Chris Bledsoe: A Workday developer's ability to navigate complex projects, provide constructive feedback, and constantly push the boundaries is what makes a true star within the Workday developer community, and that's exactly what my guest, Dave Freetly, technical lead at Minnesota State colleges and universities is. Dave has become a true champion in the Workday community with his exceptional contributions and unwavering dedication, which is why he is one of this year's Developer Star winners. On this episode of the Workday Podcast, we'll hear about Dave's developer journey and the invaluable lessons he's learned along the way. I'm your host, Chris Bledsoe. Let's get started. Hey, Dave, welcome to the podcast. So Dave, if you wouldn't mind, just give us a little bit of background about how you became a developer initially.
Dave Freetly: Well, Chris, thanks for having me. So we're going to have to jump in the way back time machine here when I graduated from college back in 1990 with a degree in computer information systems. I took my first job down in Minneapolis for a company that built leasing software, a mainframe developer, you would call it, and then, I realized the big city life of Minneapolis wasn't for me, so I found a company out in rural Minnesota that was building healthcare software. So I was there for, oh, 15 years or so, building mainly client-server applications, and along that journey, web app development became an interest of mine. So I was hired by Minnesota State, who is my current employer, and I built web apps for the last, oh, I suppose-- I built them for about 13 years, and then the last 2, I've been working on Extend applications. So that's kind of my journey in a nutshell.
Bledsoe: Well, that's really interesting, too, if you think about it, is that a lot of our developers in this community do come from a fairly strong what I would say more high code background where they're doing a lot of development, whether it's full stack or front-end development, like what you were doing with the web. I'm kind of curious, though, as you started to get involved in the Workday Extend, how did that come about? How did you become the extend developer there at Minnesota?
Freetly: I talked to my boss, and Minnesota State had decided to purchase Workday. So it's like, "Oh my, what's that mean for me? I've been building web apps on kind of our homegrown system." And he said, "Well, good news. We've purchased the Extend product of Workday, so there's still going to be a development path for you." So that's how I got started. Hit the ground, started going through the tutorials and playing around in the dev tenant. And then I went through some of the first of the paid trainings. That's how I kind of got started with Extend.
Bledsoe: Well, that's really cool too. And I think that's something I'd like to dig in just a little bit more about your journey is, if somebody was, let's say, brand new to Extend, right? Like, "Hey, our company, just like what Minnesota State did, purchased Workday Extend," and now they've got one or two developers that they want to start learning how to use Workday Extend, what would be your-- I'm looking kind of for-- what is kind of the sequencing number, right? So we have a number of tools available for developers to learn how to build, right? Whether it's, like you said, a tutorial. It could be instructor-led training. It could be apps you download. It could be just reading the documentation. I'm kind of curious about, from your perspective, what worked best for you in terms of how you did each of those things, especially for our audience who are also looking at getting started?
Freetly: Probably got a rounded experience by going through the paid training where the tutorials are more topic-focused, I would say. I had a little time before my paid training course started. So then I was going through the tutorials, and a lot of the tutorials kind of focus on the GMS tenant. Well, I'm an AMU tenant since we're higher education. Most of them work. Some of them I would kind of get stuck. And as a new developer, that would be, "Oh, I can't find that in my dev tenant." But after I learned some things-- I went through the tutorials multiple times, and that's how I learned the best, I guess, is just keep pounding on it, and eventually it sticks.
Bledsoe: Well, that's really cool. I have to say, you are definitely one of our best developers for giving feedback on tutorials. So we really appreciate that. And yes, we definitely are aware that all of our content was built based on GMS and that you were using AMU, so I'm glad to hear that some of it worked. Obviously, some of it could be adjusted more appropriately for that type of data set being held in the dev tenant itself. So that's really interesting too. Now, also, as you mentioned earlier, that Minnesota State had not only just purchased Workday but also purchased Workday Extend, so where is Minnesota State in their journey in terms of implementation of Workday? And how does that relate to what you're building in Extend?
Freetly: Well, Minnesota State's still in the journey of implementing Workday. We're currently implementing the HCM and the finance modules, and then we're going to implement the student module a little bit after that. So we're working with Deloitte, who is our implementation partner, on doing all the configuration and the [inaudible] tenants and all the testing and all of that. So it was a challenge for me, I guess, because they're doing configuration while we're trying to build an application, not really knowing how [laughter] it was going to be configured in the final implementation tenant version. I guess.
Bledsoe: Yeah, I imagine that would be kind of tricky, right? So even as they're defining all the processes and functionality, their leveraging of Workday as a part of Minnesota State, to also go, "All right, we're also going to create an extra app or two that you can run within there using Extend." Now, also, I was kind of curious too is what is your domain knowledge around Workday? Because I know a lot of developers I talk to - some of them are like yourself - they kind of come into this with mostly a high degree of high code-development background, whether it's web or full stack. And then they have to grow their own Workday domain knowledge as well. How did you do that or did you, or what was your process around that?
Freetly: Gosh, laying around in the dev tenant, reading the administrator guide information. There's a bunch of those free learnings out there that they talk about, oh, configurable security and business process framework, and I swear, I watch those things 10 times each. So [laughter] it's really a different set of terminology than I was used to, and just trying to wrap my head around some of those concepts. That's kind of what worked for me. Configurable security is very powerful, and, for me, it was also kind of confusing.
Bledsoe: Well, that's actually kind of cool, too. So you basically were learning through the configurable security how to set up and structure the dev tenant stuff for all the stuff you're building. One thing I was going to ask you too is, I know you've been doing some work yourself, been building some apps and stuff. Maybe you could share with us some of your favorite apps that you've either been working on or you're currently working on.
Freetly: So yeah, we were asked to build a credentialing solution, kind of something that we had in our homegrown application that we were replacing that wasn't in the Workday product. So we set out to build this credentialing solution. So I started out in building out our object model. And I should say, since this was our first application, Workday was kind enough to kind of give us a mentor to kind of guide us along so we didn't go down some rabbit hole we shouldn't go down. So we had Christian Hopkins, which everybody knows is a fantastic resource, very knowledgeable man. So that was nice. So we built out our object model. It got to be big enough that we had to kind of split up our business objects across multiple apps. So we ended up with eight applications in our solution that all kind of work together. And I thought, "Oh my, this could be a mess." But it actually worked out really well.
Bledsoe: So basically, you've kind of taken eight distinct Extend applications and combined them together to create this credentialing management solution that you use within the school. Can you tell us a little bit about some of those eight modules real quickly? You don't have to name all eight of them, but just some of the ones that you thought were more interesting and relevant to the overall project and what you were building.
Freetly: So sure, yeah, we have two main applications or what we call applications that are part of this solution. One we call them My Credentials. It's for a college instructor to go in and provide their credentials, their work experience, any certifications, licenses, any degrees that they've received, and any specific coursework that says, "Yes, I'm credentialed to teach courses at your college." So that's the app we call My Credentials, and then the instructor can say, "Okay, I've got all my credentials in. I'm going to hit the big old submit button to request an evaluation." And then we can get over to the other main applications. That application we call the Credentials Workspace, which is meant for the HR folks at the campus to receive these evaluation requests and process the evaluations. And there's a series of things that happen during an evaluation to say, "Okay, yes, this credential that you supplied applies to you want to teach in, say, the accounting field of study or accounting field. Yes, that applies or no, it doesn't apply." And yeah, so there's a process there, and it's all kind of linked together with business processes, and we use notifications to send out emails and things like that. So it got to be pretty complex but, yeah, I think it worked out pretty well.
Bledsoe: And also, it seems like with credentialing especially, that's going to have a very broad application to, right, all of the instructors, the professors, all of the folks that are teaching at the school, which is probably the bulk of your group beyond just the students, right?
Freetly: Yeah, yeah. So Minnesota State is actually kind of a group of colleges and universities. We consist of 7 state universities in Minnesota and 25 two-year technical and community colleges. They all kind of fall under the Minnesota state umbrella. So our tenant configurations are we're dealing with 32 or 33 different institutions all running under the same tenant running these applications.
Bledsoe: Wow, I didn't realize it quite had that reach in what you're building out. That's really sweet. One of the great qualities, David, that I love about working with you and one of the reasons why we selected you as a Developer Star this year is that you've been amazing in terms of providing feedback, right? Whether it was feedback directly to us or looking at different posts and comments in the dev forum. I'm kind of curious, what's your mentality around that kind of stuff? Because I know that at Workday, generally speaking, we're crazy for that feedback, right? We just want it. And it's sometimes hard to get from others. And I get it, we're all busy and we all get surveyed to death, it seems sometimes. But I'm curious how you look at it. Like when you decide to respond or get engaged or involved on the dev forum and join the conversation, what's kind of going through your mind and why do you do that?
Freetly: I don't know. I guess at this point in my career, I like to give back. If I've learned something from somebody else or doing it on my own, and if somebody else has that same question on the developer forum, if I can provide an answer and a screenshot and a code snippet, I'm more than happy to do that. I think it just makes our Extend community stronger.
Bledsoe: Dude, I could reach through and give you a kiss, man. That is so awesome. I love that. And that's really why we wanted the community, right? We're trying to work with all of our developers and ensure they got everything they're looking for and stuff. So I've got to ask you. I report directly into the product team and work very closely with all the product managers. Of the solution pieces that you use as a part of building out Workday Extend apps, is there any favorite stuff that you like to use?
Freetly: I was going to say Orchestrate, but my new favorite is Quick View and App Builder. I use that all the time. It has saved me so much time. I love that. That's great. So shout out to the App Builder and Quick View team.
Bledsoe: Well, again, that is fantastic. We worked extremely hard to get that done and available in the system before Devcon, which kind of leads me to my next question. I know you weren't unable, sadly, to be able to join us in person at Devcon, which was just this last week. So you got an opportunity to watch it from a digital perspective. I'm kind of curious, from what you saw, from where you're at, was there anything that kind of stood out for you that you kind of liked about Devcon as you were watching it?
Freetly: The more I learn about Extend, the more some of the presentations really sink in because I went to Devcon last year and I might even went the year before digitally, and some of the stuff went right over my head. But as I'm learning more, some of these more advanced discussions and training, or not trainings, but presentations, they make sense and really make you think. And it was nice to see that your upper leadership team was at Devcon. To me, that makes me think that they're very invested and Extend is here for the long term.
Bledsoe: Absolutely. Yeah, it's very exciting too. Just a little bit about my own background. I'm literally one of the people who've been with Extend probably about the longest. They literally brought me into the company to help build out this dev program. And it's been amazing to see how much it's grown, how much the product itself has developed. I mean, all the capabilities and functionality. And we're not done. We got even more cool stuff that I can't reveal on this podcast, but you're definitely want to stay tuned to all this, especially as we get closer to things like rising. We'll be having some fun, exciting announcements that'll build upon what we did at Devcon actually.
Freetly: Yeah, I watched Mudit's presentation. So I got a sneak peek into some of those things that are coming in App Builder. So I'm pretty excited about that.
Bledsoe: Sweet, sweet, sweet. Yeah, and we had all kinds of fun things too. I'd say one of the things that just a little brief, again, plug on Devcon that I heard back, we introduced Hands-On Labs, and it was an insanely bonafide success. A lot of people wanted to do it. A lot of people want to use it. And we're actually looking at how do we leverage that content and make it even more broadly available to the rest of the developer community. So it was definitely a great event. And dude, you would love the hackathon. Oh, my gosh, you would have [laughter] had such a good time there. We introduced a bunch of new-- piloted a bunch of new technology that people could try out and stuff. So I think people were very excited about that, so. Another question I just had for you too is we're talking about the Developer Star program itself and such, if somebody goes, "You know what, I see Dave. I appreciate you wanting to give back to the community. What would be your advice to the next Developer Star, to the next person? Like, hey, I want to be like Dave." You've heard like Mike from back in the last century, but I want to be like Dave. What would you recommend or suggest to people?
Freetly: I guess I'd say learn Workday Extend the best you can. I mean, there's so much content out there that you can take advantage of. You have your program update calls, Clint and Christian in their knowledge sharing sessions. Those developer experience seasons are fantastic. And there's just so much out there. And the documentation, I like that they put the latest release notes at the top now, so I can see the latest and greatest things that were updated in the documentation. Yeah, so learn it the best you can, and when you keep up to date with what's going on in the dev forum. I kind of got addicted to the dev forum, I think. I go out there just about every day, I think. [laughter] Just see if there's a question and I know the answer to it, or I have a little sample app that I can provide to somebody to get them over the hump of being stuck on something. Because people, they're stuck when they get out there and they have a question. They've tried things already. So I know everybody goes through it when you're new into something. You need a little help once in a while, so I'm happy to provide that. And I think that'd be my advice. Try to be helpful. Let's build this community and make Workday Extend a really awesome product.
Bledsoe: That's great. All right, one last question, and then I think we can tie this up. As a heavy dev forum user, I'm curious. What would you like to see us do with it, right? So my team actually manages the content and the structure and all that kind of stuff. I was wondering, do you have any feedback, specifically, into the dev forum like, "Hey, I'd love to see this," or, "This would be kind of cool," or, "If you could try these things"?
Freetly: I don't know if I'd change anything. It's been really accessible. I mean, I even found a mobile app that I can check it on my phone if I'm off for the weekend, and I want to see if there's any questions or anybody commented on one of my posts or anything. So I mean, I don't have a issue with anything going on in the dev forum. It's really nice that the announcements are there and you give the feedback. It's like, "Well, I don't really even have to go out to community anymore. I can do it all in the dev forum."
Bledsoe: Absolutely. And that was definitely the intent and plan for that. You've been listening to the Workday Podcast with our guest, Dave Freetly. If you've enjoyed what you've heard today, be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. And remember, you can find our entire catalog at workday.com/podcast. I'm your host, Chris Bledsoe, and I hope you had a great workday. And David, thank you very much for joining the show today.
Freetly: Thank you, Chris.