Rapid Developer Profile: Andries Smit, Flock of Birds | Mendix

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Rapid Developer Profile: Andries Smit, Flock of Birds

Rapid Developer Profile: Andries Smit, Flock of Birds by Mendix

The Mendix maker profile series helps recognize and celebrate our user community, and the team’s shared characteristics. For those of you who are new to the series or to Mendix, our developers come with a wide range of skills and backgrounds. We pride ourselves on blurring the lines between business and IT.

Our next spotlight stops on Andries Smit, Mendix Consultant at Flock of Birds, a sister company to Mendix partner, Mansystems. Andries’ expertise comes from working closely on his own Mendix projects, as well as being an active contributor to the Mendix App Store and forum.

1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?

I have a computer science degree from Hogeschool van Amsterdam. My first job was in IT at Mansystems. I was a consultant helping across the application lifecycle, from architecting, building, implementing, and training users. Most of my development experience prior to Mendix included coding in Java, PHP, JavaScript, and C. After five years in this role, I left to travel the world. When I came back, I started to work as a Mendix consultant for Flock of Birds, a social enterprise aimed at distributing solutions to NGOs in Africa.

2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?

I was inspired by the concept of Mendix, having first seen the platform through the ExpertDesk solution created by Mansystems. I sought Mendix on my own, joining an introductory course at Mendix in Rotterdam, and started working in a sample project using existing documentation and tutorials.

I was surprised by how the platform behaved at first, but having come from a more traditional development background, I realized that I had to apply a different way of thinking to work in Mendix quickly. Ultimately, you need to rewire how you approach a problem. Once I embraced this new mindset, I was able to move very quickly.

3. What was the ramp up like? What was most helpful when learning Mendix?

After four weeks of working in Mendix, I was able to solve problems and create applications on my own. However, I wanted to push the boundaries, complete complex projects, and build my own widgets. This required asking a lot of hard questions, and figuring things out on my own. Now, there are many online video training materials that make adoption even faster.

4. What drives you to share with the community? Where do you look for ideas?

I like to push the boundaries and develop when I see limitations. Mendix development can go really quickly. But part of what makes it so fast are the shortcuts that people add. When I find something that Mendix doesn’t offer, I investigate how to make it happen. I create Mendix widgets because I’m curious.

I’m also active on the Mendix forum. When I have questions, I appreciate that there is help out there. It’s also a good way to keep up-to-date with what others are struggling with and provides a great way for the community to share and give back to each other.

5. What widgets have you created?

The most used widget that I’ve created is probably the ‘data grid extension’ widget. This allows you to move, hide or edit columns – all of which I found to be in demand by Mendix developers. I collected the wishes from my colleagues and started developing in my spare time.

I’ve also created other widgets available in the Mendix App Store, including widgets for a radio button, audio video playback, bootstrap progress bar, and tab extension (for DynamicNames, buttons, etc.). Moreover, I contribute to many existing widgets and share code on GitHub for the Dropzone, Bootstrap-RTE, RadiobuttonList, and Simple Chart widgets. I encourage the rest of the community to contribute to the shared development via GitHub as well.

6. What advice do you have for Mendix developers who wish to get involved in the community?

People need to be more curious about what’s happening in the app store. There are so many widgets that they aren’t aware of. If the feature exists, why build from scratch? Too many developers are not aware; these are all valuable time savers.

Also, be really aware of the business value you are adding. Too often, developers focus on building something really cool. But often, these projects aren’t necessary for the business.

7. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?

As a product, I’d say that Mendix is a great tool – but even so, every tool needs an interested developer to build apps that add value.

As an organization, I’d say that Mendix motivates us to move forward and grow. And to do this, we all need to value the community and listen to what the group has to offer. The best way forward is sharing and transparency.

8. What are your favorite news sites/blogs/forums?

I like the training available in Khan Academy. However, I use a number of other sites depending on what I’m trying to learn.

9. What are you interested in/passionate about outside of work?

I like to go skiing, snowboarding, and kite surfing. I’m also very interested in African wildlife.

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