do very quickly with Mendix.
Have you had any “aha moments” using Mendix?
A lot. I am always happy to find out something new to make it easier. I really like how easy it is to create forms with Mendix. I have worked with the previous version of Mendix, where you first have to create an entity and then afterwards you make changes. Now, you can do the ‘create’ and the ‘change’ all in one. That was my first ‘aha moment’.
What advice would you give to other Mendix developers?
Put a lot of effort into the right data model. Get your data in order before you start with the forms and the microflows. First, check if it’s possible, and then set up the data model, so there are no unnecessary associations. It saves a lot of database performance. Your exports will be much more efficient if you don’t have to do a lot of database retrievals. You can get the information smoothly if you have the right associations.
How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
I do not have any experience developing with a different language. Sometimes I have to work in Java. I’m glad that I don’t have to write code every day and I can just click it all together.
How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
I describe it as drawing a business process with very little detail. With Mendix you can go into the business process and explain every action, whether it be changes, creating something or connecting data together. Mendix describes in detail how a business process is built, and hits every single step in this process.
What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?
Baking is a favorite hobby. I just got married and I baked my own wedding cake. I also bake birthday cakes, and I like to add a little extra to make it more fun. I once made a ripped-open M&M’s bag as a cake. We have a baking show in Holland (Heel Holland Bakt) and sometimes I follow along and make what they bake.
But I have a broad variety of hobbies. I also love to run. I just ran a half marathon. I attend a boot camp every Monday with my colleagues. And I love to play LEGO games on my Xbox. I have the Star Wars Xbox Edition. So my Xbox bleeps like R2D2 when I start it, which shows my inner nerdiness.