In today’s installment of our rapid developer series, we’ll hear from Julio Salazar, Senior Business Solutions Engineer at Digital Risk. Find out how he moved from business analyst to development lead. Julio explains how he’s able to drive the complete application development life cycle, including requirement gathering, project management, development, delivery, and review.
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have prior development experience?
I attended Stony Brook University in New York and received a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and then a Master of Business Administration. Part of going back to school for my MBA was to ensure that I could complement my technical skills with more business-centric insight.
I’ve always preferred to work at a higher level – focusing on helping customers. In my first job, I configured applications on behalf of various clients. I worked in SQL, never in pure Java or .NET. From there, I moved into business analyst roles where I specialized in gathering requirements and managing projects.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
I applied to Digital Risk for a business analyst role. The development manager saw that I had a technical background and asked if I would be interested in a rapid developer role instead; this was the first role of its kind for Digital Risk. I agreed to take a look at the Mendix App Platform as a next step.
What I saw was very exciting. I was able to build new things in such a small amount of time – and without a lot of tedious coding. I was also surprised by how quickly I could create business logic and data models – and even more impressed by how Mendix handled the design and UI components. Even during my short review of the platform, I was able to get to results. It was very gratifying to be able to deliver features so much faster. I was immediately interested in the position.
3. What was most helpful when learning Mendix?
Upon starting at Digital Risk, I received one week of introductory training from the Mendix team. After that, I started to build sample projects and relied heavily on the forum for additional assistance. Through my practice, I became very comfortable and within a few months I considered myself to be heavily proficient. I was able to work independently and create applications without getting stuck – very important as at the time, I was the only rapid developer within the company.
4. Can you share one of the applications you’ve built to date?
I built an application that automatically assigns loans to our users based on compliance standards, user skill sets, and language preferences. The assignments also consider the daily capacities for each user, current pipeline of each user, and other user metrics that help ensure a balanced work environment across the team.
I worked directly with the business to gather the requirements and then develop this application. I was able to show the results of my development work very quickly and then work with the business to vet and test until the team was happy. Mendix really improves how developers communicate with the business. The resulting application is multi-tenant, meaning that it can process loans for multiple clients, and manage unique customizations for each client.
Given the volume of loans processed each day (in the thousands), the company had multiple full time employees who manually reviewed and assigned out each loan. The team historically used a .NET application to view and move each loan request. The application didn’t have any customization or routing logic. Now, we’re able to automate this process and cut the time required to do so from days to minutes. While there is some manual review for more complicated loan requests, the majority can be automated, freeing up headcount for other department priorities.
5. Have you had an ‘aha moment’ working in Mendix?
My biggest challenge related to understanding data associations and retrieving data via associations. After I built a few applications and practiced using data entities, it made the rest of my development much easier.
6. What advice do you have for other Mendix developers?
Have no fear! You don’t need extensive database, architecture or programming knowledge to work effectively in Mendix. It takes some time to ramp up, but business users can create their own applications.
7. How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
With Mendix, I can create something visually, without spending a lot of time focused on technical components. The quick turnaround time is very gratifying as is the feedback from our business users who all love the ability to see applications earlier in the development life cycle.
Additionally, the visual nature of the system eliminates a lot of the documentation that historically is required. Instead of pages of documentation that explain the logic of a system, a user can simply review and understand the underlying Microflow.
8. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is a rapid development platform, working at a higher level than Java and .NET. The platform enables developers to be more agile and work through shorter development cycles that get functionality out to the business team as fast as possible.
We’re in a unique industry where things change constantly. Now, if the business says something needs to change, we’re able to do it very quickly. Mendix ultimately allows me to bridge the gap between what the business needs and when IT can deliver it.
9. What are you interested in or passionate about outside of work?
I love college and NBA basketball and root for St. Johns (I’m originally from New York). I also play softball in Orlando and enjoy spending time with my family.
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.