True Developers Don’t Just Write Code. They Solve Problems.

True Developers Don’t Just Write Code. They Solve Problems. by Joe Kilduff

Horace Tang, Director of Enterprise Development at Impact, and Chris Kukla, Lead Enterprise Developer at Impact, were both drawn to software development from slightly different backgrounds. When they crossed paths as colleagues at Impact Networking, they found, despite their different paths to becoming software engineers, that they shared the same elation that comes with creating something new to solve a real problem. What they didn’t expect to share was the realization that by using low-code, there was a new way to build software that allowed them to focus more on the creative and intellectual problem-solving process that heightened their sense of accomplishment.

Horace first learned to code in the 6th grade, starting with True BASIC, C, and eventually C++. In college, he studied Information Technology, where he realized his development background allowed him to be self-sufficient in scripting many of the solutions needed for managing different systems. He eventually earned his Master’s degree and became a full-stack developer.

Chris’s path to Impact was a bit different. He studied mechanical engineering in college, but eventually switched to software development and majored in Computer Science. He was drawn to the notion of applying the scientific method–which due to his schooling, was second nature–to building solutions that solved problems in technology and business.

At Impact Networking, a leading provider of business process automation for growing companies, these two developers found a way to spend less time on tedious, time-consuming but necessary tasks associated with software development and more time on the creative problem solving they both loved. They recounted their story to Mendix Senior Platform Evangelist, Jeff Goldberg at Impact Optimize 2019, their annual business and technology summit that gathers over 1,000 leading industry experts and professionals to learn about digital transformation.

What they like about development

Horace and Chris find themselves hooked on the sense of accomplishment that comes after you deliver a solution that requires creativity and ingenuity. They both strongly believe that, at its core, being a software developer is very much a creative endeavor. There’s no one set way of doing things. If you were to present a problem to ten different developers, they would all build the solution in ten different ways. To them, software development is about understanding the problem first; then the options at your disposal. From there, the path you take twists and turns as you experiment, try things out, and see the results. It’s an art. It’s a skill. It’s often said that developers that work long enough together can tell exactly who wrote which lines of code just by looking at them, because they are often so unique to individuals.

Software development is about understanding the problem first… It’s an art. It’s a skill.

So when Horace and Chris learned from their manager that they would be bringing in a low-code platform that would replace most code writing with a drag-and-drop interface and pre-built components – to say they were skeptical would be quite an understatement. To put it bluntly, Horace felt low-code dumbed down his life’s work. He’s been coding for over 20 years – learning the intricacies and nuances of different languages and interacting with different layers like APIs, databases, and UIs. How could these skills just be boiled down to a few icons and mouse clicks?  How could the high of solving the riddle be reduced to just generating and approving templates?

The a-ha moment

After spending a few weeks learning Mendix, one of Horace’s first projects on the new platform was to replace a legacy application for a client. There was an existing SOAP service that he leveraged for the data migration that imported 25,000 lines of data through a single XML call. Normally, analyzing and formatting the incoming data to a usable domain model would have taken hours upon hours. While certainly not an overly complex task, it was a time-consuming one; an assumed necessary evil.

Horace was able to consume this data as a web service, automatically format the data, and generate a domain model with Mendix in a fraction of the time that it would have taken him doing it without low-code. Upon doing this he had a realization: “With low-code, all the things I’m not doing anymore are not the things I liked about programming.”

Chris had a similar epiphany when working on a proof-of-concept with his sales team for a prospective client. The client came to him with the requirements three days before the meeting was to take place. Based on his experience, Chris estimated that the project would take about two weeks — not an ideal timeline. With Mendix, he had a functioning application in just two days. The speed alone wasn’t what endeared the idea of low-code to Chris at that moment; it was his new-found ability to communicate his progress back to the stakeholders quicker, gathering feedback and implementing changes and additions that ensured the product met their requirements and added value. Because the basics were taken care of for him, he was able to focus more time on the complex issues that really required creative problem-solving.

True software development

For Horace and Chris, the sense of accomplishment and creative satisfaction aren’t diminished by using a low-code platform. In fact, both are amplified because Chris and Horace now have more time and energy to spend on complex problems. It’s a matter of maximizing their expertise for the benefit of their clients and stakeholders and challenging themselves with more intellectually satisfying work.

‘With low-code, all the things I’m not doing anymore are not the things I liked about programming.’–Horace Tang, Impact Networking

Is their time better spent formatting XML data and hand-coding domain models? Or is it better spent experimenting and iterating to creating the complex code needed to build something others could not? Do you want to be busy and go through the motions? Or do you want to end your day knowing your energy was spent on finding the answers?

For Horace, Chris, and the thousands of other developers using low-code, the latter points encompass everything they truly love about software development: the art of solving the problem.