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How I stopped worrying and learned to love low code

Ben Baril, 6 minute read

When I was little, I was convinced that I was a terrible artist. I couldn't draw, I couldn't (and still can't) color within the lines. I never picked up a musical instrument or any kind of performing art. While I had a highly active imagination, I couldn't figure out how to convert the mental images I could see so clearly into any sort of medium. Then one day my parents came home with an enormous box and what looked like a tv screen. It was an IBM 8086 (<insert image of IBM 8086 here>). My very first computer. 

Unfortunately, what this computer did not come with was any kind of software (Windows wouldn't be invented for a few more years, not that this computer would ever run it). It did come with one 5 1/4" "MS-DOS" floppy disk - which was capable of running programs written in BASIC. And so would begin my 30+ year fixation with software. Finally, I was able to express myself in a medium that made sense to me. I picked up every For Dummies book I could get my hands on. I would spend late nights at the library learning as much as I could about programming BASIC, and then head home to try out what I learned. 

Over time I would learn dozens of programming languages, and pick up new tools and philosophies. It never mattered to me what language something was written in, the intention was always the same: I have an idea, a mental image of what I want to create, and I am manipulating the computer to make it a reality. 

I got what I thought was my dream job straight out of school as a professional developer. Now I was able to do the same thing and get PAID! This seemed like an incredible dream come true. I would never work a day in my life if I got to spend all of it programming. Or so I thought. 

You see - the thing about software development is that there is critically little coding that happens. A tremendous amount of time is spent on refining requirements, going over test and edge cases, reviewing the work to check for security issues, making sure that everything is tested and, above all, that it meets the initial requirements. And, when I was actually coding, so much of my time was spent writing the same boiler plate code over and over again. Of course, IDEs made this somewhat easier, but it was still extremely tedious.  

Finally, the biggest time suck of all was merging the code I produced with other code, fixing any conflicts, building it, and deploying an entire stack to see my end results. This was a brutal process that usually resulted in me grabbing a snack while I killed time. 

Then, one day, I was asked to evaluate some "low code" tools. I got a demo from a vendor who, with only a few clicks, was able to reproduce work that would have taken me hours. I was blown away. Not one to be tricked by magic, I asked to see more. Over the course of a few hours, I witnessed an entire application being built. Now, this wasn't a production-ready application just yet, but it was a prototype that made it amazingly easy to validate my requirements against. 

I switched careers shortly after, and while I have held many titles at Pega I still consider myself a developer at heart. With every new Pega product release, I build out a new application to see just how easily I can "paint" my ideas onto our canvas and I am still blown away every time.  

There was a time when I was concerned about losing my coding skills. I worried that "low code" would never be able to fully articulate the ideas I came up with. But that is simply not true. I get to see new projects and products built on top of low code applications every single day. Simple projects like an employee recognition tool, or important projects like those that were built to help governments handle the massive influx of benefit requests that were coming in at the start of the pandemic. 

It turns out that I'm not a terrible artist after all, I just needed to find the right medium to express my creativity. That medium is low-code software, it's here to stay, and I love it!

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About the Author

I am the director of technology strategy, working in Pega's office of the CTO. I am passionate about technology trends, helping people and organizations solve problems, and generally make the world work better using software.

Over the past 13 years I have worked with dozens of organizations, guiding them through their digital transformation journeys. I am most comfortable standing in front of a crowd answering questions about our software, roadmap, or technology in general. I am originally from Montreal, QC and now call Ottawa, ON home after a brief detour in New York City.

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