Jordan Boyle: From No Programming Background to Sole Developer of NCSU’s Lab Management App
In today’s maker profile, we are featuring Jordan Boyle, Software Developer and Business Engineer at NC State University. Hear how he became the sole developer to build the university’s Lab Management application.
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?
I got my Bachelors from NC State in Business Information Technology. I have been programming on calculators since 7th grade. I took some courses on programming in high school and college but no official programming experience before Mendix. I was hired at NC State as an intern. I was part of the process of figuring out if we wanted to program something ourselves or get it out of the box. We ended up going with Mendix and I volunteered to be the first Mendix developer at NC State. The rest is history.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
Our customers have very different needs but share a common purpose. No solution fit perfectly out-of-the-box. And the off the shelf solutions were too expensive and would require extensive customization. There was no one size fits all kind of solution. We realized we would need to develop this ourselves. We started looking at different platforms and decided Mendix would be the most useful to build our own solution.
My initial reaction to Mendix was I can’t believe I am building apps all by myself! Getting into it with the team and building stuff for NC State, it was a very rapid progression and I figured things out really quickly.
3. What was most helpful learning Mendix?
I participated in the online tutorials and online forum. I started building apps for fun, like an intern project tracker and a song management application. I got my hands dirty with the platform and then the project started and I got better really quickly.
4. What have you built using the platform? Which app/project are you most proud of?
So far, we have two applications in Mendix. The first one, called REPORTER, monitors all the non-credit activity for NC State and all the compliance required training. For example, there are people on campus that work on nuclear facilities and might need radiation safety training and this app tracks and makes sure they are up to date on all their training so they can do their jobs. It also provides course registration and other things.
The other app is called Lab Management and tracks equipment and usage for labs across campus. The app keeps track of billing and training for people who need to be trained before using the equipment. The app can validate whether they have been trained and if not they get the option to sign up for training through the app. I am most proud of this one – I started this with a wider knowledge base and learned from my mistakes from the previous app. I am the sole developer of this application so that is really cool.
I am also proud to be a mentor at NC State to get other students involved with Mendix. We have taken the next step at NC State with the Mendix university program to continue to educate future Mendix developers. Right now, I am a mentor for a group of four students who are using Mendix to build an application as part of their senior project. Their idea is to throw a Hackathon to get other students involved with Mendix, and the app they are building is the registration tool for the hackathon event.
5. Have you had any “aha moments” using Mendix?
I’ve had a few! I used to do certain retrieves and it would take six steps to get a list of things and then iterate and validate which ones I wanted. Through xpath with Mendix, I have taken a six-step process down to just one step. I don’t need to program but can do what I need in one step! I am also still blown away by how easy it is to integrate with other services through REST.
6. What advice would you give to other Mendix developers?
There is no other way to learn other than jumping in, failing and course correcting. Get your hands dirty.
7. How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
I have never been a hard-core coder but have always been interested in programming. Because of Mendix, I can have a real programming job out of college without having all the knowledge others have. I love being part of a development team, and this wouldn’t be possible without Mendix.
8. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Easy, intuitive and fun. I look at life as Mendix microflows and relationships.
9. What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?
I am a huge Phish fan, I have been to 25 concerts. I love music and I am in a band myself. I have been playing guitar for 10 years.