13 Questions with Katie Langan
What is your role at Autodesk®, Katie?
I am a Product Support Specialist and the Revit Technical Lead for the Americas. As a Support Specialist I do my best to help end users and channel partners troubleshoot and resolve problems they may be having with Revit, via phone, email, or forum communications. I also actively post with Harlan Brumm, Chris Aquino, and Ryan Duell on our Support blog, the Revit Clinic. As a Technical Lead (TL) I help other specialists, try to identify training opportunities, and work with our Global Lead and the TLs from Europe and Asia to make sure that all of our teams are in sync.
How long have you been with Autodesk and doing this? Any other roles?
I’ve been with Autodesk since 2005. I’ve been a Support Specialist since I started (though the role is constantly evolving), and have been the Americas Revit Technical Lead for about 6 months.
Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be doing what you do now.
Though the path wasn’t a straight line, when I look back I think two of the basic things that I have always loved that led me here are math and art. I went back and forth for a while trying to decide whether I wanted to pursue Architecture or Engineering and ultimately ended up with a degree in Civil Engineering (emphasizing in Structural Engineering) from the University of New Hampshire. I had a few Civil internships in college, and after graduating I went to an Architecture firm in California. A year later, when personal reasons were getting me ready to move back home to New England, I got a call from Autodesk. I started out in the Manchester, New Hampshire, office, but moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and have been telecommuting for the last five years.
I started on the AEC team primarily supporting AutoCAD Architecture (or Architectural Desktop, as it was then). But as the user base for Revit Structure started growing, I jumped on the opportunity to take the lead supporting it—and I’ve been working with Revit since. I still handle most of the support for Revit Structure, but I do a lot of Revit Architecture as well. Being a part of the Revit team is perfect for me since I get to work with both disciplines.
What does a typical day look like at your desk?
Every day is different, but I’ll do my best to give a bit of a recap. First, the commute is tough—so much traffic on the way to the kitchen for coffee. :) Seriously though, I’m a morning person, so I find working from home I actually start earlier than I need to; I’m usually browsing emails by 7:30. I spend the first 30 minutes or so catching up on messages and setting up my To-Do list (I am a list-checker). That’s probably the only thing I do that’s routine every day.
Once a week our Global Revit TL, Harlan Brumm, organizes a call with each of the Revit TLs from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. We get together to talk about the kinds of issues we’re seeing in our regions of the world, and Harlan fills us in on important information from our QA, Development, and Product Management groups. My job is to take that information and make sure that I deliver it back to the Americas Revit team, which I do by getting the team together to lead a “ Tech Talk.”
Depending on the day, each person on the Revit team will get assigned a block of hours where we log into the phone system, ready to take calls from end users and channel partners. One member of our team monitors incoming web cases and assigns them to us throughout the day to work on. We also split up and each take a day where we go in and participate in the Autodesk Discussion Groups. Depending on how much else is going on, I try to jot down ideas or write a post for the Revit Clinic. As the Americas Revit TL, I also do case consultations with team members who have questions or are having trouble with any technical issues they’re working on. Though the team may be geographically diverse, we’re interacting all day and engage in a lot of video conferencing. There also are a number of other side projects I work on, like reviewing and updating Technical Solutions for our Knowledge Base, updating our internal Revit Support Wiki, and working with the TLs to determine case trends and possible training opportunities.
I have to make myself stop working around 5:00 to 6:00 and close off the office. It can be hard to stop working when you’re at home, but over the last five years I have realized that it’s important to do my best to separate work time from the rest of the day. When I’m done I usually start cooking dinner and wait for my husband to get home. When it’s nice out we might sit out on our front porch rockers with a glass of wine, take our dogs down to the County Park, or just relax and play some Xbox.
What kind of challenges do you and those you work with face?
Communication is always a challenge. To be effective as a team in helping customers with their technical problems, we have to make sure we’re all on the same page and working together. We’re pinging and emailing each other all day, and as I mentioned earlier, video conferencing is a big part of our communication as well. We manage an internal site with training references, workflow suggestions, issue trends, and support tools so we can have a place to share material with each other. It definitely takes effort to try to make sure everyone has the same information and we’re always thinking of new ways to do so, but it’s important for us to be able to do our best helping customers.
How many co-workers are on your team and how do you share the work?
There are seven of us on the Revit Support Team in the Americas. We all come from different backgrounds and have varying levels of experience, which I think makes us pretty well rounded as a group. We all share the primary duties of troubleshooting Revit issues, but we participate in different projects based on our experience and interests. As the Revit Technical Lead in the Americas I also work closely with the other leads in Europe and Asia, and with our Global lead.
Do you or your team get involved in planning for future releases of the software?
We’re not directly involved in the actual planning stage for future releases, but we do our best to advocate the voice of the customer based on the cases we work on. We also try to make users aware of our Product Feedback site, which sends their comments directly to our Product Development group. There are lots of opportunities and ways for customers to express their opinions and help shape the future releases, and part of what we do is make sure users know about them.
Do you get to do any planning for Autodesk University or other events?
No, I’m not really involved in planning for Autodesk University. I actually haven’t attended yet, partially due to my aversion to flying (spoiler alert, see #13). I am planning to submit a class next year though, because it’s such a great opportunity to get out there and meet our users. There are so many people out there doing amazing things with our software. I recently got back from Manchester, where we held our Gunslinger event, which is where we bring in some of the beta users to have them test the beginnings of the next release and provide feedback. It was a great event to be part of, and it’s valuable to hear the users’ thoughts on the proposed functionality and how it will impact their workflows.
Do you check out the activity of other forums like ours at AUGI? How much time do you get to do external research apart from responding to users directly?
I do—AUGI is a terrific resource and has such a great community of users. Even when we’re working in the Autodesk forums, often times we’ll provide links to AUGI threads, because there’s a lot of valuable information to share. There are also many blogs I try to follow. Revit has such a passionate and active user base, and there is so much great information out there.
What sort of things do you do for distraction, hobbies, travel?
I’m fortunate enough to be married to my best friend, so my husband and I do practically everything together. We watch a lot of documentaries and I love to read. As a kid I always loved doing math problems. When I was little, my dad used to get up in the morning and write a problem on our chalkboard for me to work on. My husband and I still do that with the white board in my office. We’re constantly learning and asking questions, and evolving our lifestyles to try to support the things we believe in and the people we want to be. We often joke about what we call our ‘hippie tendencies.’ We love doing projects around the house—there always seems to be something we want to design and build. We mountain bike, kayak in the creeks, and boulder at a climbing gym nearby. We like spending time with our pets and with family. We’re thrilled that the heat and humidity of summer is over, and love to spend fall weekends watching football and enjoying pumpkin beer.
What was the last book you read?
I’m actually in the process of returning to some of the American classics. I had a long train ride last weekend and read The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
If money were no issue, where would you go on vacation?
I’d love to go to Greece. I have so much family there in small villages that I would love to meet and to get a chance to experience their way of life.
What would we be most surprised to know about you?
I go very out of my way to avoid flying. I just got back from a 26- hour train ride from New Hampshire rather than taking a flight. I know it’s inevitable that I’ll have to get on a plane again at some point (how else will I get to Greece?), but I do my best to avoid it when I can. Plus, I enjoy the scenery of taking the slow route.