Starting with FileMaker in 2021

By Seppe Van Praet.

How FileMaker gained my interest

I learned about FileMaker in 2020, quite a few years after its initial release in 1985. A close friend mentioned he had started developing a FileMaker app. Initially, it didn’t pique my interest all that much. Still, in college, my focus was on programs such as Unreal Engine, Unity, and 3D Studio Max. Databasing software, not so much.

A year later, I started looking for possible job opportunities after leaving college. The same friend who introduced me to FileMaker had been working for ClickWorks. Who specialized in FileMaker development. After he heard I was looking for a job, preferably one that didn’t involve the fast-food chain McDonald’s, he mentioned that the company he was working for needed new FileMaker developers. My interest in FileMaker grew slightly with the possibility of employment. We talked about FileMaker, the company, and the apps he had been developing. A couple of hours and some demos later, my interest in FileMaker had grown significantly.

Seppe writing in a book

The next morning, I downloaded the free trial for FileMaker 19 and got to exploring. I started working my way through the FileMaker training series and making small projects, such as an app to store data on movies I’d seen.

Like most development software, it took some time to get used to the ins and outs of the program. While a lot of my programming experience came in handy, the differences between FileMaker and developing in C++ or making a game in UE were rather large. However, once I knew my way around the relationship graph and the script editor, it was easy enough to quickly turn my concepts into a working application.

After messing around for a month with the program, I managed to land a “freelance” FileMaker job. I had to recreate an existing app from the ground up, adding some functionality and tweaking some features. It took me some time to get into it, seeing as it was quite a step up from the tiny projects I had made before. But after some time, I had most of the basics figured out and enough knowledge to solve most of the problems I encountered (or at least enough know-how to understand the things I copied from the Claris community). Things went smoothly.

How I finally ended up at ClickWorks

Meanwhile, at the ClickWorks office, they received a letter with a not-all-that-impressive CV. But with a convincing recommendation from my friend who worked there, they agreed to have me come over for an interview. On the condition that I could work out a small assignment, they gave it to every applicant. Which was not all that challenging with the experience I had already gathered over the last few weeks.

ClickWorks office at the Cogels Osylei

So, I sent in the assignment with some extra work to show my eagerness, and a week later, I stood at their doorstep for an interview. I was sweating profusely because of the summer heat and the fact that I had never done a formal interview before I rang their doorbell. Jeroen and Joris were very welcoming, though a bit skeptical at the start of the interview. To explain their skepticism: I was young, switched bachelors three times before dropping out of college after 4 years, and had little to show for it except some knowledge of zoology, C++ programming, and 3D modeling. None of those were beneficial for the job I was applying for. However, after going over the assignment and some other things I had built in FileMaker, they quickly opened up to the idea of hiring me for an internship.

The first week was a tad confusing; figuring out how the company ran and my role in it took some time. Let alone try to understand some of the monstrous projects they were developing. But with time (and a great deal of help from my colleagues) comes understanding. For the first few weeks, Jeroen or one of my colleagues clearly defined and thought through my assignments. Unfortunately, no developer is safe from unexpected behavior or the complexity of an application. More than once, I jumped down the rabbit hole until I found where the issue was hiding, usually after spending an hour of intense staring at the script debugger. Luckily, mistakes and frustration can be great learning tools; it’s hard to forget something after spending an hour looking for it.

Jumping back to the present, I’ve been working at ClickWorks for 6 months. My internship is over, and I’m working at (almost) full capacity. My attempt at the FileMaker certification exam has shown me that there’s still plenty for me to learn when it comes to making apps in the world of Claris. FileMaker lives up to being easy to learn and hard to master. Yet I feel like I’ve made great progress already. Jeroen and Joris trust me to interpret and handle requests from customers. I’ve experimented with Javascript and Web viewers; I’ve integrated many successful API calls; and I’m able to look back at my old scripts in disgust, which is always a good sign of growth.