Hitachi Shares Practical Advice on How to Divide and Conquer a User Conference
What happens when a team of remote Quickbase builders from Hitachi Vantara come together at Quickbase’s user conference, Empower? We sat down with Dave Matchack, Gil Spigelman, and Tyler Davis to learn more about them, their team’s strategy for making the most of the conference, and how they’re getting noticed for making a big impact with Quickbase.
What do you do for Hitachi and how did you become Quickbase Heroes?
Dave: I manage a six-person Quickbase tools team at Hitachi Vantara. It’s a great group of remote builders and analysts, and everyone is Quickbase certified. We’re responsible for independently creating, maintaining, and updating all of our Quickbase apps and the platform; there’s no real IT involvement.
I have been a software developer since the late 80s, but in 2009 I got a call from a local regional bank; they needed someone to come and manage this new tool they bought, and it was Quickbase. I hit the ground running and picked it up in a couple of months.
One of the many Quickbase apps I built was one developed with input from our graphics guy and part-time game designer. It had a Jeopardy-like look and feel and was created to help make it more fun for about 600 of the bank’s employees to demonstrate regulatory compliance knowledge. It became a big hit with the staff and also made it easy for the bank to report on all this regulatory stuff.
Gil: I am the senior architect developer on the Quickbase team here, and I have been a Quickbase developer for over fifteen years—first for Sprint and now for Hitachi.
When I first joined Sprint, I was in sales support. They had an immediate need for a tool that could track the opportunities within the engineering groups, pre-sales. They didn’t want to use IT to build the tool traditionally because it would take too long. So, the task was handed to me. I learned Quickbase on my own and was able to build a no-code app for them based on their specifications. I’ve been developing in Quickbase ever since.
Tyler: While Dave and Gil are on the development side, and I’ve done a bit of that myself, my primary role is business analyst for the team. When I first came to Hitachi three years ago, I began in support. I hadn’t heard of Quickbase and didn’t yet have a computer science background.
My job today is to understand Hitachi’s business processes and requirements and help translate that into apps that accelerate workflow. Quickbase University has been a huge help to me in learning how the tool works, what we can do with it, and all the really great ways we can use it to improve the business.
“Gil was already highly visible here at Hitachi for the work he does in Quickbase; certification just took him up a notch both internally and externally. He’s a very valuable member of our team.” – Dave Matchack, Applications Architect / Development Manager, Global Services Operations, Hitachi Vantara
Gil: Any major tool that has a certification process not only makes it more legit but also broadens your visibility. Outside of Hitachi, Quickbase certification has definitely become a bigger thing. There are a lot of searches going on for people with verifiable Quickbase credentials, and I’m receiving more calls now. And no, Dave, I’m not going anywhere!
Dave: Gil was already highly visible here at Hitachi for the work he does in Quickbase; certification just took him up a notch both internally and externally. He’s a very valuable member of our team.
Tyler: Quickbase certification has also helped us with our hiring as well. It just makes it easier to find the right candidates—ones you know can hit the ground running.
Why was it important for team Hitachi to attend Empower for the first time this year?
Dave: I felt it would be a very valuable experience for everyone to be there to attend the sessions, shake hands and connect with other builders and QSPs, see how they were using the tools, and check out some of their use cases. I hoped what we learned at Empower would ignite even more creativity and productivity within the team when we got back.
What was the approach for making the most of the team’s time while there?
Gil: We actually divided and conquered based on our level of expertise and what appealed to us. I liked that we were able to pursue our individual interests and then connect back with each other to compare notes.
Tyler: Because we all have different skill sets and areas of interest, Dave let us gravitate towards the sessions that we felt would do the most good for each of us. I know from my perspective that was anything to do with user interface, user feedback, and things like that. Gil, I think you were all over the new automation stuff, and then Dave was running with the API crowd.
Dave: We came together as a team periodically during the day and in the evenings to share what we were excited about and what we had learned. These team debriefings brought together a lot of ideas and inspiration for new problem-solving apps as well as ways to improve ones we already had.
“We actually divided and conquered based on our level of expertise and what appealed to us. I liked that we were able to pursue our individual interests and then connect back with each other to compare notes.” – Gil Spigelman, Senior System Architect, Hitachi Ventara
What was it like to have one of your own presenting a session at Empower?
Dave: We all attended Tyler’s session [The End Users’ Role in Successful App Building] and knew it was going to be good. He’s our superman and has a lot of experience rolling out new applications and features. He also has a very good model for interacting with the end-user population and has been instrumental in helping integrate user feedback into the design experience. Now we proactively go search for it rather than wait for it and be reactive. The room lit up when we started talking about this home-grown tool and how it’s evolved into a worldwide CPQ (Configure/Price/Quote) system.
Can you tell us a bit about what you learned and how you applied it when you got back to the office?
Dave: API was very important to a project we were working on at that time. We have a pre-sales price quote configuring system with about three hundred professional services that require a document template covering statement of work, delivery dates, and other details for each service. That’s a monumental set of templates to have to generate. So, we created a home-grown document generation system and used a Quickbase API to quickly pull data into a nice, single Word document for each bid.
For me, Empower gave me opportunities see how others were using APIs and learn new ways to improve what I do and the pieces of my process. It helps me put icing on the cake, so to speak.
Gil: I wanted to get a better understanding of form rules limitations and find out more about the new Quickbase Automations feature. What I learned has made it a lot easier for me to automate records creation and updates in various tables, trigger alerts and notifications, and copy records. I use the Automations feature a lot now.
Another great thing about Empower that I want to bring up is that you not only learn during sessions but also have the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions that help make features, like Automations, more valuable to you.
Tyler: I had two main goals at Empower and I was really happy that I was successful in getting both accomplished. The first thing I wanted to know about was how different groups and people designed things differently from us. Empower is great for enabling you to see all the ways people tackle similar tasks, and then potentially draw from that insight to improve what you’re already doing.
The other thing I wanted was to get out of Empower was new ideas; things to put in my back pocket that maybe we can’t do now, but someday—cool stuff that other companies are doing like using Quickbase to support AI integrations, chatbots, or help desk automations.
Has the team dynamic changed in any way post Empower?
Tyler: Like most in this industry, our team works at a very fast pace and we put in long hours. We’re also unique in that we all work remotely. So, the opportunity to come together at Empower gave us a chance to decompress a bit while being together in a creative place where we could all learn and share. We came back to work really jazzed and ready try new things. From that perspective alone, I think attending the event was a huge benefit to our team.
Dave: I operate with a team mentality and Empower was the perfect way to bring that out even more within our group. When you come back with all these inspired, brilliant minds talking about the best way to do something, you know you’re going to get some very good solutions.
Did you get to explore the city of Austin while you were at Empower, and were there any memorable moments you’d like to share?
Tyler: One of us actually thought it would be a great idea, in 110-degree heat, to take the team on a 4-mile hike to see a statue. Most of us made it back…
Dave: I understand who you’re pointing to. No one was forced to come with me, and it was pretty hot, but being a musician and a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughn, I had to go see his statue.
Tyler: I dragged everyone across town because I heard there was a Voodoo Donuts and I wanted everyone to try them. And everyone could except for Gil. He’s gluten free.
Gil: That was just torture. All I could do was stare at them.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with future attendees on making the most of their EMPOWER experience?
Dave: I would say your best bet is to look at all the events and then define what you think you want to get out of the conference before you show up. Plan your agenda but stay flexible too, because once you get there you may find you want to go do something different—something that’s totally outside your box.
Tyler: I found the Quickbase Empower app to be really helpful in keeping track of where I needed to be. And it’s really cool to easily explore what else is going on, and what you might want to attend.
The other thing, I think I would tell someone, especially someone going to Empower for the first time, is not to overschedule yourself. I spent almost all of my time in sessions, and I missed out on some of the stuff happening in the main area like “Genius bar” type things, different labs going on, and meeting QSPs.
“I found the Quickbase Empower app to be really helpful in keeping track of where I needed to be. And it’s really cool to easily explore what else is going on, and what you might want to attend.” – Tyler Davis, Business Process Analyst / Quickbase Developer, Hitachi Ventara
Are you all planning to go to Empower 2019?
Dave: All of us who can go will be going. The plan is to bring as many of our team there as possible. We’re looking forward to it.
Click here and find out what’s in store for Empower 2019 on June 10-13th in Miami.