This year’s Mendix World was a fantastic conference. Not only could we get to see how Mendix is changing companies across the globe but we also got to see some of the new features planned for upcoming releases! Johan Den Haan (@JohanDenHaan), the companies CTO, was obviously very busy throughout the conference giving his keynote presentation and providing face time with clients. He was kind enough to spend some quality time with us after the conference had ended. We gathered with some members of his R&D team, reclining on some air couches, in an empty conference hall where I aimed to ask him some specific technology questions.
After some discussion it became apparent that Johan isn’t an autocratic leader. He’s a collaborative social leader. He embraces the social enterprise and tries to inspire solutions to come from his team, a bottom up approach so evident that he actually had the interview about himself with some of his R&D and Web team members there. He gave examples of how he consults his team on a daily basis and how they provide irreplaceable collaborative input into the company’s direction.
After some time of reflection I can sum our meeting up into 3 points:
When I asked him what the most significant tech technical challenge they have made in the past, he answered that is was to move away from a big bang strategy, a temptation for any technologist. Instead they, as a team, have decided to humbly focus on the small delivery chunks that provide the most value to their users combined with a strong long-term vision to guide day-to-day decisions. The team chuckled a bit as they spoke about the road they’ve taken to some good decisions made. The open team is encouraged to raise their views when decisions need to be made. Having members of the web team there to give their input even in this interview cemented the openness of their company. It was inspiring to see a team that is collaborative, even on a strategic level.
Mendix is a business tool focused on providing a competitive advantage to companies through quick to market and high quality development of solutions. Being a Mendix fan I challenged Johan to give us an example of software that you couldn’t use Mendix for. He immediately joked with the example of how Mendix would never be used to build a RPG Shooter game. He then went, with more seriousness, into the detail of explaining part of where Mendix fits in well in the world today: Mendix is an excellent tool to deliver business solutions for so-called “differentiating” processes. Mendix excels in places where business agility is needed. That, combined with a way for the IT department to control the app jungle, creates a compelling platform for enterprises. It’s a socially focused product dedicated to providing a holistic solution to software development. Given my experience with Sprintr, the cloud deployment processes and the modeller I couldn’t agree more.
Johan spoke from the heart describing how the thing he enjoys most is when his team is working well together, loving what they do and changing the world through Mendix. In the end we ran out of time, we didn’t get to ask the technology questions but it didn’t matter because most of the technology questions have been answered on the company’s tech blog. Instead we got a lot more – a picture into the inner workings of the Mendix team and an idea of the values they carry. Johan reminded me, in his approach to leadership, of our South African leader Nelson Mandella in his book The Long Walk to Freedom where he says:
“I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
Even though we had been sitting almost 2.5 hours we had run out of time. Talking about Mendix, the app world and how to build good software was an uplifting experience. All I can say is that I can’t wait for next year’s Mendix World conference!