How to Get Started With No-Code Automations ~ Pyv Garcia & Alex Kantjas
No-code automations can save you a lot of time. That's why I interviewed co-captains Pierre-Yves "Pyv" Garcia & Alexandre Kantjas to learn how to get started with no-code so you can automate your workflows as a cohort-based course creator.
[00:00:13] Jonathan: Ahoy, captain! Welcome to this super actionable podcast made for cohort-based course creators. I'm your host, Jonathan Woodruff, and maybe as a cohort-based course creator, you've noticed that you're spending way too much time on a particular task, and it's taking a lot of manual effort. Maybe you thought about automating those things, but you brushed off the idea because you thought you'd have to spend like several months learning how to code and that it just wouldn't be worth the time in the end, but apparently there's a lot you can do without any coding.
And I don't know about you, but I'd like to learn how to do that. That's why my guests today are Pyv Garcia and Alexandre Kantjas who lead their cohort-based course called 9X Automation Bootcamp over at bootcamp.9x.agency. And they're both here right now to help you get started with automation and custom tools for your cohort-based course.
What's up, Pyv?
[00:01:26] Pyv: Hi, Jonathan. What’s up? Thanks for having us.
[00:01:30] Jonathan: Yeah. Great to have you here. And what's up, Alexandre?
[00:01:33] Alexandre: Hey, Jonathan. Glad to be here. All good.
[00:01:36] Jonathan: Glad to have you here, man.
So what made you guys passionate about helping people with automating their workflows?
[00:01:44] Pyv: For me, I really think, you know, it's, I used to work before in a company where I actually got into these low-code automation things, and I just realized there's so much potential out there. It's been impressive for all the past years, I think there's this trend technology that, you know, like additional technical layers are built so that you have less and less to take care of the infrastructure. And it feels like for some developers at least that not even coding is part of the infrastructure. And basically you have so many tools out there that allows you to just, you know, build the thing.
You don't have to worry about, you know, which language, how to code that. Just trying to know, using visual builders and graphic interface, and you can just build automation and connect, like basically build small little applications. And once I realized that, it just felt like there's not enough people out there, or there's so many people out there that could benefit from that, but just, there's still this fear of technicality or there's this kind of this wall of, I'm not a developer, so I should not be messing with APIs. And I just wanted, you know, more people to be aware that that's the current state of the internet and everybody should be able to grasp it.
So I just wanted to share that with others.
[00:02:52] Alexandre: Yeah, maybe to add up on that. No-code is democratized leverage. So before that, only developers could build automations inside companies. I've worked in startups before, like pretty much all the time worked in startups. And before no-code, you had to always ask your technical team or a developer inside the company if something was possible to automate, you had to ask for permission, and you had to ask for their time to build that automation. And now, it's basically permissionless. You can automate your own processes. You can do that on your own. And it's pretty exciting. And it's, there's no shortage of things to automate in a company. The environment is constantly changing. Your business has new requirements you need.
So there will always be things to automate, and we need more people on that, and no-code allows that.
[00:03:45] Jonathan: Yeah, so talking about no-code. So what's the difference between no-code and low-code?
[00:03:53] Pyv: Oh, that's a good one. What I like to say is no code is strictly building application or automation without knowing any single, technical jargon I would say, and I would also say like the difference starts when you have to type something in. So I'd say like the, you know, the absolute limit is whenever you, you know your tool doesn't do all of the work for you. And for example, you need to understand what the JSON is, and you need to be able to deconstruct that, that which is within the JASON and, and make some operation to it. Or you need to, you don't have a connector to a specific tool. But, you know the tool has an API and you learn how to do an API call, which is basically forming what's called an HTTP request.
You don't need to know any programming language, but you do need to understand how a HTTP request is formed. So there are, there are a couple of technical concepts that per se won't allow you to code because you won't be able to write any program, but it would still allow you to do more than what you would be able to do with, for example, like IFTTT or Zapier or any other platform, because you understand the kind of underlying language of the web.
[00:05:30] Alexandre: Yeah, the lines between no-code and low-code are not really well defined. You have, for instance, for the enterprise market, you have software we would call no-code software because so basically you drag and drop elements on the visual builder, you then define logic via workflows, and you're going to build software without any, without writing any line of code. But for the enterprise market, some of the solutions are already called low-code solutions. So the lines are really blurred. Maybe one thing to add to what Pyv just said. I think no-code is very misleading as a term, because it doesn't mean that you don't need to know how things work behind the scenes at all.
[00:07:15] Jonathan: Yeah, it makes sense. So just to give us an idea of the automations and the custom tools that you can build, what are some examples of what you've built, or things that you've seen your students building?
[00:07:32] Pyv: Yeah, I think, you know, it can, at that time that was the most confusing part, the confusing part because people don't realize like what could be automated. And it could be something very simple, like for example, something that we've done like for us, but we also encourage our students do is I have one automation that's basically looking at all my emails every day and checking whether the email has in the subjects the word “invoice” or “receipt.” And basically whenever there is this name in the email, and whenever there's an attachment to the email, the, the automation automatically saves the attachment. If it's a PDF, it saves the attachment to a folder.
And that's a way for me to gather all the invoices I’m receiving from different services, which like mostly are softwares that I use. And so whenever I do my accounting, I first go through all these documents and that's, you know, usually that's 90% of all the invoices I have to send to my accountant.
And that's already doing some of the job for me. Now that’s the invoices part. Now we've had customers for who, you know, we've built some more advanced automation and what actually was kind of the other way around. Whenever they were pressing a button in their CRM, we would just go and pick up the information that they feel about the customer and the deal and the CRM.
We would generate a digital quotation that would be sent to the, to the potential customer. The customer could sign that online using the specific, you know, digital signature tool, and then whenever they would sign it, we would automatically interact with the invoicing software from the company and generate the invoice, send that to the customer.
So it could be, you know, very advanced, but it could also be very simple. And most of the time, you know, the most, actually the most exciting automations are the simple one, because that just solves an issue you are being facing every month, every week, every day, sometimes it's an easy, you know, it's just little life hack that make things way easier.
[00:09:25] Jonathan: Awesome, and Alexander, maybe you can field this next one. So, we’ve got some general examples of what we can do with no-code. How about for cohort-based courses specifically? Like what kind of, if I’m a cohort-based course creator, and you guys are too, so maybe you can speak from personal experience, like what are some things that… some automations that would be useful specific to CBC creators?
[00:09:51] Alexandre: Yes. Sure. let's take one example, uh, for our bootcamp we had to, we are teaching automation, so it's very practical. So we expect students to work on exercises and we have to correct them. And we need also to have an overview. Like since there is no classroom, we have to recreate the classroom. and in some of the processes that you have in the classroom, like hand in your exercise or hand in your automation that we had you build, and then for us to check it and then to mark it, and there is...
So this is typically a case of a need that was very specific to our bootcamp. We had to have students build automations. We have to check them, and literally we started with Airtable there to track, so it was not really fully automated, but we needed a place where we would log this information first so we could track the states of completion of the bootcamp of each student, and there is no solution on the market that fit to our specific need.
So we had to use Airtable to track that. and then since we were there and had students in Airtable, and Airtable is… sorry, I forgot to specify: Airtable is a database software. It’s very popular among no-code users where you can create custom objects. So for instance, it's really a software where you can create custom logic, uh very, very quickly. And so for instance, you're going to have different tables and we had a table with students. So all the students participating in our bootcamp, and then we had other tables, that we could, create at well, for our needs.
And so for instance, we had a second table with exercises where we could then track the completion of each exercise for each student and then act accordingly. One of the big problems we run into, in this first cohort was really figuring out the logistics for that, that process, how that would, how do we ensure that each student is competing the exercise, that we review each exercise and that we if needed, provide the feedback to the students. and so for all that, we had to basically build our custom solution in Air Table to follow that process.
[00:12:13] Jonathan: That's really cool. So it sounds like if I'm hearing correctly that it really empowers you to create your dream experience for your customers because no longer are you really tied down to the services and the features that are kind of boxed up for everyone. But you know, maybe you use a community platform, maybe you use, you know, whatever tools are out there, but if it has its limits, you can compensate for those limits by simply using no code methods to, to build whatever workflows you need.
[00:12:57] Alexandre: Yeah, maybe there's three, there’s three cases, always with no code. The first that you mentioned just now is extending the possibilities, the functionality of a given tool, which you don't have to wait anymore for that missing feature. You can build it. The second one, which I think would be very relevant for course creators, which I mentioned to you at the beginning, like before we started recording is connecting tools together because today's stack for course creators is scattered.
It's multiple tools. There's not one Shopify for course creators. Or if you know that, I’d be happy to have a recommendation, but we didn't find, at least for our bootcamp, we didn't find a tool that would be a one stop shop for students, for the creator, where we could upload the content, where we could correct the exercises.
We had to stitch together multiple tools, and no-code is great for that. Platforms like Zapier or Integromat, they help you glue tools together, stitch them together. When something happens when students complete an exercise on the, the content platform, I want to upload the status, update the status of that student in my mini CRM, where I track everyone's progress, for instance.
The last thing that no-code allows you to do, which is a bit more complex and would require a bit more skills and time to build is if you don't find any tool that's really fit for the experience you want to deliver, then you can use platforms like Bubble that are app builders. And here you can build anything because you will build an app from scratch. For the first two, probably we're talking maybe a day of work or a few days of work. So building a connection between two tools should not take you a week to do. It's relatively straightforward. The tools are also getting easier to use, to manipulate without prior like coding knowledge, so things are getting easier for everyone.
For the app builder's side, you're still building an application. So while the complexity of writing code, knowing the syntax, it goes away, there are still the topics I mentioned at the beginning of the database, API, front-end, that you're using another abstraction layer on top of code that makes things maybe faster to build, easier to build, but you're still doing something that's quite complex, and there is a learning curve definitely for that cluster, last case.
[00:15:32] Jonathan: For sure. And so you kind of listed all the things that I was noticing on your course page in terms of the things you teach in your course. I was noticing you teach automation 101, APIs, databases and building apps. And so the first module, from what I could tell is automation 101. So, if you're going to begin to teach someone, a total newbie, how to get started with this process… Is automation kind of the first step, or is there a step one before that?
[00:16:06] Alexandre: So the big… We made one big learning during the cohort one, one big learning. We initially did not want to spend too much time on the basics of automation, on automation 101, and we wanted to jump right into more technical fundamentals: so databases, APIs, front-ending applications.
But we realized how difficult it was for some of the students to first figure out what they could, realize what they could actually automate around them. So what, what processes could be automated? Of course, like we're super biased because we do this every day. So if you tell me about one of your processes, I’ll probably scream, “You can automate this, this way, you should do that,” because of course we're too deep into that to be objective at this point. but we were surprised how difficult it was for people, even if you give them the framework, the structure to really come up with many good automation ideas, and that's why that's something that's been a big learning for us.
That's definitely not something we will remove from the module from the course for the next cohort. It's more something that we're going to rework and try to improve because there's, the first step is awareness. And we were really surprised to see that actually, yeah, for some people it was difficult to, come up with ideas while if you, if we talk to them 15 minutes as demo, what they do on a daily basis, it’s five to 10 ideas that pop up in the, during the conversations from our side.
[00:17:38] Jonathan: What are just like a few that comes to the top of your head, just like some quick ones, for things like automation, ideas for people?
[00:17:46] Pyv: I think one, which is often of news is maintaining that consistency between two tools like, you know, so many people were telling us, you know, I have this information about the customer in my CRM. But then I check in my invoicing system and it’s not the same because the others change, and then we send the invoice to the wrong address and they came back and we have to change it.
And this is typically something you can do. You can just, you know, use solutions again like Zapier or Integromat and say, you know, whatever, there's a change in the customer object in HubSpot and say just go and update that information and to charge me. So that's an obvious one. I think there's a lot of cases where people would like to have notifications, you know, they are like, okay, I have this tool.
It's something I've been in there. I would love to know whenever this happens and you have a slack notification and often it's something that, yeah, you can't have because you need to have like the enterprise plan or the premium plan, but actually it's often it's very easy as long as the tool has what's called web hook.
Basically you can trigger an event and then, you know, get information about what just happened. And then just write a little message and have the automation platform, just post the message into your slack or your, it could be an email. It can be WhatsApp can be whatever you want. So I'd say, you know, data, what's called ETL extract transform and load. So it's syncing data between two systems, or notification systems. These are two very, very, you know, very frequent use cases.
[00:19:13] Jonathan: Awesome. So once we're kind of building this awareness of all the things that we can automate, then it sounds like we're getting into the nitty gritty and it looks like module two is APIs. And so what is an API?
[00:19:31] Pyv: Well, you know, I think that's something that comes through with the first part. That’s something we realized was that for people to really grasp the potential opportunities there are with automations. What we need is we need to kind of build a little, uh, general, you know just the general culture about what our web technology is.
I think that's the biggest part and the most difficult part, you know, I like to use the analogy with the car. You don’t need to know exactly how your car is built, but you know, if you know how it kind of works, there's less chance that you're going to break it. And there's more chance that you can drive it better.
And it's basically kind of the same we're trying to achieve. We really believe that if you have a, let's say basic understanding of what web technologies are, what's the current state of the internet, then you have more chance of being aware of what you can do. And typically APIs, like I like to say APIs are the current state of the internet.
API is, which is which, which stands for Application Programming Interface is basically for almost every piece of software, you have a user interface. So you have, you know, you go on the page and you can see, so that could be a web application where you just use your browser and you see that, or you can have maybe a mobile application or could be also an application on your smart TV or on, on your smartwatch, but you have this user interface and the application programming interface.
It's another interface to the same software, but that is made for other application to interact with the software. And actually, there's also a lot of solutions out there that people don't know of because they are what you call API-first solutions, which is basically someone who just built the logic.
A good example, for example, is a road optimization. You have a fleet of cars and you have, let's say five cars and 25 customers to deliver. And potentially the, you know, the, the customers that you have to deliver changes, you don't have to deliver all of them on the same day. And basically what you can do is you can use a, I think the solution was to go to graph hopper, which is basically some people who are specializing to this, given a number of cars and the list of addresses, I can give you the best way to split and to dispatch the solution. So if you give me constraints and I'm seeking to optimize that, I can give you the best routes that you have, that you're spending less time on the way, and you can distribute whatever you have to deliver with the lowest number of cars.
And this solution doesn't have uh… there's no front-end, there is no interface. The only interface is an API. So basically, you pay 50 euro per month, and you send it an API request and they send you basically, it's just a logic. You send the input and then it returns the outputs and it's making the calculation for you.
And when I say that's the current state of the internet is there's been a tendency over the last past years where rather than everybody building the whole application whenever they want to do something, people specialize on a specific thing. Like what's your core feature? What's the core thing that you want to deliver? And the rest you can use other services.
And that's a logic that has been going through within your solution. You will have not one…like, your application is not the big monster. You have different parts of the application that takes part of different things, but with the logic of APIs and being able to interact not only internally, but also externally to any service, you can basically focus on what you do best and then use other solutions to do the other parts.
So, for example, if you want to build a software as a service, You could never have to worry about invoicing. You just send your customer information, your transaction information to an invoicing system via API, and it's connected, it’s live, it's a real-time sync. And then you can have actually your invoicing systems send this information to Stripe for the payment, because just because you're good at invoicing doesn't mean you're good at payments.
And you can use another solution to capture the payment. And that's where you can see, you know, you have a universal system, it says I have a Stripe integration. It basically is using the Stripe API to interact with it. And the logic you can use for almost everything. And understanding that gives you a lot of power, because then you can see A) that there's a lot of free API out there.
Usually if you just want to get the information once or twice, or you need to do 10 requests a day, you are within the free limits. Usually you have to pay… you have to start paying if you want to get a lot of information. Like, an example would be the weather API. If you want to just get the weather for one place every day, that's for free.
And if you want to get the list of the current weather conditions throughout France or Germany, then you will have to pay. But there's already a lot of things that you can do with the application programming interface. And I'd say why people should be interested in that is A), because you can use the, like, the API gives you access to the power of programming.
And the power of programming is doing a lot of things at once. So instead of doing 1000 times the same action, you can just do the same action 1000 times in one second using a programming or using the, you know, the programming logic, or if you have to do it every day, you can also set that up and have it done every day.
So the logic of API is kind of getting into this mindset of let's have something be automatic and let's interact with those applications, let’s not try to build everything ourselves. Sorry. I got to be carried away there, but that's, that's something I'm very passionate about. You know, understanding what APIs are, I think is fundamental to understanding what, what the web is currently.
[00:24:55] Alexandre: Yeah, the short version might just be, whatever you're trying to do, there might just be an API for that. And once you realize that, you probably don't want to do it by yourself and try to automate it. And also if you're looking for emails, you have a list of contacts. You're looking for emails because you want to send an email campaign.
You're just missing the emails. there are services where you can just get the emails one off, like you would upload the CSV and get back the list of emails and then you pay. But if on the ongoing basis, every contact you have on a weekly basis needs to be enriched with emails, then give it to an API.
[00:25:30] Jonathan: So in theory, I'm just thinking about a random workflow here. Like, could I enter, like, so if I have a Facebook group, for example, and one of the questions I ask people when they enter the Facebook group is, “Hey, what's your email address?” Could I take their response, interact with Facebook's user interface, take their email, automatically dump it into a CSV and then automatically import that CSV into my ConvertKit or whatever my email services like, could that entire process be automated potentially?
[00:26:12] Pyv: Yeah. Like it depends how you ask it, ask them, for example, if you ask them via messenger, that's definitely like, you know, that’s what starts looking like it's the simplest version of a bot and yeah, that's typically or something you could do. You just ask them, you send a message. Hey, what's your email? Then they reply with the email, you know, that's an email you can store in your MailChimp or you know, any messaging solution you're using and that's definitely something you can do.
The other thing that's more difficult to do and that people are trying to protect or that platforms are trying to prevent is you to actually interact with the user interface because that's basically, that's, what's called scraping, and on Facebook, it's going to be difficult as Facebook doesn't want to go and, and go through every message that has been posted.
I mean, you could do it and some people do it and there's ways to do it, but they would rather provide you with an API again, or with integration capabilities so that you can do it in a clean way and actually so that you can access only the data they want you to be able to access.
[00:27:09] Alexandre: Yeah, that's always the problem. with platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. So LinkedIn is seeing this problem a lot. there's been a number of companies built on top of LinkedIn to help you automate messaging like create campaigns. And so for instance, these tools help you, send 80 to 100 connection requests per day, send a follow-up message, the second day and so on and so forth.
And it's a constant battle between LinkedIn security trying to detect bots, and the company is trying to maintain the solution. And this is where things, as Pyv mentioned, this is where things get a little bit more tricky, because yes, these platforms don't want you to… What they want you to have access to, you will get via their APIs, but that's not the whole side of the story. That's not all the data they have is not provided by APIs. And for the rest, if you are trying to scrape, or if you're trying to leverage bots on their platform, Yeah, the bigger the platform, the more aware they are of these tactics and the more prevention they have in place.
[00:28:19] Jonathan: Yeah, that totally makes sense, just yeah, from a privacy standpoint, I didn't think about that. And so, that's APIs, and we haven't even gotten into the nitty gritty of databases and building apps and everything. So with the little time we have left, what are some tools that listeners can start kind of sinking their teeth into?
You already mentioned a bunch of them but where would be like a beginner-friendly tool just to get started and getting their feet wet with things?
[00:28:50] Pyv: I think, you know, if you've been playing around with Google Sheets or, you know, with spreadsheets a lot and you want to get kind of to the next level, or you want to get to the API or to the web version of things? You should definitely look into Airtable. Like, Airtable is very, it's really like if a Google sheet or if a spreadsheet, you know, was born in 2020, then it becomes an Airtable.
It’s really in the middle between the database and spreadsheets, and it will provide you with the ability to think in terms of spreadsheet and, in terms of database, which will be limiting at the beginning, understanding that you can only have one kind of value in one column. But once you like it's, I think it's the best way to get into this whole object logic, and you can build automations in there, and the capabilities are just amazing. There's a lot of apps that will help you find duplicating data sets. It represents what's inside your data sets. So like Airtable is a very, very good way to start getting into, low-code no-code or building smaller applications because actually it's, you know, just manipulating data and understanding that just by taking different views on your data, you're already are building functionality, and that's something that I would recommend.
So for instance, let's say you store your contacts in Airtable. You have a list of contacts, and again, you are, you're looking for their emails. You can create some logic in Airtable that says that, for instance, whenever a contact changes status, it goes from “new” to “enriching;” if you set the status to enriching, trigger an API call that looks out for the contact’s email, and update the record, paste the email on the contact, and then you could in the same workflow already trigger your email. So, it's a great playground and a great tool, very versatile that we'd recommend.
If you want quick results, or if you want, what would be the tool with the lowest amount of effort and already seeing results? I think one of those integration platforms such as Zapier or Integromat are a great starting point because for instance, the first workflow that Pyv mentioned where it's basically watching his inbox for emails containing invoices, that's something within reach.
if you’re really, really new to that, you know, like you spend an afternoon or a day on it, trying to understand how the tool works and how to build a workflow like this that looks for emails with invoices and then, for instance, stores them in Google Drive, that's something where you don't need a coding background to build those workflows, the interface is in plain English, and you would see immediate results because, well, we all have for in that case, we all have invoices and we all end up having some administrative work to do at the end of the month the end of the quarter.
And, these things add up over time, and you can automate this with, with those platforms. And the last benefit is they start with a really small price package, even some platforms start with the free tier where you get some operations for free. So there's really no reason not to at least give it a shot and see whether it's for you.
[00:32:20] Jonathan: Awesome guys. Well, just a couple of, more kind of relatively quicker questions for you before we wrap up here. What's the biggest challenge that you have faced as a cohort based… as cohort-based course creators so far. And how did you solve that challenge?
[00:32:42] Alexandre: Uh, biggest challenge. I think, and it's really related to what we teach. if you want to go through our whole bootcamp, there's a lot of work ahead, and we were very ambitious on the amount of content, exercises, and sessions that we were so ambitious that we had to switch from a six week program to extend the bootcamp to 10 weeks so that people had time to complete the exercise to catch up on lessons if they miss one.
And I'm not sure that we've really figured it out entirely, and we'll have to see about the next cohort, but I don't think it’s realistic to expect from people to work more than five to six hours a week on your course, we were aiming for 10, and 10 was the actual number, I believe.
And it was very difficult for people working on the side, full-time jobs, to keep up, and especially if you miss a week, which generally happens, And for us, that's a big problem that we need to solve with the next cohort because, we're selling a transformation, right?
Like if you go through our bootcamp, at the end of the bootcamp, you're able to automate your processes on your own, but that transformation is not going to happen by just watching lectures and attending the live sessions. It really requires practice, and it requires to fail a few times and start with simple automations and gradually move to more, more complex ones.
And it's an investment and a time investment. So yeah, we like this, more thinking out loud, this is where we stand right now. We have to adapt and make the, I think the bootcamp slightly easier and more progressive, and also think about the workload that we expect from our students, because that's been the main challenge for them.
[00:34:26] Jonathan: Awesome. Yeah, I love the intensity of it though. I mean, I love that. you know, it's, there's a lot of work that goes into it because I feel like on the other end, like you were saying, there's a transformation there. There's a high reward there. So that's cool. So last question for you guys, where can listeners keep in touch with you?
[00:34:43] Pyv: Uh, they can, I mean, we are trying to be a bit in different places so they can find us on Twitter. Um, my Twitter handle is, ThisIsPYV. Then we are also on LinkedIn, my LinkedIn is also ThisIsPYV. They can look us up on our website, 9x.agency. They can yeah just switch out there. Alex is all over the place in Twitter…
[00:35:03] Alexandre: Yeah, mostly on Twitter. You'll find me on Twitter @akantjas. Yes, I’m actually interacting a lot with the Twitter no-code universe, which is still small, probably won't be that small for long, but, right now it's pretty fun there.
[00:35:20] Jonathan: Awesome. Well, Thank you, guys so much for coming on board. Uh, really appreciate, all you taught us today. So yeah, for sure. See you guys around.
[00:35:35] Jonathan: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to listen to more episodes, hop aboard CohortCaptain.com. If you'd like to be my matey, I would love for you to message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And remember, always captain your cohort, always be my matey, and never lick an iceberg while your ship is passing by.