The Airtable Community Change Maker Spotlights are a new ongoing series where we will be highlighting inspirational creators across the Airtable Community. We are thrilled to highlight Kuovonne Vorderbruggen!
LM: How long have you been using Airtable?
KV: I discovered Airtable about five years ago in 2018 as part of a search for a low cost, cloud-based, cross-platform database system for personal projects, and every year since then has been a new adventure. Initially I forced my Airtable builds on bewildered friends and family who didn’t understand why a database could be better than a spreadsheet, but in 2019 I found that people would pay me to create Airtable bases. So, in 2020, I decided to re-enter the workforce full-time, focusing on Airtable consulting. The following year, 2021, I started selling Airtable scripts and premium licenses for my extensions. Then, in 2022, I decided that I would rather be an employee than run a business when one of my clients made me an offer that was too good to refuse. I no longer offer hourly consulting to the public, but I still get to work with Airtable every day.
LM: What is your favorite Airtable feature?
KV: Airtable has a variety of ways of adding text-based code: formulas, scripting, custom extensions, and the web API. While each of these coding features are powerful in its own way, my favorite feature is how they fit together to empowers developers to level-up their coding skills.
If you are new to code, on most platforms, adding code usually involves an incredibly steep learning curve. But Airtable has converted that learning curve into a series of incremental steps. If you only know how to write formulas, writing a custom extension may feel out of reach, but installing scripting extension and using an existing script is easy. From there you can move to customizing and writing your own scripts. Once you are comfortable writing scripts, attempting a custom extension might seem possible!
I spent decades thinking that writing code was too hard for me. Then I discovered Airtable, and I was finally able to write code that performed meaningful tasks. Eventually I gained the confidence to try writing code that would be useful for other people as well. Anyone who wants to learn to code, can climb the steps and reach the coding level that works for them.
LM: How did you learn how to use Airtable?
KV: When I was a technical writer for the software industry, I gained a lot of experience working with documentation and experimenting with software. I apply both of those techniques to learning Airtable. If I stumble on something in the user interface, I play around first and then look at the documentation. If there is a product announcement, I scan the documentation, then try out the new features on my own. Once I've satisfied my curiosity, I tuck the information away in the back of my mind until I encounter a use case that can use that feature.
I find the mixture of reading documentation and experimenting work very well for my learning style. Watching videos doesn’t work as well for me because it is harder to adjust the pacing or flip back and forth between sections of a video.
LM: What is your favorite Airtable project you’ve ever worked on?
KV: Through homeschooling and self-education, I discovered computer-based learning tools like Anki, Quizlet, and BitsBoard. Despite experimenting with dozens of such systems, I never found one with all the features I wanted:
Support for multiple-choice, cloze, and sequencing questions
Highly customizable question templates capable of incorporating text, images, video, and audio
Automatic grading and spaced repetition
When Airtable custom blocks (now custom extensions) was released, I knew that I wanted to build my own system, despite not knowing React and having used Airtable scripting for only a few months. This project has had many stops and starts over the years, and it currently exists as a set of personal extensions in various stages of development. I eventually hope to release these extensions to the public in a way that makes financial sense for everyone involved.
LM: What is your #1 Airtable product request?
KV: One of Airtable’s principles is “low floor/high ceiling”: have a platform that is simple enough that everyone can access it, but also robust enough for power users to flex their abilities. There is room for users with a wide range of abilities and use cases. But having a low floor and a high ceiling isn’t enough. Airtable should make the path between the two a gentle slope, so novices can evolve into power users.
When it comes to code, Airtable has the low floor, high ceiling, and the gentle slope. That is my favorite feature. The pricing model also has a low floor and high ceiling. The floor is very low: free plans include a wide variety of features with no time limit. The ceiling is very high: enterprise plans have generous limits and many more features. However, the current pricing difference between a Pro plan and an Enterprise plan is a giant, opaque cliff with no visible holds to make the climb easier.
Airtable, thank you for the low floor and the high ceiling. Can we also get that gentle slope?
LM: What advice would you give to new members of the Airtable Community?
KV: The entire Airtable community is a huge, ever-evolving, diverse conglomeration. It includes people who are just discovering Airtable, seasoned experts, emerging developers, giant consulting agencies, developers of third-party tools, and more.
Find the meeting place that works for you, whether that's the official Airtable community website, a community on LinkedIn or Facebook, a consultant created community, your company’s internal group, or some other place. If one group doesn’t feel right for you, try a different one.
LM: Who in the Airtable Community inspires you and why?
KV: While I have learned from and been supported by luminaries in the Airtable community, they are not the ones who inspired me to visit the Airtable community on a regular basis.
It is the unending parade of individuals in the Airtable community with unique questions that keeps drawing me back. These citizen developers are willing to work hard, make mistakes, search for answers, and try again. The sheer number of people who are becoming developers (even if they don’t consider themselves to be developers) is evidence of the power of Airtable to democratizing the creation of software.
LM: Anything else you’d like to share?
KV: Rejoining the workforce after a hiatus of almost two decades was not easy. The following people helped me on my journey, despite my gray hair, sparse resume, blunt manners, and terrible spelling.
GAP consulting, which saw my potential as an Airtable developer early on.
Dan Fellers, Alli Alosa, Kamille Parks, Bill French, Jen Rudd, Scott Rose, Ben Green, Justin Barrett, Jeremy Oglesby, and others, who share their ongoing knowledge and support about Airtable, code (including non-text based code), and the world.
W_Vann_Hall, who I never met, but whose posts were also instrumental in shaping my journey.
My employer Luke Lamp Co., which provides an awesome work environment that lets me focus on what I do best (Airtable development!).