Overcoming the Fear Obstructing Your Career Transition to Low-Code

05 Jun, 2024
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Hello! I am Craig St. Jean, an OutSystems MVP based out of Ohio in the United States. I am a dedicated Xebian driven by high intellectual curiosity and a desire to share what I’ve learned. In this post, I want to tell you about my journey from a high-code full-stack developer to a low-code OutSystems developer. 

What kind of fear did I have when I decided to transition my career down that path? What have I gained along the way, and what have I lost? If you’re early in your career, how can low-code help bring you forward and elevate what you’re able to do? 

My Background (Short Version) 

I started programming in 1995, doing C, C++, and a whole bunch of other things. I started programming professionally in 2006 for a property and casualty insurance company on a big Java stack. At that time, we were using BEA WebLogic before Oracle bought it. Then, we migrated to IBM WebSphere Application Server. After that, I took my path toward .Net and went back and forth between those. Next, when single-page applications in JavaScript became a thing, I went down that path, and from there, I went toward OutSystems. 

Why OutSystems? 

Going from full-stack high-code to OutSystems is a bit of a jump, right? So, why did I make the switch? When I first started evaluating OutSystems and other low-code offerings, I specifically looked for platform limitations that might prevent me from accomplishing what I needed. As I proceeded, it just never hit that point. I could do what I wanted in the way that I wanted to. And for the few circumstances that there was something that I really couldn’t do natively in the platform, they had a suitable alternative, for example, with C# extensions in OutSystems for when you have some existing SDK that you want to pull in. Then I started thinking, "Okay, maybe I’ve been thinking about this a little bit wrong," and I dove deeper into OutSystems. Ultimately, I rethought my position on low-code and started considering moving my career in that direction. 

Fear of Transition 

Coming from being a full-stack developer, I had a lot of fear of going toward low-code. I had questions like: 

  • Can I still get a job as a high-code developer? 
  • If this doesn’t work out for me, who will hire me? 
  • Are they just going to say, “I see that you’ve got some old experience with Java, .Net, and JavaScript, but you haven’t really been coding for the past couple of years, so you’re out of practice.”? 

Those were my main concerns. I tried to mitigate these by continuing to code on the side as I was pursuing my OutSystems journey, but that’s also because I love to learn new things. As I progressed through my journey, I ultimately found that fear was a bit irrelevant because I didn’t want to return to high-code. I’m using OutSystems today, but if there’s a different platform that makes more sense for me in the future, I can always go toward that and leverage all the experience I gained by having already made the mindset shift of going from high-code to low-code. 

If, for some reason, I decide in the future to go back to high-code, I still know how to Google things ;). That doesn’t change. I still know how to use Stack Overflow. Plus, nothing changes between low-code and high-code regarding tech lead, architect responsibilities, or the ability to read and write user stories. The only real change is working through coding, which changes so frequently that even people staying in high-code can’t keep up. So, for now, I can spend my time providing as much value as possible to my business customers, and if I want to go back to high-code, then I can evaluate the technology landscape at that moment and learn what is essential. 

What Have I Gained? What Have I Lost? 

For me, that transition was very much worth it, and I’ve gained a lot in the process. I want to provide value for other people so they can do their jobs more effectively. That’s one of the things that I really care about. Moving to low-code, I’ve gained the ability to provide massive amounts of value as quickly as possible and continuously provide more and more value. 

I’ve also experienced significant career growth by joining an OutSystems partner. However, I would have gained similar career growth working at an OutSystems customer because of how much more I can do and how quickly I can do it. I can spend more time asking my customers and business partners, "What’s important to you? How can I help you?" 

Another thing I’ve gained is a new outlook on what making and deploying software can be. It doesn’t have to be learning five different technologies and then figuring out how to deploy all these different things to various environments. It doesn’t have to be making sure my database changes are in sync with my application deployment and that I didn’t accidentally forget to deploy a microservice that this application depends on. I don’t need to worry about that anymore. So, I’ve gained confidence that what I’m building will work. And I’ve lost a significant amount of stress in the process of building and deploying software for my customers. 

Last is that OutSystems has a fantastic community. When you look at technology communities, some can be rather… toxic. Some can be quiet, and some are vibrant and thriving. In the case of OutSystems, the community is vibrant and thriving. I’ve gained many new friends I can collaborate with and the ability to participate in something bigger than myself. 

What have I lost other than a great deal of stress? I’ve certainly lost all that time that I used to spend looking for semicolons where I forgot them, and all that time trying to figure out why my Maven build didn’t work because the conventions of the pom.xml file differed from my understanding of how it worked. I will admit that I’ve lost the joy of writing massive amounts of code all day with my head down and headphones on because I don’t need to do that anymore. I can work with low-code and build something much faster. I still personally do coding on the side, but that’s not really a bad thing. It’s a very happy thing in my case, but it won’t be for everyone. 

How Can Low-Code Elevate Your Career? 

I’ve mentioned a bit about my path, but if you’re new to development, what might your path be? With OutSystems, we’re talking about a considerably lowered barrier to entry. If you want to go into high-code, you probably need to learn C#, Java, Go, JavaScript, CSS, and multiple frameworks. If you want to build a web application, do you use Razor, Blazor, MAUI, or APIs with a JavaScript frontend? If you use a JavaScript frontend, now you have to learn React, Angular, Vue, Svelte, or something else. Then, you must learn T-SQL, PL/SQL, or an ORM like Entity Framework or JPA to interact with your database. Add on learning how to manage Jenkins or Azure DevOps for your release pipelines, and all of this just to get a simple application out the door. 

With OutSystems, you can skip most of that because it’ll just do it for you. Instead of spending all that time learning, you can provide value to your employer. You still need discipline to get from a junior to a senior, and experience to know when one thing is the right approach versus another. Still, it’s a lot easier with OutSystems because you don’t have to consider so many things. With low-code, you build software differently than with high-code, and you can build more diverse systems with less experience. 

Everything becomes even more significant if you want to build a mobile app. With OutSystems, if you can build a web app, you can build a mobile app – it’s the same thing. With high-code, you have to learn everything above for the backend, but you might also have to learn Java, Swift, React Native, or other technologies. Most of today’s mobile technologies also don’t help you build for both Android and iOS, and you might have to build your mobile app twice. 

Experience takes time, but how much time it takes to get from one milestone to another is significantly shortened when you don’t have to spend all that time learning all these different frameworks, trying to piece them together, and so on. Low-code is an exciting place to be, and you can take your career and drive it from junior to senior very quickly or from senior to an elevated version of that. Most of the people I worked with at Netlink Digital Solutions would agree that this has been a career direction for them, and I highly recommend it.

OutSystems MVP, solution architect, and developer with significant experience in enterprise applications on traditional Java stacks, .NET, and OutSystems. Technical leader who has led large and small scale projects to drive business value. Mentor and Pluralsight Author.

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