In today’s rapid developer series, we’re highlighting Herman Geldenhuys, Mendix Business Engineer at ProfitScience. In this interview, Herman explains why customer satisfaction is a key driver for his own development efforts. He also explains why he’s so excited to participate in the Mendix community.
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have prior development experience?
I started my IT career at the early age of 18. I was self-taught in various technologies and I have a total of 17 years’ experience in biodiversity, enterprise content management, 3D videography, GIS, tourism, agriculture, financial and healthcare fields.
Throughout my career, I have mastered many different technologies, including specialization in Oracle and Python. I also have a long relationship with web technologies and functional languages. I’m now the technical lead and ScrumMaster for a team of Mendix developers.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
My company asked me to assist in building a call-center POC for a South African company. My Mendix career was supposed to last for three weeks. That was until I experienced a defining moment two days into the POC. I saw my client’s reaction to the functionality we developed in a very short time.
Since then, I shifted my paradigm to adding value for the customer. I absolutely live for customer satisfaction. What started out as a temporary arrangement became a permanent career move. It’s now been four years and I’m still loving it.
3. What was most helpful when learning Mendix?
I was privileged to work alongside Martijn van Lieshout from Mendix on my first project. Since Mendix requires a different paradigm to traditional development, it helped to watch someone who had been using the platform for many years.
While it can be hard for some developers to accept the fact that you don’t have to worry about technical components in Mendix, it wasn’t a challenge for me. Not having to access code has many upsides, one of which is that it relieves you of the impediment of thinking of tech. Instead, you can focus on building the right solution for the business.
The Mendix community was also helpful. The community culture is one of the most attractive facets of Mendix. The group consists of dynamic and first-class innovators, not to mention a very competent R&D team.
4. What inspired you to contribute to the community?
Working in parallel with a .NET team, I noticed a lot of differences in style and approach between traditional development and rapid application development in Mendix. I felt the need to share what we learned with others and that’s when I decided to start blogging through MendixAndBeyond.com. In addition to helping the community, the site helps showcase where Mendix should be used.
5. What have you built?
In four years, I have built a number of large-scale applications and systems. This includes call-center applications, high-speed risk engines, credit bureau gateways, master-data systems, online micro-loan applications, enterprise bank loan applications, web governance systems, a Mendix widget builder (called WidgetFactory) and many others.
The most impactful project so far is an application for a bank that utilizes 6,000 objects and several hundred integration points. The technology is not the hard part; it’s more important to understand the business to ensure you create the right solution. The sheer size of the project is a testimony to the fact that you can create massive systems in Mendix.
I’m now working on a new multi-device mobile application to support agents in the field and a collections system for debt consolidation.
6. Can you describe the WidgetFactory and why you created it?
The WidgetFactory is a Mendix application for Mendix. I used Mendix to design a tool that makes custom widget creation easy. With this tool, users can create a widget with minimum effort, allowing rapid developers to focus on modeling. I can now create a new widget package, download it, and add it to my modeler all within a few minutes.
I built the system in about three weeks. It took one week to create a prototype which would generate widgets. From there, I tested the tool and iterated as I learned more. I’m now working with the Mendix team to incorporate many aspects of the tool into the Mendix platform.
7. What components within the app store do you use most frequently?
Widgets are by far the components I use more than anything else. But ones that deserve recognition are FormatString, CommunityCommons, Restful services, MxModelReflection, ProcessQueue and ExcelImporter.
8. What advice do you have for other Mendix developers who wish to get involved in the community?
Any Mendix developer should engage with the community on the Mendix Forum and subscribe to a few Blogs. The community has a lot of great members and I’ve only experienced joy working with other engineers and learning from them.
9. How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
At ProfitScience, we have a diverse customer base. I must be able to manage each client’s value proposition with excellence and be unimpeded by technology. Mendix is the keystone that makes that possible. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today in any other technology.
10. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is a business solution dream. You model what you want and change it with time. You deliver on time and free yourself to focus on the business. It allows IT to match the speed of business by bridging the gap and delivering at the pace of business.
Mendix does for business software what C did for Assembly. It’s an elegant framework built on the latest functional paradigms with a modelling focus to let you spend more time on the “fun stuff.”
11. What are your favorite news sites/blogs/forums?
Stackoverflow.com is an invaluable forum. I also enjoy reading TechCrunch, The Next Web, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Wired, Web Design Ledger, Seth Godin, Economist, Guardian Tech, XKCD, The Verge and Smashing Magazine.
12. What are you interested in/passionate about outside of work?
I attend technology interest groups and innovation meetups. When traveling, I listen to one of my 240 audiobooks on ancient history, philosophy, biographies, business and classical literature. My favorite authors are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes series), CS Lewis, and GK Chesterton. I’ve recently learned to ski and I invest quite some time in online academies and coding schools for mobile development and big data. Yes, my work is also my hobby.