Hugh Durkin, Director, Product Development at HubSpot, has been using n8n extensively in his personal life. We talked to him about how he uses n8n to increase his productivity by automating tasks such as aggregating data for filing his tax returns. Read on to learn how to reclaim your time by automating your life.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’ve been building things online since the late 1990s, and the internet has been paying my bills since 2000, when I got my first job as a web developer. In late 2004, I “quit the day job” to set up a variety of internet start-ups focused on the Irish market, including an online babysitting service (not unlike what people call today “gig economy”) that had over 30,000 active babysitters at its peak. I also launched Ireland’s first price comparison service, a wedding planning website, and brought one of the “original” online advertising networks — ValueClick — to Ireland in the mid-2000s.
In 2012, I joined Facebook as an early member of what we then called the Marketing API Team. A few weeks after I joined, it became the Preferred Marketing Developer Program, and today most people know it as the Facebook Marketing Partner Program. There, I was lucky to build and manage API partnerships with the likes of Salesforce, Wix, and Shopify. After that, I moved to Intercom, where my remit was to “launch a developer platform” — which was everything from launching a developer portal, app store, integrations with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and managing our API roadmap and partner program. After that, I moved to Zalando as Head of Product for a Data Science as a Service Platform. Today, I work with Scott Brinker (who most people know as @chiefmartec) building out the HubSpot App Partner Program. Two or so years ago, we had around 200 apps in the program. Today, there are about 600 apps, and this number continues to grow quickly. It’s a lot of fun!
What made you decide that n8n would be the most suitable tool for you?
n8n is one of many tools I use day to day, in my work life and my personal life. I mostly use n8n for personal tasks. For example, a mix of Todoist + Airtable to automate and aggregate everything required to file my tax returns on time. I also use it to automate some of the research I do on an ongoing basis, like keeping tabs on the growth of certain GitHub repositories and sending a blended mix of HackerNews + IndieHackers + ProductHunt updates to me in one email.
The other workflow automation tool I use in my work life is HubSpot. Our Workflows and Custom Workflow Actions tools are powerful, and a huge number of our almost 600-app ecosystem have integrated with them to connect sales, support, and marketing teams and automate various tasks across those teams. I see n8n and HubSpot as very complementary to each other — there are integrations that HubSpot offers that n8n does not, and vice-versa. It’s awesome to see n8n’s HubSpot nodes so actively managed, and I’m excited to see how they evolve.
What kind of workflows are you building with n8n?
So, my favorite workflow is a bit meta — it’s one which rebuilds and redeploys n8n once a week to make sure the version stays up to date! The magic of Docker makes it pretty easy.
Which integrations have you been using the most?
HubSpot, to dog food our APIs and quickly understand how they might interact with other services. I see n8n as a way for potential or existing HubSpot App Partners to create proof of concepts ahead of building full production versions of their apps. The HubSpot Trigger node is pretty powerful, lots of exciting use cases there. I’m also a big fan of the Todoist, Bannerbear, and Airtable integrations.
What’s the most useful feature of n8n for you?
The Split In Batches node. For long-running jobs where there may be hundreds or thousands of API calls required to enrich datasets (for example), it’s a pretty neat way to batch up those requests to stay within API limits. The Expression editor is pretty powerful, too, especially so for developers and power users.
Have you automated things with n8n for personal use as well?
Absolutely — that’s what I mostly use it for. I’m eager to experiment more with it for home automation purposes. We have a Nest doorbell, for example, and I’m sure there are interesting things we can do to make that even more useful, to send alerts and notifications in different ways. My wife and I have a busy 2.5-year-old boy at home, too, so there are always jobs to be done and reminders to be set 🙂 I’ve also started using n8n to keep track of some stocks I follow and let me know when certain types of share price movements take place.
What advice do you have for people looking to incorporate n8n in their teams or projects?
Think of it as a complement to your existing stack, understand what’s unique about it, and understand how that unique value could be integrated with what you already have. Although it’s pretty simple to use, it’s a power user type of tool, so there may be certain teams or team members that will embrace it more quickly than others. Also, start with existing nodes before trying to roll your own — the HubSpot nodes are a great example of how much can be done with pre-existing nodes. Last, but not least, choose an easy to manage way to set it up and deploy it.
How do you envision using n8n in the near future?
I’d love to use it more to spin up a proof of concept of an app that could potentially get listed in the HubSpot App Marketplace. I’ve not had time to build an app for that myself yet, but maybe over the holidays, I might spin up something simple and useful for HubSpot customers to make the most of.
What’s a feature that you are looking forward to or would love to see in n8n?
More nodes focused on home automation and consumer use-cases. These types of nodes and features might be useful as tools to help teach kids programming concepts in a “real-life” environment. It would be cool to see the Expressions editor improve, too, to help non-technical users understand how to make better use of it.
Where can readers find more about you?
n8n users come from a wide range of backgrounds, experience levels, and interests. We have been looking to highlight different users and their projects in our blog posts. If you’re working with n8n and would like to inspire the community, email Lorena to tell your story 💌