We're very excited to announce our first Community member of the month: @Dave Morris
Dave joined the Blue Prism Community in 2019 and since then he's become our most active member of all time, thanks to his constant contributions on the Community. Being one of our most valuable members helped him become one of our selected MVPs 2020. Can't wait to see what the future holds for Dave in our Community, but for now we hope you get to know him a bit better in this interview :)
"I live in/near Atlanta, Georgia (United States) with my wife and son. I recently returned to the work role I was in a couple years ago. In 2019, I worked at Southern Company (as a contractor through 3Ci). I left for a little over a year to work with Cano Ai because I wanted to get a bit more experience with some various Blue Prism implementations before I settled down with no intention of leaving, and I returned to Southern Company (through 3Ci) at about the same time that Cano Ai merged with Crowe recently. At Southern Company, I develop Blue Prism automations, and a fair bit of my time is focused on building and updating our reusable components that we call the DLLib (Digital Labor Library) where I get to practice and sharpen C# skills. This is one of the best teams I've ever worked with, and Southern Company is a fantastic work environment. Some members of the team I'm part of who make it such a great environment: Tammie, Susan, Meera, Kirk, Brent, Shiva, Emeka, Luis, Marcos, Szymon, and Jaakko."
Tell us a bit about yourself and how did you start in RPA / Blue Prism?
"I served on Active Duty in the U.S. Air Force for 6 years as a Chinese Language Analyst from 2010 to 2016, and during that time I found myself with the opportunity to build and maintain MS Access databases for operational purposes. Admittedly, MS Access is not a great tool to use when there are dozens users so I started learning various programming languages to see what would work best for me and really focused on learning Java after I separated from the Air Force in 2016. In February 2017, I was hired as an entry-level Java developer at Accenture. I got a call from a regional director/manager for the US Southeast who asked if I'd like to be placed in RPA (Robotic Process Automation). Of course I had to say "What's that?" and I looked it up a bit. After I agreed, they gave me training materials to learn Blue Prism, and that started me on the journey I'm still on today. I love information technology. It doesn't have to be RPA for me, but there is just such a huge need for RPA that I've found myself staying in this industry and enjoying basically just playing with logic puzzles all day which is what RPA development in Blue Prism feels like to me. =)"
Most interesting automation using Blue Prism? / Best tip you have learnt for Blue Prism?
"If I have to pick one, I'd say it'd be when I automated a Remote Desktop (RDP) session in order to generate RDS Licensing Usage on an RDS server (basically a server that hosts multiple virtual desktop sessions for users). We tried to find out if it was possible to use PowerShell or some other non-RPA tool to accomplish the same thing, and it appeared as though Microsoft just provides no way to do it through programmatic means. The only way was to open the UI of an app inside the server and click around in it a bit to generate a report to a CSV file. So, I made a Blue Prism automation that launched a Remote Desktop window (MSTSC) and then used entirely Surface Automation techniques including image recognition, send keys, etc. It was Blue Prism v6.x so it was pretty easy to do. That automation runs every week and has been for two years now.
The best tip I could give for Blue Prism is to always assume that there's an action or existing functionality for what you need. A common mistake I see developers make is to assume they need to create entirely new logic for something that is already an action in one of the Blue Prism-Provided VBOs (e.g.- Utility - Strings), a function in a calculation stage, an asset on the Digital Exchange, etc. The only way to get familiar with all of the existing actions is to use them all. That's actually the original reason I started making YouTube videos. I felt like I didn't know enough so I wanted to force myself to try explaining Blue Prism and showing people how to use it, which forced me to look deeper and learn more."
You clearly know your stuff - why do you come to the Community everyday?
"I have several reasons for visiting the Community most days. There are certainly days I forget to check the Community, but that's mostly if I am extremely busy. The original reason I started posting on the Blue Prism Community back in probably late 2017 or so when it was called the Blue Prism Forum was that there were very few people answering questions there. I remember people like John Carter, Denis Dennehy, and Ami Barret. There were certainly others, so please forgive me if I've forgotten your names. But I felt like that was just too much effort for only a few people, so I started answering the easier questions so they wouldn't have to. Now that there is a ton of participation on the Community, I answer questions now just to add my voice to the conversations where I feel like I have something to add. Eventually, what I want to see is every single question anyone might have about Blue Prism to already have been answered on the Community. It's awesome when someone messages me and tells me that an answer I gave a couple years ago helped them with a problem today. That's the way it really should be, and now that the Community has been updated a lot so that now it's easier to search and shows up on Google searches, I think people are finding answers much more quickly."
Tell us a fun fact about yourself
"I have a weird ability to guess numbers correctly. I don't know if it's my subconscious brain being smarter than my conscious brain or what, but it has happened over and over where I'll guess the most random number when someone says, "Guess how many...", and it'll be exactly right or close to it. I have a terrible memory, so it's entirely possible that I learn the right number, forget that I learned it, and then surprise myself later on when someone asks for the number which my brain just suddenly has ready for no apparent reason. =)"
What's your favourite use case?
"I suppose my answer will be a bit generalized, but what I think of as my favorite use case is anything that simply cannot be automated by anything but RPA (UI automation). We often automate business processes that could technically be accomplished by PowerShell scripts or a .NET Console Application, for example. We often use Blue Prism since it's easier to just put all automations under the umbrella of RPA so that it's standardized development practices, technologies, and monitoring capabilities. But still some of the use cases could be handled by other technologies. What I really like is when I come across a use case where it just 100% cannot be done any other way. It just further validates RPA as a production-ready technology."
Do you have names for your digital workers?
"Yes, all of our Digital Workers have the last name of Virtual, and all of their first names begin with the letter V because Alliteration is the way of the future. =) So we have Vance Virtual, Victor Virtual, Valerie Virtual, etc. =)"
What do you love the most about the Community?
"I take the question two ways: the people and the technology. For the people, I love the professional nature of all of the people who post in it. I don't know if I've ever seen an argument occur. People give their opinions, and sometimes people disagree, but they are very professional interactions. For the technology, I would say the fact that the Community now emails me when people reply to me is my favorite feature."
What would you most like to automate that you haven’t been able to yet?
"I'd like the opportunity to automate a mainframe emulator. I've been on projects where mainframes emulators were automated with Blue Prism, but at the time I was busy with other automations. I consider myself an expert at Blue Prism, but I've never once automated a mainframe emulator. Feels a bit awkward, but I figure people will let me off the hook. =)"