An Interview with Autodesk’s Ananda Arasu

What is your role at Autodesk?

I’m a Product Marketing Manager (PMM) in Manufacturing for AutoCAD Electrical and AutoCAD Mechanical.  As a PMM, I’m responsible for the go to market strategy and execution of those products.

How long have you been with Autodesk and doing this? 

I started with the company in late August 2011 so my tenure at Autodesk is short.  I’m excited to be working for Autodesk and with this group of people.  Being the “new guy” at any company can be a bit harrowing.  Fortunately, the Autodesk culture makes it much more manageable.   

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be doing what you do now.

I have a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Oregon State University (Go Beavers!).  One of my first jobs after college was in support at an electronic design automation company that built software for computer chip designers.  It was a very electrical engineering-centric industry and my education prepared me well to understand users’ perspectives and needs.  For the better portion of the next decade, I worked in a technical marketing position at Mentor Graphics.  That’s when I decided to focus more on product marketing.  I went back to school, earned an MBA, and then joined the product marketing team at Tripwire in Portland, OR. I’ve gone through a handful of significant industry changes in my career.  Perhaps the largest was when I became a product manager for a biologic product in the orthopedic medical device industry.  My product was a synthetic chemical compound that is inserted into the bone.  In the span of a couple of weeks, I went from talking the language of IT security to talking the language of orthopedic surgery; from visiting an engineer at a desktop computer to visiting a surgeon in the operating room.  I’ve always gravitated toward computer-aided design.  It was comforting to learn that, even in the orthopedic industry, there is a strong demand for Autodesk design tools for creating products such as anatomically shaped plates and screws that help heal fractured bones. Eventually I returned to the world of software and found my current role at Autodesk.

What does a “typical” day look like?

I work on many different projects at the same time.  Generally speaking, e-mail gets my attention in the early morning and then I transition to meetings with teams, my own tasks and deadlines, and putting out the proverbial fire.  Most recently, I’ve launched a new Systems Design blog where I can connect directly with users and prospects in my industries.

What are some of the challenges you face as a new employee at Autodesk?

One of the challenges is getting used to a new industry.  I spent more than 10 years working in the Electronic Design Automation Industry and now I’m new to the Industrial Machinery/Mechanical Engineering Industry.  So I need to slow down and acquire a deeper understanding of what and how our customers do what they do.  Fortunately, there’s a culture at Autodesk that makes it easier to manage the transition.  One of the benefits of Autodesk’s matrix-like organization is that everyone has a deeper understanding and support for the shared goals and objectives.  It makes it easy to contact a colleague and get something done because everyone’s marching in the same direction (more or less).

Do you have a role at Autodesk University or other events?

At this past year’s AU, I was most involved with supporting the Autodesk Manufacturing Suites.  I helped the Electrical team to staff the various presentations around AU.  AU is such a great opportunity to see and speak directly with our customers.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of excitement that AU generates.  It was an awesome experience.  I was also part of the support staff at the Rockwell Automation Fair, which is the largest show for AutoCAD Electrical.  It’s a great event for Autodesk.

What do you like most about Product Marketing?

I like being able to work with other people and teams to take a product to market.  The tools that we have in the Autodesk portfolio are truly top notch.  It’s exciting to see a customer use our tools to produce something tangible.  

How do you split the work among your team?

There are seven people on my team.  We tend to split the work based on a set of products.  I work with AutoCAD Electrical and AutoCAD Mechanical.  Other Managers focus on Inventor, Vault, etc.  However, Suites blur those lines.  We spend more time working together than we do apart. 

You’ve recently started the Systems Design blog. What’s that all about?

More and more of our users are taking advantage of the direct access to Autodesk via mechanisms like blogs.  My new blog gives us an opportunity to connect the developers, designers, and managers who make Autodesk products with those who use them.  It has a lot to do with engagement and getting the word out.  I also like that the blog is a little less formal than other material that we produce like whitepapers, presentations, and videos.

What sort of things do you do for distraction, hobbies, travel?

My kids.  They’re my hobby, distraction, and a few other things, too. My kids are coming of the age when they are playing organized sports.  I’ve always enjoyed soccer so I jumped at the opportunity to coach one of the teams.  Another one of my pleasures is taking my car out for a cruise and listening to some good music.  I fit in a good book now and then.  Recently, I’ve been enjoying a Jeffrey Archer book.

What would we be most surprised to know about you?

I was born and raised in Singapore, where military service is mandatory for men.  After basic and Combat Medic School, I served as a combat medic for two years.  Prior to my service, I had no medical training.  The army taught me everything that I needed to know about being a combat medic in three months!

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