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Jonathan Payne on balancing developer productivity and control with Mendix

on November 19, 2015

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In this month’s rapid developer profile, we’re highlighting Jonathan Payne, web developer at Digital Risk. Find out why Jonathan made the move from database specialist to Mendix developer, and how he uses code to extend Mendix and balance productivity and control.

What’s your education and professional background? Did you have prior development experience before using Mendix?

Jonathan PayneI started out in entertainment, attending Full Sail University for recording arts. And while I liked studying audio and recording, I decided to continue my education in other areas after graduation. I started to take development courses to help my job prospects and completed a SQL development certification program.

From there, I built my experience in database development and database administration and became proficient in Java, T-SQL database administration and development (including SSRS and SSIS), as well as MySQL and MongoDB administration. Over the years, I’ve also built up my experience with web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript which eventually led me to a position with DigitalRisk.

DigitalRisk already had a Mendix development team and wanted to add another person with a background in databases and relational data models. I already had some experience with Java, JavaScript and CSS, so tackling a web developer role seemed interesting. During the interview process, DigitalRisk introduced me to the Mendix platform and I loved it. I saw it as a fun and challenging way to expand further into the development field.

What were your initial thoughts regarding the Mendix platform?

When I dug into the platform, I was excited by the drag-and-drop, plug-and-play functionality. I could take pieces from a toolbox and connect them together, meaning there wasn’t a lot of coding on the back end to design functionality.

The Mendix framework is designed for web and mobile, removing the cumbersome aspects associated with programming multi-device and multi-channel interfaces. With Mendix, this is all done for you; I thought it was very valuable and very exciting.

How did you ramp up on the new development platform?

I just started to play around with it, exploring how the functionality worked as far as designing web pages and connecting Microflows. Additionally, I relied on the knowledge of my coworkers, the Mendix Introduction Course and Mendix API documentation.

There is a learning curve. For example, the domain model was a bit of a challenge at first as it’s very different from a traditional database model. But once you understand the basics, everything else flows.

Beyond the basics, I learned about the ability to use Java Action Calls, which allowed me to tie Java code into processes. With this, I can now decide when I want to write my own code, depending on how fast I need a process to go. While Mendix enables greater speed of development, it can also be liberating to add my own code when I need more control over a particular function. I like having the ability to decide between productivity and control.

Can you describe a few of the applications that you’ve built?

I mostly work on an application that helps DigitalRisk process loans associated with one of its clients. I’ve enjoyed learning new things about the business process and then working on the change requests as they come in, as our client is regularly asking us to build out the application functionality.

It’s been great to contribute to a project where I can do something efficiently, and quickly turnaround a solution to help the business. We release new functionality on a regular schedule and are always working with our testing group and client to ensure the new functionality works as needed. We typically have two week development sprints, a couple weeks of QA, and then a couple weeks of UAT.

Can you describe your ‘aha moment’ with Mendix?

I had my ‘aha moment’ while experimenting with widgets. At first, I didn’t understand the Dojo framework. But once I understood how it tied together with XML and JavaScript, it made life so much easier. It provides so much more flexibility.

Can you name a few of your favorite components from the Mendix App Store?

I’m very fond of the HTML/Javascript Snippet widget and use these to do little interactions in JQuery, like custom dynamic CSS changes. I’m also working on building my own widget that will provide design and reporting capabilities for pie charts. I’m going to tie in an SQL query as well to pull in data and then parameters for chart design. I’m about half way done building this.

Reusability is critical to DigitalRisk. We use widgets religiously and are always looking for new ones to help us move faster. I’m constantly on the Mendix App Store looking up new things to include. I just discovered the progress bar widget, which is potentially really useful for clients with long processes.

What advice do you have for a new Mendix developer?

If you’re used to traditional database structures, don’t get too caught up on those concepts. Have an open mind. If you stay rigid as those concepts have you believe, you’ll overlook certain things that would make your life easier. Once you start to understand how Mendix represents things, you can incorporate this new mindset with your previous knowledge.

How would you describe Mendix in your own words?

If you’re looking for a fast and efficient way to create great web and mobile applications, the Mendix platform is for you. Mendix provides a quick and easy way to build out a business process without having to know a whole lot of coding. You can quickly arrange functionality within a friendly user interface.

What are you interested in or passionate about outside of work?

I’m interested in music composition and sequence. I also really like video games and can’t wait for Star Wars Battlefront to come out.

Instead of being bogged down by line after line of code, Rapid Application Developers focus on the real technical challenges of app projects and partner with the business to deliver game-changing apps. Download our ebook: Meet the Rapid Developer – Bridging IT and Business to Deliver Rock Star Results.

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