Imran Kasam on Treating Each Application Like a Design Problem
In today’s maker profile, we’re featuring Imran Kasam, Co-Founder and Senior Solutions Consultant at 2P Innovations. Hear how Imran has advanced his career by becoming a Mendix developer and how his background in design and system administration helped set him up for success.
What’s your education and professional background? Did you have prior development experience before using Mendix?
I started my career in the U.S. Marine Corps focused on Special Intelligence System Administration. In this role, I was responsible for troubleshooting network issues and hardware administration. As part of my role, I learned HTML and CSS and built some SharePoint sites, but nothing too in-depth from a development perspective.
After several years of working in IT infrastructure and support, I went back to school to study design and received a degree in Graphic Design. I am currently working on my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management at Western Governors University. While attending school, I worked my way up at Caris Life Sciences starting in the IT Help Desk, moving into a web design role, and then eventually leading their new Mendix development team.
What were your initial thoughts regarding the Mendix platform?
I moved to the Mendix development team just as the group was formed within Caris. I was given a chance to take a three-day introduction to Mendix course, along with four other team members. From there, we spring-boarded into the world of application development and started to build our first applications.
It was the first time I had ever built an application – or thought that I was capable of building an application. But the Mendix platform made application development much easier to comprehend and faster to deliver new features and value to the business. I also now have a much better understanding of programming concepts.
How did your past design experience help you when learning to use the Mendix platform?
When I look at every new program or consider building a new application, I always consider the user experience as far as layouts, colors, and eye flow. I approach everything as a design problem, which works well with Mendix’s platform, as it forces users to consider the full system and flow of data before building functionality.
Besides your initial training, how did you ramp up on the new development platform?
I was learning to program while also learning to visually model an application. I took every opportunity to see how different programs and models worked and then tried to replicate them on my own in Mendix. Mendix’s sample projects in the App Store were very helpful as part of this.
I also tried to stay as close as possible to our Mendix experts. When they were on site, I closely watched how they crafted new pages and functions and then tried to apply their work to my own designs after they had left. And finally, I relied heavily on the Mendix Forum to see how other developers tackled difficult situations for a positive end result.
Can you describe a few of the applications that you’ve built?
My first application was a physician portal for Caris. It was originally built in Java but then moved to the Mendix platform. A lot of what we built in the initial release already existed, so I worked closely with our Java developers to understand the architecture and replicate the functionality in Mendix. In this application, physicians log into the application to order tests and interactively explore test results. Once we released the initial functionality, we then built out a dashboard so that users can interactively view test results and share them with their colleagues to identify potential treatment options.
I’ve also worked on a number of other applications, including a new CMI registry application and a new point-to-point case management tool. The CMI registry application correlates patient outcomes with their lab results and therapeutic regimens so that we have insight into the use and effectiveness of identified treatment options. We have already put out an enhanced version of the CMIR called GUIDE and with Mendix, we’re on track to build several new studies into the application within the next year. I assisted with the architecture of GUIDE. We used the questionnaire module from the Mendix App Store as a foundation and were able to streamline the process for creating studies. The Mendix application with the first study was ultimately developed by a colleague and two other developers within a three-month timeframe. Due to the design approach, subsequent studies can be added to the application with significantly less overhead.
Can you describe your ‘aha moment’ with Mendix?
I experience an ‘aha’ on every project. There’s always something that comes up which requires a unique solution, but it always comes together in the end. Part of the fun is coming up with new, creative solutions. Now, I can look at Java code and understand what’s going on, where I couldn’t a few years ago. I can even write custom Java, which I only learned through hands-on practice pushing myself through various projects.
How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
You’re building an application through a model, which means you’re building application logic without having to worry about code or syntax. It’s similar to how Photoshop redefined photo manipulation. The Business Modeler has redefined how you orchestrate application components. The Mendix platform is a great tool for building applications. It allows you to work visually, tackling everything from the database to front-end widgets (and everything else in between).
What advice do you have for a new Mendix developer?
You need to get in there and just start working. Do what you can to continuously practice, as there are so many different ways to achieve the same goal. You can download sample projects and reverse engineer the program or follow a steady stream of Forum and Blog posts to hear what community members are doing day-to-day. Whatever you can grasp for information, read it. And ask for help from those who know the platform better than you. Leave any preconceived notions behind and approach modeling in Mendix as a pure form.
How does Mendix help you or make your life better?
I’m able to launch new features quickly and determine what works without nearly as much R&D time as what was previously required. This lets me work with business stakeholders to determine what’s working and what requires further iteration. Ultimately, Mendix helps me quickly turn projects around and get valuable insight into the value that they provide.
Can you tell us about your new Mendix consultancy practice?
After learning a lot from the Caris Life Sciences team, I decided to branch out on my own. My company, 2P Innovations, is primarily a Mendix consultancy shop. We partner with entrepreneurs and SMBs that need help developing their technology strategy and building innovative new solutions. I show my clients why they need to treat themselves as a software company, and then help them achieve greater technology goals.
What are you interested in or passionate about outside of work?
I’m really interested in music. I play the guitar and have recently been playing around with different digital music software. I’ve used Ableton Live, but also a few others, and am not sure which I prefer.