Welcome to the latest installment of our Rapid Developer series. As you may know by now, this series profiles the people behind the Mendix apps: their background, what they’ve built and what makes them tick (besides delivering projects six times faster than using traditional development approaches).
Today, we’re highlighting Kilian Croese, Certified Mendix Business Engineer & Mendix Trainer at our partner Capgemini. A long-time Mendix developer who has worked on many complex projects and presented at Mendix World 2014, Kilian has a lot of great insight to offer to the community and new Mendix users. Enjoy!
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?
I graduated from Delft University of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. While I mainly used Java, the focus on my studies was a general understanding of how software works, and the core principles behind programming languages.
My first development experience was actually before my Bachelor’s. I started an online forum using phpBB for the youth of my church. I added all kinds of functionality by applying custom mods, where I had to change the code using a copy paste tutorial. Eventually, I wanted to better understand what was going on, so I started learning online about SQL and PHP. During my studies, I worked for a small e-learning company where I developed a custom CMS and gained experience using PHP/SQL/HTML/CSS.
After university, I spent two years in Moscow doing missionary work. When I returned home, I was at a crossroads: do I get my Master’s Degree or start working in IT? I decided to get a job where I could develop myself. I joined Capgemini in 2011 and have been working there since.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
When Capgemini asked if I wanted to be a Java programmer, I told them I wanted to sit between IT and the business to be closer to end users. They put me in a group focused on BPM solutions that was just starting to experiment with Mendix. I went to the Introduction Course and have been working with Mendix ever since.
I really liked Mendix from the start. To me, software development is about reaching the business goal, helping end users and making them happy. Using Mendix, I could achieve results much faster than using programming languages like Java and PHP.
3. What was most helpful when learning Mendix?
It didn’t take me long to feel comfortable with Mendix. I was able to quickly understand the domain model and building logic in microflows. As I see it, how you approach the problem is the same whether you’re writing code or dragging and dropping in Mendix.
What helped most was actually building with Mendix, having real cases to work on so I could get my hands dirty. The week after I finished training, I was put in a room for a week with a couple of colleagues to build an application for a Dutch railroad company. Capgemini had received an RFP from this organization and instead of building a proposal, we built an application with Mendix – finishing 70-80% of the functionality in one week. We went to the customer with a working demo, won the business, and finished the project in just six weeks.
4. What have you built using the platform? Which project are you most proud of?
All of them. I’m currently finishing up a project for Jeugdzorg Nederland that I am particularly proud of. We’ve been developing a large case management application to replace two existing systems. The SaaS app will help reduce IT operating costs while alleviating the administrative burden for child care professionals so they can spend more time working with kids and families.
5. Have you had any “aha moments” using Mendix?
One aha moment for me was opening the Developer Console and seeing the communication between the Mendix Client and the Business Server. It helped me to understand how, for example, a microflow was being called from the client to the server. And to see the response from the Business Server, giving the client a command to open/close a page, retrieve some data, refresh certain objects, etc. It gave me a deeper understanding of how Mendix actually works.
6. How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
Mendix enables me to deliver software in fast, iterative cycles together with the business. The best way to develop software is to sit with the person that’s going to use it. With Mendix, I can show a user working functionality that we discussed just hours before. You would never be able to show results that quick using programing languages.
7. What components within the App Store do you use most frequently? Have you built/contributed any of your own?
There are several App Store components that we use in nearly every project, including the Excel Importer, Community Commons Function Library, Mx Model Reflection and Email Module with Templates. I’ve also contributed two modules to the App Store: a keystroke widget used in my first project and an extension of the Excel Importer that is now included in the official distribution.
The beauty of the Mendix App Store is that you don’t have to do the same thing over and over. If you build a component once, it benefits you and the entire community. It’s a snowball effect: the more content that’s available in the App Store, the easier and faster it is to build great software.
8. What advice would you give to new Mendix developers?
There are many great resources available to learn Mendix, including the Online Academy. Once you have a basic understanding, the best thing to do is think of a case to apply Mendix, even if you have to rebuild something you built before. Just get some experience and do it.
9. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is a platform that enables both IT and business professionals to closely work together to build great software fast.
10. What are your favorite news sites/blogs/forums?
I frequent the Mendix Forum and there’s also a personal blog dedicated to Mendix with some really great posts. For general tech news, I read Tweakers.net and when I need to solve problems, I go to StackOverflow.