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Holly Miller 19th Jun 2023

From graduate to expert developer | Matthew Pratley’s Mendix journey

Ever wondered what it takes to reach Mendix Expert level? The Expert certification process is quite different from the other certifications (Rapid, Intermediate and Advanced) and is not only proof of a Mendix developers’ knowledge, but it also confirms their expertise, proves that they have applied what they know about Mendix in their day-to-day job and shows that others trust their knowledge. In this blog, Matthew Pratley, Principal Consultant at AuraQ talks to us about his journey from joining AuraQ as a graduate to recently becoming a certified Mendix Expert Developer, what it takes and his first-hand experience of the certification process.

Prior to becoming a Mendix Expert, what is your educational background?

Before I joined AuraQ (where I started my Mendix journey), I had just graduated from Cardiff University with a Master’s in Physics. I didn’t have a clear idea of where my degree would take me in terms of a career path, but Physics had felt like a natural choice and was my passion. As my studies unfolded, I found that I particularly enjoyed the problem-solving elements of the course, this was where I was introduced to Python and this ultimately shaped a career path towards software development. Following my graduation, I started my job search and came across AuraQ. The role looked really interesting because, as well as the opportunity to broaden my technical skillset, I remember the prospect of regularly working with different clients was a big appeal and I was excited about working collaboratively with people who would bring a variety of different skill sets, backgrounds and use cases to the table. In addition to the obvious career opportunities, I also got a sense of the great working culture during the interview, and this made my decision to join the team an easy one.

Having made the decision to move into software development, how did your Master of Physics degree support you?

The introduction to Python while at university had really sparked my interest and gave me a foundation to build on. There were several courses where we used Python to create models of physical scenarios, and later I also had a little experience building a UI as part of my final year project. This programming and UI experience was definitely beneficial. Technical skills aside, the real benefit came from the problem-solving skills the course had helped me develop. This, along with my enthusiasm to learn new technologies gave me a solid start to shaping out a career in software development.

How were you introduced to Mendix?

After joining AuraQ, I began learning Mendix. Beginning the certification process and passing the Rapid course, I soon found myself working on a proof of concept (PoC) that involved integrating Mendix with the Dropbox API. Working alongside a colleague, the Mendix low-code platform was new to both of us and we set off on a rapid learning curve. Although rapid, it was a structured path and I found the process (and prospect) of skilling up in a new technology an exciting one. The Mendix learning paths are well-thought-out and provide excellent learning support which was a huge help but where I found the real support was working alongside my more experienced colleagues at AuraQ. They supported me in getting up to speed by sharing their knowledge and best practices and this was a big part of my upskilling. As the PoC took shape, I was blown-away by the platform’s capabilities and impressed with how easy it was to integrate Mendix with Dropbox. This has been a continual theme as integrating new or different systems with Mendix is still something I enjoy doing all these years on. As my PoC came to an end, I moved onto developing an internal business and HR application and continued working my way through the certification process.

What was your first customer project delivered end-to-end and how was the experience?

My first actual Mendix customer project was for 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG) who were looking to make efficiencies across their business by automating non-value repetitive tasks using low-code and RPA. I helped build an application that automated 100% of the end-to-end journey for unstructured data, content and information entering the 2SFG business. This included building an app that would poll a mailbox, extract data from any email attachments received and then export the data into a structured Excel file that was then provided to the robots for processing. The solution really kicked-off the customers digital transformation journey and it was a project I really enjoyed working on; the people were great to work with and I really enjoyed integrating Mendix with other systems, including the RPA tools. This project gave me great real-world development experience and it was around this time I also passed my Mendix Advanced exam.

How long have you now been using the Mendix low-code platform?

I first started using Mendix in 2016, so coming up to seven years. Mendix is a core technology partner for AuraQ which means I have had ample opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of projects and no two Mendix projects are ever the same. I’ve loved having the opportunity to use low-code to deliver value across so many different business use cases and industries and being part of such a variety of projects has allowed me to really hone my platform skills and learn new expertise from a wide range of customer facing roles.

What app/project are you most proud of?

As a proud Welshman, it would have to be working with the Welsh Government towards the end of last year. The Welsh connection was a bonus, but the use case was really interesting and rewarding. We were working on a bilingual application that helped users manage, view and report on Social Housing grants.

Thinking about the platform capabilities, for you, what’s the coolest feature of Mendix?

The ability to manage so much from Studio Pro. It simplifies so much of the process and makes developing in the tool so convenient. Dark mode is also pretty cool…

What feature are you most intrigued about in upcoming releases?

I went to the Mendix meetup earlier this year in London where they spoke about the roadmap for Mendix Studio Pro and there were several features I was eager to hear about. I feel the more the development process can be handled within Studio Pro, the easier the development process becomes. So, if I had to choose one feature that particularly piques my interest, it is the ability to manage Java dependencies within Studio Pro.

How did you find the Expert certification process? 

Honestly, I did find the process a little daunting at first. Expert is very different to the earlier certifications in that it is more interview based whereas Rapid, Intermediate and Advanced are all exam based. For Expert you require three customer references and this is the part I probably found most uncomfortable, asking external colleagues for praise. However, after a little push from a colleague, I managed to get over any discomfort and I am truly grateful for those that took the time to give their references. In addition to the references, the application also required a portfolio of the Mendix projects that I have worked on as well as a more detailed description highlighting a successful Mendix project. A tip I would recommend to developers here is to keep records of your experience – in hindsight, this would have made this part of the process a lot easier! Following the application submission, I then had an interview with the Mendix Academy to talk through the projects I had worked on in more detail, discuss my Mendix experience, provide examples of where I had helped mentor other colleagues and also provide my opinions of specific parts of the platform.

Congratulations, achieving Expert is a great testament to your experience. You are also a certified ScrumMaster, how has this supported your role?

I did not have any experience of the Scrum process before I started working with Mendix. However, the ScrumMaster course has definitely supported me on projects and highlighted that the closer the Scrum process is followed, the easier it is to deliver value.

Finally, for other aspiring Experts, what advice would you give to other Mendix developers?

In terms of advice, I’d say engage in the community as much as possible, there are a lot of great people out there working on really interesting applications. Finding out how other people approach challenges has really helped me throughout my time working with Mendix.

For more information on all levels of certification, see please the Mendix Certifications page.

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