In today’s maker profile, we speak to Imran Kasam, senior developer and architect at EXP Realty. Imran has been using Mendix for six years. Here, he tells us about the exciting projects he’s worked on over his career and how Mendix has helped him launch his career in software development.
Hear the full conversation below:
How did you get into software development?
It’s an interesting story. I wasn’t a traditional developer before I started working with Mendix. I learned basic programming in the eighth grade. I took a class in C++ in the tenth grade, and I decided I was never going to work as a software programmer. While it was really cool and I picked it up quickly, it just seemed a little too tedious for me to do. I actually got into development just playing around with some web stuff later on. I worked in hardware, infrastructure, and things like that for a while. I would always play around on the side with things like SharePoint or WordPress and started working on some front-end development. Mendix was really how I got into development as a serious profession.
What prompted you to begin using a low-code platform and Mendix specifically?
Six years ago, I was at a health care company called Caris Life Sciences, and had just transitioned over to the software development team from the help desk team. I was assigned to work on the WordPress sites. The company was about to start using Mendix, so they decided to have Mendix come onsite to teach a course. It just so happened that one of the Java developers who was supposed to attend the class wasn’t able to make it, so I was put into the class last-minute to learn Mendix and be part of the initial team.
What was your initial reaction to Mendix?
I thought it was an extremely cool tool because I was able to understand the concepts, and take these things and build working programs without writing any code. I was really amazed by how powerful the platform was. I had worked with other systems—WordPress is the one I’m going to keep going back to—where you can get plugins from the community and you don’t really have to do too much coding. But you are extremely limited in what you can do. Mendix gives you a lot more flexibility with what you program, and you can make more powerful programs because of the technology that’s underlying the modeler.
Have you had any “aha” moments using Mendix?
It was during the first program that I built with Caris, which is a portal where physicians go and order tests and view results. I was part of a team of four people that started in our Mendix class. We split up into two two-person teams but we assisted each other along the way. Each of us had one app that we were mainly responsible for. But then we would assist each other as we went along.
That was really the first time I had built a program from beginning to end, I had never coded one before. I was like, “Wow, I can actually do this without having a deep coding background.”
What sort of products are you building at eXp Realty with Mendix?
What aren’t we building? eXp Realty is providing us with some amazing opportunities. While eXp serves as a real estate brokerage, at its core, it’s a technology company. At the heart of that technology is Mendix. We are doing a lot of amazing things. We are in the middle of implementing a microservice architecture at the moment. We’ve got many teams of developers who are working with business partners and product owners to design software to help solve problems for eXp Realty and keep us at the cutting edge of the market when it comes to real estate.
The business is very involved. We look at DevOps as a culture in the way that we interact with our business partners. We have innovation teams, where there is a subject matter expert from the business, a product owner, one to three developers, some QA testers and a product launch specialist. They are tied to a specific value stream of the company. Together, they define the problems and help design the solutions for those. The business is very much involved in the process, and we are very much involved with them.
We get to sit right beside the business as we’re working. What’s really unique about eXp is that it’s a virtual company. Everyone works remotely; our team is spread out throughout the world. I’ve got an 18-hour development day where I have developers waking up and going to sleep throughout the day.
How do you interact with each other with Mendix to keep the DevOps cycle working through an 18-hour development day?
eXp provides a lot of tools that we use to communicate with each other. When it comes to Mendix, we work in small teams, so even though people are disconnected, they are able to kind of work through with the modeler and pick up where one left off and continue on or split up their work in certain ways. This way we are not stepping on each other’s toes.
How has Mendix created new opportunities for you specifically in your career?
One of the biggest opportunities is the one that I’m in now: Being able to work as a software developer and get into leadership in software development. A big shift came for me in my career when I started working with Mendix because it opened up some different roads. I took some risks when I jumped out to be an independent consultant back when a lot of people didn’t really know what Mendix was and it has paid off in a big way by just having the opportunities open up. More and more people are adopting Mendix. Quite honestly, I think I fight off recruiters every week.
What advice would you give to other professional developers who are skeptical of low-code or just starting out with Mendix?
Mendix provides a lot of great tools with the modeler. It’s very robust and it gives you a lot of control over what you do compared to some other tools that might provide similar functionality. I didn’t come from a traditional coding background, so it’s hard for me to relate to the skepticism. I would say to anyone trying something new: the world is changing and the way that we interact with it is changing, too. Things like Mendix are going to be the future of development. We’ll get to a point where everyone is programming their lives through tools like this and coding is going to become a thing of the past. We may be farther away from that, but it’s definitely happening. For people who want to try something new or find a shift in their career, keep an open mind and give it a shot. Take it for what it is, don’t try to make it what it isn’t. But just learn something new and grow.
Do you like pizza and what is your favorite kind?
I love pizza. Honestly, my favorite kind of pizza has jalapeños and onions on it.