In this series of interviews, we talk to an OutSystemer from the Engineering team about their role, interests, and expertise.
A Green Bay Packers fan who has always been “a bit of a nerd” as a kid, Mark Medinger joined OutSystems earlier this year as the leader of the Dev Acceleration Team. While his unit aims to speed up innovation by removing any roadblocks, it was the quieter pace of life of a fully remote working environment that drew him to a company he knew little about. Having shaved two hours off his commute, he now enjoys spending more time with his kids, long walks with his golden retriever Saddie, and of course, a cold beer at the end of a busy week building the future of software.
You joined OutSystems in January 2021. Tell us a little bit more about your background.
I was always a little bit of a nerd as a kid, so I liked computers and games and electronics, and I was always taking stuff apart and putting it back together — I enjoyed that. I wanted to be a computer science teacher, but the amount of work that would take to be a teacher in America is a lot, and the pay you get is not a lot. So, when I evaluated that in college, I was like, “Maybe I could just be a developer.” And then we had a speaker come on campus who was talking about how he really likes to mentor people and share his ideas by speaking. And even when he works, he’s mentoring the younger people and older people, everybody. We’re constantly learning, it never stops. So I thought to myself: “Oh, maybe I will be able to scratch the teaching itch as well as the building itch.”
After college, I started working at a startup company called LIVEyearbook, where they wanted to make yearbooks online. I worked there for about three years, mainly in the frontend web application area, and we put in super long days, as you can expect at a startup. I worked from 9 a.m. until about 2 a.m. — you heard that correctly. I got a ton of experience there, which was good. After that, the company was in that kind of downward slope because Facebook had just released their Memories. What kid needs a yearbook anymore when Facebook can just tell me every year for the rest of my life, “Here was my big game,” or whatever it might be, right?
I then went to a different company, MSI Data, where they had an older product, a customer server-based application, so you install an executable on your machine. They wanted to get into the cloud, which I had lots of experience with because I was already kind of doing that. We took apart the old product and made it all brand new, and took the good pieces from the old into the new — which is kind of what we’re doing at OutSystems.
“Being home was more advantageous because I was driving about two hours every day to commute, and now I shaved two hours off every day. That’s a lot more time I can spend with my kids, it was a no-brainer”
Why did you apply to the company?
I was just looking for a new job; I wanted somewhere that I could be 100 percent remote, be home all the time. I have a golden retriever [Saddie] that’s getting older, so I just want to be around her, take her for walks in the middle of the day. And my kids are getting older as well; I have a four-year-old and a 16-month-old. Being home was more advantageous because I was driving about two hours every day to commute, and now I shaved two hours off every day. That’s a lot more time I can spend with my kids, it was a no-brainer.
A headhunter called me up and said, “Hey, there’s this company from Portugal and they have an opportunity you may like.” That was fine with me because I’ve worked with Indian teams and different time zones before, and that’s how we started our adventure together. From then on, everything was a fit.
Now I tell all my friends and old colleagues this place is such a breath of fresh air. OutSystems has goals, short and long-term, which is great! They are very collaborative as well and treat everyone with respect, even the higher-ups.
Did you have any expectations about the company? Did you do your research?
I did a bit of research on the website to see what low-code is, because it was new to me. I was like: “This kind of reminds me of stuff in the past, but there’s a lot more to it than just what Visual Basic was or some of those other visual tools. [José] Caldeira [VP of Engineering] was one of my interviewers. He seemed really nice. All the cultural things that I asked about seemed to fit because I like collaboration, leadership in sync with people — our people are what matter — and that’s the vibe I got from the interview, Caldeira, everybody. That’s exactly where I want to be.
I don’t want to be at a company where there’s that blue-collar sense: like developers are the blue-collar workers and the white-collar workers are everywhere else. I know friends that work for places like that, and it’s terrible! They’re like woosh, woosh [he cracks an imaginary whip in the air], “Get to work!” Do you know? [Laughs.] Like, I’m the one building the product. Do you realize that if we all leave, you guys don’t have a job? I never understood that mentality because happy employees are much more motivated to do great work if they are treated well, like at OutSystems.
“All the cultural things that I asked about seemed to fit because I like collaboration, leadership in sync with people — our people are what matter — and that’s the vibe I got from the interview, Caldeira, everybody”
What struck you the most about the OutSystems culture?
The willingness to help and being collaborative. It’s always “We’re willing to hear why.” The why? [asking why is one of the rules of the OutSystems culture book] I think is really cool, like being able to come up with something and say, “Why are we doing it this way? Can we do it a different way?” Nobody’s going to strike you down for asking that question.
You know, opinions matter. I feel that taking different opinions into account is the way to achieve the best possible outcome. Let’s take all these ideas from different people and figure out the best plan of action by molding those four ideas together. That’s the important part to me, especially from the development side of things. Having ideas, being able to share them, and asking those “Did you guys consider this?” type questions are key.
How did you adjust to the different time zones and cultures at OutSystems?
It’s been pretty awesome. My time, at my last job, it seemed like I had a 15-minute meeting here, a 30-minute session there, and those little chunks of time all in between that were just scattered. So I think the time zone difference is great because I have all my meetings in the morning. My wife tells me I should shut up because I talk too much, but that’s when I have all the meetings, and then my afternoons are free to have that focus time: either meet with the team on something specific or work through some issues or get some spreadsheet done or whatever I need to do, I’ve got that time. It’s a four-hour block of just boom! I got time to myself.
“[…] Probably the main reason I have the UX side of things and the engineering side of things is my dad is a manufacturing engineer, and my mom is very creative and does cake decorating. I think those powers combined to make me a little bit of both”
You’ve worked on many different fronts in software development: front-end, user experience (UX). Why was that? Are you into all dimensions of software engineering?
Probably because I like to put my superhero cape on. Whenever I’ve worked at companies, they’ve been smaller, so this is the first time I’m working for a larger company which was a bit of a scare for me. Most of my company sizes were like 50 people or less, so part of it was a necessity, like “We need someone to put that UX hat on, we need someone to put the product owner hat on.” That’s one reason why I’m so dynamic — it’s because somebody needed to do it. I’m always willing to learn, and probably the main reason I have the UX side of things and the engineering side of things is my dad is a manufacturing engineer, and my mom is very creative and does cake decorating. I think those powers combined to make me a little bit of both.
What does your role entail as a lead software engineer, and what does the Dev Acceleration Team do?
What I’ve been telling colleagues and friends is everyone has been part of a team where there are always these great ideas that people have, whether internal or external, but the priority of that idea always seems to be fourth place. We need to get three things done before we can do this thing that everybody wants to work on or something that they think will make a significant impact. Still, you get those three done and let’s put another three on top, and the fourth is never going to get worked on, and I feel that’s what our team was created for. If this is not a super-priority, let’s treat it as an experiment and have this new team working on improving our developer acceleration. That’s how I explain it to people instead of giving them tidbits of knowledge of what you’re working on.
You’ve worked with cloud companies before. How do you see OutSystems evolving in the future?
I see us as that cloud-based company. If you’re a company that wants to build cloud-based software, you’re able to do all of that in the cloud and then have all of your applications in the best industry-standard cloud-based arena.
“I’m a big fan of Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and I’m finally catching up on the Marvel series now”
Why do some customers still cling to an on-site environment? Is it just a security issue?
Most people aren’t ready for their data to be exposed yet. They want it to be “safe,” you know, but you can still get to their stuff either way. So a lot of it is just training them not to worry about it. It’s not as big of a deal as they feel that it is if they do things correctly. Even if your system is internal and you have your own servers, you can still be hacked. It’s not like there’s no Internet connection at all to your system; this can still happen. And, if you put it in a cloud, you’re just moving it from computer A to a different computer. I think a lot of it is the “unknown,” and it’s like the new thing, so it’s a little scary because change is always scary until you figure out what the difference is and understand it better, so I think that’s a lot of the problem that comes in with that.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and I currently live here. One of the main reasons we’ve stuck around is that my parents are getting older, so somebody needs to stick around and take care of them, and it works out nicely for us too now because we have free daycare. It’s like, you help us out now, and we’ll help you guys out later.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
When it’s just me, I like to play video games. I have a Nintendo Switch, an Xbox One, and I like to play them in my free time and watch movies. I’m a big fan of Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and I’m finally catching up on the Marvel series now. But if I have spare time that I can use during the day, I’m a little bit of a DIYer. If there’s something wrong in the house, I like to fix it. I enjoy fixing cars. I have a 2000 Jeep Cherokee that I’ve been keeping up and running. Taking my dog for a walk, either going hiking or camping in the woods; we have many incredible state parks up here…those are kind of the fun activities that I enjoy doing around here.
How old is your dog now?
She’s eight, and she’s getting a little bit older, starting to slow down. I’m her favorite, and I figured out that she would probably really enjoy it if I was home more often.
Favorite video game?
World of Warcraft, but I’m not into that type of game anymore, mainly because I don’t have time. If you want to play it right, it’s like a second part-time job, but it’s such a great game. Other than that, probably Call of Duty or Fire Emblem.
Any favorite apps on your phone and why?
Duolingo, I am using it to learn Spanish, so when my son goes to school, he cannot talk behind my back to his brother. I like it since it makes it easy for me to learn the language slowly.
Tell us about that art piece hanging on the wall behind you. Are you a beer fan?
That’s all beer bottle caps from different beers that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. They are kind of in the right spot, but Wisconsin has kind of eaten most of the US. I told my wife that at some point, I need to get a Wisconsin one.
What’s your favorite type of beer?
Anything dark is good for me: porters, stouts, brown ales. The only thing I stay away from is IPAs; they’re a little too bitter for my taste.
Any that you would recommend to fellow beer lovers?
There’s a local brewery in town, they are called 3 Sheeps Brewing, and they make a lot of specialty brews. They made a pancake and maple syrup one. It didn’t really taste like pancakes, but it was still pretty good. And the other big one that I like from around here is the Mudpuppy Porter [from Central Waters Brewing].
Since we’re all working from home now, can we see your desk?
- 1 — Hydration station.
- 2a — The best NFL team!
- 2b — The best MLB team!
- 3a & 3b — Trinkets of things I enjoy.
- 4 — Picture of my wife and kids.
- 5 — Standing desk pad.
- 6 — Heater (it’s cold in the basement).
- 7 — Airpods for music and meetings.
- 8 — MacBook.
- 9 — Work laptop (light red is my favorite color in case you missed that with the numbers).
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