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Capital idea-maker

A recent college graduate, lawyer and entrepreneur who has found numerous opportunities developing databases for law firms to record companies, Cecille Chen, finds FileMaker’s ease of use in integrating with large databases to be extremely valuable to her and her clients.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: How did you become interested in becoming a FileMaker developer?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: I first encountered FileMaker at my second job out of college at an entertainment law firm in Washington, D.C. The firm had a contact management solution that I inherited from a former co-worker and expanded to include more functions such as license tracking, invoicing, mailing labels and document management. My employer paid for me to attend a five-day FileMaker Boot Camp, and that solidified my interest in FileMaker and boosted my development skills. I met Certified FileMaker Developer Steven Blackwell through FileMaker user group meetings in D.C. He helped me grow as a developer and an entrepreneur.

    When I went to law school, I used FileMaker to keep track of class notes, organize research materials and format case citations. I graduated in 2009, and getting a job in law at the time was very difficult, so I decided to become a freelance FileMaker developer. I advertised online, and soon I had several clients – my first was a publishing company that asked me to create an interactive, searchable digital directory of renewable energy companies, which included real-time stock quotes and a mapping feature.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: As a freelancer, what did you do if you ran into roadblocks?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: Then and now, when I run into a wall, I reach out to the FileMaker community through the user group Forums. FileMaker developers are remarkably generous. People get back to me with creative suggestions right away.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: How did your career evolve?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: I learned by doing and was soon creating more intricate custom solutions using FileMaker. I improved upon the existing FileMaker solution of a processing agency that handled thousands of visa applications. Previously, they tracked visa applications by using paper forms strapped to passports with rubber bands. I helped them automate their process by switching to stickers with barcodes linked to records in FileMaker. The solution also integrated with FedEx for outbound shipment once processing was complete, resulting in significant efficiency improvements and reduced paper usage.

    After being admitted to the Maryland Bar, I worked on a project for a media distribution company that called for my legal and FileMaker skills. My task was to analyze contracts and calculate residuals for hundreds of actors, directors, writers and musicians who had worked on a television show. I translated residual rate formulas into FileMaker calculations, which made it easier to summarize the overall amount of residuals and show breakdowns by media and by talent type. It was certainly a lot more efficient than using clunky spreadsheets. This is just one example of how FileMaker expertise has added value to the services I provided to clients.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: What are you doing now?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: I work at record label and I’m responsible for tracking information about recordings, drafting contracts and calculating royalties for a growing collection of over 45,000 music tracks. Because our royalty and financial systems are based on different platforms, I created a FileMaker solution that served as a bridge between these systems. This enabled us to match up thousands of lines of data in an instant. It was an enormous improvement over a painstaking manual process that took dozens of hours each time.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: What is your background?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: I have an undergraduate business degree and a law degree. I also took some graphic design classes that helped with FileMaker interface design.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: How long did it take you to become skilled in FileMaker?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: I started in 2001 and had the basic licensing database for the law firm solidified by 2003, so it took two years to become proficient. Before I learned FileMaker, I took college courses in Excel and Access. These tools jump-started my FileMaker understanding, but today I by far prefer FileMaker due to its elegant interface and intuitive operation.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: What do you like most about FileMaker?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: In my current job, we have very complex systems and requirements. Our inventory, accounting and payments are handled by NetSuite and PeopleSoft; our digital music sales are processed by a cloud-based service, and our royalty database is a proprietary SQL system. The most valuable aspect of FileMaker is its ability to integrate data from all these disparate technologies into a cohesive solution without hours of inefficient work in spreadsheets. When my supervisor saw how the FileMaker solution bridged systems together instantly by accurately matching thousands of account codes and royalty amounts – a manual process that used to take up to 50 hours twice a year – it knocked her socks off.

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: What are some of your hobbies and pursuits outside of software development?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: I like to sing and play drums and jam with my husband who plays guitar. I love mid-century modern architecture, and I’m an advocate for historic preservation in my neighborhood, Southwest Washington, D.C. I keep a good balance between work and home life, in part, by using FileMaker to keep me organized!

  • FileMaker

    FileMaker: If you had advice for others interested in FileMaker, what would you say?

  • Cecille Chen

    Chen: Attend the user group meetings, tap into the FileMaker community and seek and develop a mentor relationship. Attend the annual FileMaker Developer Conference and get to know fellow developers. Also, recognize that the ability to expertly handle data and solve problems is an enormous advantage in any work environment. Investing in your FileMaker development skills will pay off no matter what you do.

FileMaker developers are remarkably generous. People get back to me with creative suggestions right away.
- Cecille Chen, Royalty Manager, Major recording company
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