We caught up with Unqork's Evan Candler to talk about his work, the future of no-code bootcamps, and why learning to code was the hardest thing he’s ever done.
Tell us about what you do at Unqork and how you got here.
Evan: I was in digital marketing and media for a while before I decided that I wanted to get into technology. One of my friends had done a coding bootcamp and I thought, “That sounds like something I would want to do.” So about two years ago, I enrolled in the Flatiron School and fell in love with software, coding, and application building. That initiated my career in technology and I started working at a startup.
After a while, I realized that I wanted more responsibility in terms of client relationships. I felt like my marketing experience would make me a good liaison between people who are technical and people who aren’t so technical. I came across Unqork while researching companies and thought, “Wow, the implementation team seems like the perfect role for me.” I’ve been a Technical Implementation Specialist for about six months now.
Can you tell us about what a Technical Implementation Specialist does?
It’s very technical, but it’s also very client-focused, and I feel like that’s my sweet spot. And my job is never the same day-to-day, which I love.
I partner with a project manager who’s responsible for managing the overall project and the client relationship, and then the Implementation team becomes part of the scoping process. We ask questions about functionality, get a sense of what the client wants, and assess how long the project will take. Then I build the application using Unqork’s platform based on the requirements we’ve gathered. There’s a lot of client interaction and the requirements are always changing, so it’s definitely a strength to be flexible and patient.
"I love the team that I work with. The people I work with are incredibly smart, genuine, hilarious, and I truly enjoy talking to them. In my opinion, everyone on my team is a genius—but there’s no ego. Everyone’s just hungry to learn and share knowledge."
What do you love most about working for Unqork?
It sounds really corny, but when I first started looking into Unqork I was really attracted to one of the core values, which is empathy. With startups, I feel like it’s easy for it to become all about making money and working hard and just grinding. But something that I think makes Unqork so unique and successful, especially as a young startup, is the practice of empathy. Not only for clients, but also for each other while we work hard towards common goals.
Also, I love the team that I work with. The people I work with are incredibly smart, genuine, hilarious, and I truly enjoy talking to them. In my opinion, everyone on my team is a genius—but there’s no ego. Everyone’s just hungry to learn and share knowledge. So I’m always learning something new and I’m always on my toes.
That’s really great—any projects in particular that you’ve worked on with your team that you’re especially proud of?
In April, I helped out with the GetFoodNYC Delivery portal, which provides food for COVID-19-vulnerable and food-insecure New Yorkers. That was pretty intense. You could almost compare it to building something like UberEats for New York City — it was a crazy timeline and a product that people are relying on every day, which is a huge deal! The team worked really hard and tirelessly, and it was so amazing to see the difference we were able to make in such a short period of time.
I’d never thought I’d ever get to do something like that in my career. I always thought that if I was going to do something that helped someone, it would be on my own time, not at work. It was just a good feeling to know that I could be a part of that. It’s exciting to be a part of a company that’s able to make a difference and use technology to literally help people’s lives.
You mentioned the Flatiron School—having gone through a bootcamp, how is learning to code different from learning to use Unqork?
When I was first learning to code, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That coding bootcamp made undergrad look like preschool. It was so challenging, and there were a lot of instances in which I got caught up in writing a function or trying to manipulate the data and would lose sight of actually building the application. With Unqork, you’re really able to focus on the larger picture. I think that’s a part of the reason why we’re able to deliver more robust projects quicker for a lot of our clients.
Want to see the power of Unqork in action? Check out the COVID-19 hub we build in partnership with the city of New York in just 72 hours.
So, what’s it actually like to build with the Unqork platform?
When I first started I would write functions and then try to translate them into Unqork. But then I thought, “This is no-code. This isn’t really that productive.” So I started drawing out what I wanted. I would draw arrows and diagrams to make sure I had the flow, and once I actually started building with Unqork it was so seamless. It was like, “Oh, I know exactly what I want to do! I can read the names of these components, figure out what the functions are going to be, and go into Unqork and do this in two hours.” It changed the game for me. Mapping out my thought process really made it a lot easier to build with Unqork.
I’ll also say that you’re almost at an advantage if you don’t know how to code. In my experience, there’s a bit of unlearning you need to do if you know how to code, and that kind of methodology can be kind of challenging to translate. But ultimately, I think Unqork has actually improved and deepened my understanding of software development, because it immediately shows you the output of what you’ve done. It’s actually really magical when you think about it.
Can you see a future where people go to no-code bootcamps instead of coding bootcamps?
In a perfect world, Unqork is the standard and you can just learn how to configure, you know? I think Unqork Academy has the potential to create an ecosystem where it’s like, “Hey. Go do this course. Learn how to config and build applications as opposed to going to this grueling bootcamp.” I think we are positioning ourselves to be the new standard.
I would love to get rid of the preconception that you need to study computer science for four years or go to a coding bootcamp to get involved in software development. There are a lot of different ways to problem-solve. Fundamentally, I think what makes someone great at coding is creativity, and the current software development environment fails to emphasize that. As long as you're creative, patient, and enjoy thinking outside the box, that's enough to succeed as a developer.
What would you tell people who are looking to explore or get into software development—any advice?
It’s okay to make mistakes. Building applications, building software, learning how to debug—things are going to break. And that’s okay! As long as you’re making an effort and learning from your mistakes, I feel like that’s the best method to learn.