Workday DevTalk: Strategies for Enhancing Application Development

In this Workday DevTalk episode, Chris Bledsoe and Chevron’s lead engineer Jason Miller explore how adaptability, continuous learning, and collaboration are pivotal for effective enterprise application development.

Workday Podcast: DevTalk illustration image

Audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Navigating the complexities of enterprise application development shares surprising parallels with traveling across the globe. Both require a sense of strategic direction while maintaining a flexible framework that adapts to new environments. In this episode of Workday DevTalk, Chris Bledsoe, head of developer relations at Workday, sits down with Jason Miller, the lead engineer at Chevron and a world traveler. Together, they discuss the importance of adaptability, continuous learning, and collaboration for successful application development.

Below are a few highlights from Miller, edited for clarity. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, and remember, you can find our entire podcast catalog here.

  • “An area that can be challenging is navigating requirements gathering and reaching a consensus with customers or business users on the final product. These are some of the hurdles we encounter. In my experience, teamwork plays a significant role in overcoming these challenges. Building strong relationships within the team and with users and customers can significantly smooth out the process. Over the course of my career, I’ve observed that individuals outside of the IT sphere may sometimes perceive technical teams as detached. However, bridging that gap through communication and collaboration can transform these dynamics.”

  • “Our approach to getting new developers up to speed is multifaceted. We kick things off with hands-on sessions led by experienced developers familiar with Workday Extend. Concurrently, we guide them to Workday tutorials available on the developer page, offering valuable resources for learning and building sample apps. Another crucial aspect is involving them in building a brand-new app, especially if it involves a lift-and-shift scenario. This means bringing an app from another technology into Workday using Workday Extend. Having a tangible project to work on makes the transition smoother, compared to starting from scratch with only a requirements document. Lastly, fostering a team environment is essential. Senior developers make themselves available to assist junior developers and interns, ensuring an open-door policy for questions and guidance. Creating a collaborative atmosphere encourages new developers to thrive.”

  • “My advice to a new Workday developer is to remember to be patient. Understand that you probably won’t get everything right on the first try. If you do, it might raise some questions! Be patient, keep working at it, and stay open to learning and listening to your colleagues. And, utilize all available resources, including other developers, through Workday Community. They can all contribute to your learning and success. Also, try to get hands-on experience. Spend time learning, and then dive into development because you can learn quickly that way. I’ve had times in my career where I’ve been thrown into coding something from scratch, which can be intense. But I learned a lot from those experiences.”

Join us in-person or digitally at Workday DevCon, June 3-6, 2024.

Chris Bledsoe: From understanding business requirements to developing innovative applications, developers have to straddle the line between technical expertise and industry acumen. I'm your host, Chris Bledsoe, and today on DevTalk, we're going to be talking with Jason Miller, who's the lead engineer at Chevron. And he's going to share his challenges, triumphs, and best practices that help shape the foundation of application development at the second-largest integration energy company in the United States. Hey, Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason Miller: Hey. Well, I appreciate you giving me the chance to come here and share some knowledge with folks.

Bledsoe: That's fantastic. So I was wondering if you could take some time and share a little bit about your role and your career journey as a developer.

Miller: Okay, sure. So I mean, my current role is, as you stated, a lead software engineer for Chevron. And I'm in the HR department, so HR IT at Chevron. So working on Workday and have worked on quite a few other different products at Chevron from the Azure-related technologies and things like that. But my career journey, I've had kind of an interesting journey as we've gone throughout the years. I got my bachelor's and master's right here in Houston at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. But career-wise, I actually was, during college, a substitute teacher for six years, so I got to be in the classroom. And I was not one of those kind of subs that just popped a video on or anything, but the schools would have me teach the math classes and things. So that gave me some good teaching experience. So I'm able to get in there and know how different people reacted too because everybody learns differently. After that, I went and worked at NASA for a couple of years, [to?] coming out with a book. So I have a NASA publication where I wrote about all of the space shuttle experiments that occurred.

Bledsoe: Wow.

Miller: And a little fun fact is I was a third-generation NASA employee because my grandpa was in Mission Control during Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. My dad worked for NASA for quite a long [time?], such as he worked with the space shuttle communication system, for example, was one of the things that he did. And then myself working there. But after that, I got into my software career where I worked first for a small company doing oil and gas measurement software. So measuring the product as it's passing through, so a lot of science and things involved in that. And then after that, I moved on to work for another large Fortune 500 company. So I've kind of been in the small company, been in the large companies, and then Chevron, even larger. But I did financial software, so doing invoicing and accounting kind of work. So worked with accountants, and then I came over to Chevron and been there for a little over five years doing HR software. So kind of a wide gambit of things that I've done.

Bledsoe: Well, that's fantastic. So you could say you're a bona fide rocket scientist of a kind.

Miller: I could, I guess. I mean, the really cool thing about that experience is I did work with two scientists during that timeframe. One was the chief Earth observation scientist, and the other was the nutritionists that would come up with the astronauts' food and things like that. So it was a really cool experience.

Bledsoe: Well, I would think, as an ex-NASA employee, you were probably very excited about the eclipse that happened earlier this week.

Miller: Oh, absolutely. And I mean, Houston was only 95% covered, but still got out there and see it. Because yeah, at home, I actually-- I'll be honest. I have solar binoculars, so I'm able to look at the sun closer without hurting my eyes or anything like that. So yeah, I'm very much a astronomer, a amateur astronomer at heart. Just another one of my little side things that I enjoy doing.

Bledsoe: That is fantastic. Well, hey, this is the first time we've had a rocket scientist on DevTalk, so it's exciting to have you here. Reflecting back on your career, what challenges have you faced when developing applications, and how did you actually approach and overcome those things?

Miller: Well, some of the challenges that we've had is-- training on new technology is one of kind of the aspects because, I mean, technology has always changed rapidly, but it's changing even more rapidly now, especially with the introduction of AI and machine learning and those kind of technologies. So keeping up with technologies is one of those kind of challenges, the training kind of aspect of it. And then another kind of area that I think is challenging that's not really on the technical side is when you're working with your customers or business users, it's working through the requirements and those kind of areas, coming to a consensus on what is the final product going to look like. Those are some of the kind of challenges. And I find that teamwork-- I mean, working together, making sure that, if you get to know everybody on your team and everything, even beyond in a business kind of setting - meaning that, I mean, you become a little more closer with your team and your users and things like that, customers - things become a lot smoother.

Miller: And I've seen that throughout my career, that a lot of people like us being in an IT kind of setting-- that a lot of non-technical kind of folks, sometimes, "Oh, they're just the nerds sitting back in a back room and stuff like that," and things. And they might have hesitancy working with us or even just a misconception, any of those kind of things. You get to know them. I've had times where I've run into people that are in previous companies and things like that that are a little more hostile towards IT. You get to know them and everything, start working together, it's a different ballpark. So those are all-- and knowing your technical kind of stuff is very, very important, but having a good, I mean, for lack of a better expression, bedside manner as an IT doctor, I guess you could say, is a way to do it.

Bledsoe: Absolutely. So you can say, "Hey, come into the IT doctor to get all your problems solved."

Miller: [laughter] Exactly. Yeah. So that's some of the things that have helped me to get past challenges and everything like that. So it's the teamwork aspect, plus knowing the technology, of course, and knowing how you can get resources and things to help you with problems. Because there are many resources out there, and it could actually be confusing, like, "Okay, where do I go? Do I go to my colleague? Do I go to Stack Overflow or some kind of board of the Workday community? Where do I go?" There are so many options, ask an expert through Workday, different things like that can help get you your answer.

Bledsoe: Well, that's fantastic. Now, along those lines, there's going to always be business people that are coming to you with like, "Hey, I want to solve this type of problem. I'm looking to figure out how to do this," whether it's anything from payroll all the way over to management of their human resources and stuff of that nature. I was wondering, what kind of approach do you guys leverage when working with those business leaders in terms of how they can-- because they always have these great ideas, and then sometimes those ideas are a little too far out and we're not quite there yet in terms of the technology. How do you approach that? How do you work with those business leaders and people coming to you with a request to build stuff like an Extend app? What's your approach?

Miller: For the way that we do it and the way, in general, that I approach it would be-- once again, you have a large team of folks. You will have people with the Agile process that you think of, Scrum, those kinds of things. You have different roles from a product owner, to you'll have Scrum Master and all of these kinds of roles. You all work together. And the business leader usually will bring it to a product owner who is a little more versed in IT knowledge and things. And the product owner usually will work with the software engineers and things, and then we decide, "Okay, well, how much of this can we do?" What are things that are like, "Well, it's not ready yet. Let's save that for another day," and try to get the product out as quickly as possible? It's the same thing for Extend, which that's my main development platform right now. With Extend, "Hey, we need to evaluate. Is this an app that's good for Extend?" or, "Does Workday already have something internal we could use?" And we just tweak things a little bit using some of that built-in technology. Because not every app should be in Extend because there could be something even better out there. So that's the way it kind of plays into all of that.

Bledsoe: Now, at Chevron, how many apps have you guys actually built so far?

Miller: It's like eight or nine apps, so a decent amount of Extend apps.

Bledsoe: Yeah. So of those apps, do you ever have to refactor ones, some of the earlier ones you've created? I know that we're constantly releasing new functionality and new capabilities. Do you ever have to go back and refactor some of your earlier ones? And if you do, what helps you make the decision process of like, "Okay, should we refactor an old one, or should we start building a new one to meet the next business need?" I'm curious how you guys approach it.

Miller: I mean, so far, since we're just a couple of years into our Extend kind of journey, that, I mean, we constantly enhance applications that we're looking for. They use it and that we go and work through the applications and things like that. So we do look at ways to, "Hey, can we add this?" or, "Hey, would machine learning be something that someday, in the future, we could add?" But yeah, it's a continuous process just like with anything else, with iterations and things like that. So our customers will come up to us with, "Hey, is there any way you could do this?" And we'll go in and see, "Okay, well, what technology we got available to do that now?" So that's kind of the approach that we do. I mean, the biggest kind of thing is taking older technologies and things like that, apps that have been around for a while, and seeing, "Is Extend a good place to put this?" Because security is important in today's world. And if you can keep an app in Workday versus outside of Workday, it's a lot safer place to be.

Bledsoe: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense too, right? So not only do you have the security aspect of having your app, your data, your processes sitting inside your system of truth, your source of truth in Workday, but also, it makes it a lot easier for, I think, application development. So you've built, you said, like eight or nine different apps. Do you have any favorites, ones that either you were involved in or you felt like it's had a great value for the business? Because a lot of our customers, especially as they're starting to get started with Extend, they're trying to figure out, "Okay, I have an idea of what I want to build, but I'm trying to decide what's the next one." So do you have any kind of favorites you'd want to share with our audience?

Miller: I mean, I've been basically involved in all the apps in general some way or-- I might not have been the lead developer or the one hands on a particular app, but some of them would be, I think, that-- I mean, we built an app that facilitated promotions. That entire kind of process was a pretty neat app. My first app when working on nomination of people for leadership programs. So that's where I first learned Extend hands-on, outside of tutorials and things like that. So a couple of the apps that are-- but it can do, once again, a lot of different things with Extend. I mean, it can run the gambit of-- I'm working in HR software, but it can do more than that.

Bledsoe: Yeah, that totally makes sense. One of the things that is really special-- and I've talked with you, and I hear this also from a lot of our customers, they're like, "Okay, so I got Extend. That's great. I want to build these apps." But there's always this question of, "How hard is it to get my team and get my developers up to speed so that they can actually be productive in building something and rolling it out to my business?" I know that you have a very wonderful approach that you use there at Chevron around how you get interns, new developers up to speed. I was wondering if you could share a little bit with our audience, some of the things that you guys have done that has been successful.

Miller: Sure. And it's a multifaceted approach, just like many, many things are. But we use a process of-- and this kind of, I guess, goes back to my teaching kind of background from back in the day. We start out by-- we bring them in and have a few hands-on sessions where one of the developers who already knows Extend pretty well will go in there and teach classes, basically, start from the beginning, "Well, this is how, in the beginning days of Extend where we were using IntelliJ and things, we would even start installing that. But now we have App Builder, of course." So giving them the App Builder kind of tour, how you can actually build the application. So starting from there and then going through the processes. What is a PMD? What is the different kind of pieces? And then, in conjunction with that, we send them to the Workday tutorials that are out there because there's some really good tutorials that are there in the developer page that you can get to to also kind of learn and build sample apps.

Miller: And then another kind of aspect is try to get them involved in building a brand new app, especially if we can get a lift-and-shift app. So an app that is not-- you're bringing an app that maybe it's in some other kind of technology, and you're bringing it into Workday and using Workday Extend. So you actually have an app that you can look at and say, "Okay, well, how do I build this into Extend?" And I think that's a great segue to get people into Extend because you have something versus like-- it can be a little more daunting if you're going from scratch and you've never done this app before. There is nothing to look at other than your requirements document. That's a little tougher, but if you can get people into one of those lift-and-shifts, it's a little easier to get them in there, and that's what we've done with interns and a variety of kind of groups. And it's worked out well for us, all of that.

Miller: And also, the last kind of aspect is be a team, that you need to-- the senior developers, I mean, everyone gets busy with things, and this is actually a topic I talked about on my travel blog was, even when traveling, make some time to help somebody in need. So we all get busy. So the senior developers, help out. Make sure that the junior developers are interns, that they're truly-- they know that you truly have an open door policy. "Hey, come ask for help. If I look busy, ask me--" this is what I tell them, "Hey, ask me anyways. I'll let you know if I'm too-- hey, I'll get back to you in a little while," or something like that. But all of that breeds a collaborative, good environment for new developers. And that's where we've had interns that have taken a lift-and-shift app and coded it by the end of their summer internship. So you can spin up fairly quickly on Extend as long as you, once again, build that collaborative kind of environment and using different ways to get people trained.

Bledsoe: I love that idea of the lift-and-shift. It really makes a lot of sense. And it really sounds like, if you've got an intern that's only there for a summer, leveraging that capability, they're actually able to produce something that's useful to the business. Well, also, you mentioned it earlier, and I know that you're a big traveler, and I know you have a travel log. I was wondering, could you just share either one good story or one of your favorite places that you have traveled to in the last few years?

Miller: Well, I mean, a little bit of background on that. I've been to over 55 countries. I've been to all 50 states and 2 US territories. So I've been around the world, so there's all great-- there's great places everywhere. I mean, here in the US, outside of the US, in the different regions, and things like that. I mean, my favorite kind of things, of course, is getting immersed in the different cultures, different people. And you find things like-- I mean, we're all different, and that adds spice to life, but we're all so similar in so many ways. But I think one of my most recent favorite is I went to Jordan in the Middle East and was there for a week and just found the people so friendly. It's so different culturally from us, going out into the desert and meeting the Bedouin tribes and them welcoming us in and giving us-- they made coffee in a way that I'd never seen before that they actually, in a fire-- and we're surrounded by those-- if you'll see in-- think of it in movies, the colorful, on-the-ground pillows and things like that. We're sitting there, and he grinds the coffee by hand right in front of you. I mean, roasts it over the campfire, then grinds it up, and it made it a pretty strong kind of coffee, but it was more like a-- they say that that's actually a ritual that they do, basically, when they're-- guests and everything. So all of those kind of things just made that a very memorable and neat experience. And there's so much that you can learn, once again, from our travels and things like that that can apply to our technology journeys and things like that, so. That's what I love about travel, is the people you meet and then all that you can learn from doing it.

Bledsoe: Well, that's fantastic. That sounds like the kind of coffee that'll curl your toes and definitely get you kick-started--

Miller: It was strong.

Bledsoe: --in the morning.

Miller: Absolutely. I drank one tiny cup, and this was in the evening time. I said, "I don't want to stay up."

Bledsoe: Oh, you're not sleeping that night, bro. [laughter]

Miller: Yeah. So I said, "I'm just going to get that little tiny taste of it." And he came back around and says it's a tradition that they come back around and say, "You want some more?" until it's empty. [I?] says, "No, no, no, no. I'm good with the one small taster cup."

Bledsoe: So Bedouin coffee, that sounds like a brand right there. I love that. Also, I know you're a travel guy. That's fantastic. And I know you also go to a lot of Workday conferences. I believe we met for the very first time at Rising this last year in San Francisco. Also, we have this other little conference I know that you're very much aware of called DevCon. And it's actually coming up pretty soon. I was wondering, maybe you could share. I believe that you weren't able to make it last time, or did you? I'm trying to remember.

Miller: I was not because I was actually on that trip I was just describing. I was in Jordan during that time, but my colleagues did get to go to DevCon, and that's actually how-- in an interesting kind of story, how we ended up meeting at Rising, is because my colleagues, they went to DevCon, saw all of the new, cool technology that's coming out, like for the machine learning, different kind of things, and that's where they said, "Hey, let's start--" they came back excited, like, "Hey, we got to see all this stuff and got to participate in the hackathon," and things like that, says, "Hey, why don't we start toying with some of those technologies?" And that's how we ended up-- me coming to Rising and speaking at one of the presentations around machine learning and those kind of technologies that we did in a proof of concept app. So that was pretty cool. So they really liked it, thought it was very valuable, and had a great time there. So yeah, that's how I kind of learned about DevCon, says, "Okay, cool."

Bledsoe: Yeah, that's great. Well, hopefully, you'll be able to make it again this year or make it--

Miller: Yeah, I will.

Bledsoe: --for the first time this year. All right, that'll be fun. I'm looking forward to seeing you again. Yeah, one of the things that we heard back from last year is we introduced these hands-on labs. It was an instructor-led concept that we did. We did four of them. And literally, of all of the activities that we made available at DevCon, that had the highest rating. People loved it, and were waiting in line just to be a part of it. So this year, what we did is we tripled down. So instead of having 4, we're going to have 12 different hands-on lab activities that people are going to be able to do at DevCon, including some of the upcoming technology like Developer Copilot. So we announced that at Rising. I know you were there and saw that. We're very excited to give our audience that will be able to-- be at DevCon the ability to actually play with it. It's all pre-release software. So not only can you play with it, but you'll also be able to try it out and give us feedback and let us know what you think of it. So I'm looking forward to having you there, and also, it's just going to be fun.

Bledsoe: We're meeting at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas. If anyone is a developer, if you're a builder, if you build on Extend or Prism or a new product that we released called Orchestration for Integrations, you definitely want to come to DevCon because it's going to be a lot of fun. Well, that's really cool. So one last question before I let you go here. The technology landscape evolves quickly, right? It moves along. There's always something new coming out and stuff like that. I was wondering if you could share how you keep track of what new technologies are coming out and how you stay abreast because I'm sure our audience also loves to do that kind of stuff as well. And so I'm just curious, how do you stay on top of all that?

Miller: Once again - I mean, this shouldn't come as a surprise - it's a multifaceted approach for me, just like most everything. I mean, my wife would be able to tell you all the stories of my travel preparations that I'm taking a look at, looking at country information to see what's going on in that country. I mean, there's some countries that, if there's unrest or something like that, I probably don't want to go on a vacation there. But I'm doing all of those kind of preparations. So same thing with technology, that kind of thought, is I'm looking at multiple different routes. I work with my colleagues, is one thing, because they can be a wealth of help to learning kind of things. Because my colleague David or Barry, talking with them, they might pick up something that I'm not aware of. And it's this, "Oh, yeah, hey, why don't we have a group session and learn about that?" And we'll all get together, and my colleagues around the world and stuff will get on a call and learn about that. That's one route.

Miller: There's also, of course, the things like tutorials and things like that. Once again, with Extend, when you put out new tutorials and things like that, taking a look at that so you have this hands-on guide. I'll also do other kind of trainings and things like that, different learnings and things. AI is the hot topic right now. So, okay, so I'm going to take some-- I mean, I take some online-- watch the online videos and things like that. And then, of course, there's also ask an expert kind of things available to help with technologies. And then, of course, you can go to the different community sites that-- if you're looking at Workday, go to Workday Community and ask people, or some of the presentations that are done within Workday, or go out to other communities that are outside of, depending on what kind of technology. So if you use all of those kind of things, you can be ready for this changing world that we're in right now, at least the best that you can be.

Bledsoe: Really, really good input and suggestions for people. All right. Before we land this plane and we conclude this, I was going-- let's say I'm a brand new developer. I'm brand new. I just got Extend. What would you suggest to them to help them get up to speed the quickest way possible?

Miller: One thing is be patient. It is important because, I mean, you want to get in there and learn everything and just be-- and this is with any software period, I find: be patient, know that you're not going to get it right more than likely on the first try. If it does, you kind of think, "Whoa, okay, what's going on?" Be patient, continue to work with that, and have an open mind to learning, and listening to your colleagues and things like that. That all of those kind of things are very, very helpful. And once again, use all the resources that you got available, including your colleagues, other developers through Community. All of those kind of things will help you learn and be successful. And try to get hands-on as well. Spend some time learning and then get hands-on in the development because you can learn pretty quickly that way. I mean, I've had times in my career where I've been kind of thrown into the fire in a way that, "Hey, go ahead and code this from scratch." This is, of course, like being thrown into something like that. But I learned a lot as well. So I'm not necessarily recommending because that can be really stressful for a new developer, but meet in the middle and give them something to work on that's maybe not necessarily an extreme deadline kind of situation to give them time to spin up on it.

Bledsoe: All right. That's fantastic. Well, thank you once again so much. You've been listening to Workday DevTalk, the podcast [music] for developers by developers, with our guest, Jason Miller. 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 this entire catalog of our podcast at I'm your host, Chris Bledsoe, and I hope you have a great workday.

Bledsoe: Join us at this year's Workday DevCon, our annual developer conference, happening June 3rd to 6th in Las Vegas. Can't join us in person? Be sure to register for the event virtually to watch live sessions and access on-demand content afterward. To register, go to podcast. That's We hope to see you there.

More Reading