We spoke with Henry Ivry, Lead Full Stack Engineer at Unqork, to learn about what it’s like to build a no-code platform from the ground up.
What is your role at Unqork and what’s a typical day like?
Where were you before you joined Unqork?
Right before Unqork, I took a year off to travel all over Europe for about seven months. I’d been working as a product manager at NBCUniversal. I had worked as a software engineer before being a product manager, so when I got back to New York I ended up going back to engineering and found my way to Unqork.
Did you have any experience with no-code before coming to Unqork?
No, not really. I had played around with some no-code platforms and drag-and-drop builders before, but I wasn’t super excited about the experiences they offered. They were good for certain things like creating small websites, but they weren’t necessarily tools you could use to create complex functions like rules engines.
"I think where the Unqork platform really shines is that it gives you the ability to get really granular with your rules and your data, and that emphasis is really appealing to me as an engineer."
So what’s special about the Unqork platform?
I think where the Unqork platform really shines is that it gives you the ability to get really granular with your rules and your data, and that emphasis is really appealing to me as an engineer. A lot of other no-code platforms are really focused on the UI and they might have some ways of manipulating data, but they don’t come close to where we go in that regard. That’s what makes Unqork so great for the enterprise. Where else are you going to get that level of control without needing the help of a bunch of engineers and data scientists?
Can you tell us about what projects you’re working on now?
I’ve been working on revamping some of our architecture on the front-end. This project has been a few months in the making and there’s not necessarily anything shiny for the user at the end of it, but it’s a really necessary move for our infrastructure.
What’s it like to be an engineer using code to create a platform that ultimately works to eliminate code in the app development process? Do you ever worry that no-code will replace code altogether?
I think the code vs. no-code problem is a really interesting one that Unqork is trying to solve in an elegant way. It doesn’t feel like I’m replacing myself or making myself redundant at all—I know that there will always be a place for engineers.
I think it’s really awesome to be able to build a tool for people who don’t plan on being software engineers but want to create products that have really complex rules. You have to think: “How do I give them control over the code that we build for them?” That’s not something you often think about as an engineer—you think about delivering elegant code to solve a bunch of problems, but not necessarily how to give control to people who don’t know how to code. It’s a fun thing to do and a really cool problem to solve.
As a software engineer who works to build a no-code platform, can you tell us a bit about the value of knowing how to work with both code and no-code? For people who don’t have experience with either, do you have a recommendation on where to start?
I would recommend code to everybody—I think it’s really personally enriching and it pushes your brain to think and solve problems in different ways. I’ve always liked solving puzzles, and code allows me to do that in an interesting way that is also sort of a visual experience. That said, I think code and no-code are just tools for your toolbox, and they each have a different value to add. As an engineer, you’re often solving two different problems, and you’re not necessarily trying to solve both of those problems with the same set of tools. I definitely think there’s value in learning to do both.
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You’ve said that you perceive software development as a visual experience—can you say more about that?
I think my background as a musician influences how I experience code. I’m a singer and I studied music production and composition in college. I’m really into art rock, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, soul music, electro rock, 80s synth pop—a little bit of everything. I love blending genres.
Music has always been sort of visual for me, and I feel the same way about building with code and no-code. It’s hard to describe. When you're making music and adding notes to a staff, or a MIDI representation of a keyboard, or even arranging audio on various tracks, you start to notice patterns—it often feels like the same part of my brain whether I'm refactoring code or "refactoring" music to be more elegant. In code, we talk a lot about "orchestration" and "composition" of functions and components, and again, it feels very similar to music, when you're orchestrating, arranging, and composing instrumentation and notes on a keyboard (or staff). For me, for some reason, a lot of the patterns I compose feel visual, though I don't know if that's the right word. But I definitely feel a connection.
No-code is great because it takes what is a visual process in my head and actually makes it visual for non-coders.
How has Unqork culture changed from the early days to now?
The culture has changed so much, but in some ways, it really hasn’t. I definitely have faith in leadership’s ability to scale the company culture because they come from larger enterprises themselves. They know what an organization should look like and how to take care of people inside the organization. I think the culture has scaled really elegantly and we’ve kept a lot of the core things that we had early on. It’s all built around communication and transparency, which are things I really appreciate and look for in a company’s culture.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into code, no-code, or technology in general?
Don’t be intimidated. A lot of people think, “Oh, I’m not good at math, so I won’t be good at code.” I was never good at math, and I’m still not good at math. But I love problem-solving and I’m addicted to jigsaw puzzles. I think anyone who likes that feeling of solving a puzzle should become an engineer. You can start small and write tiny little programs and go from there.
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