AUGI Talks with Autodesk’s Paul Sullivan
What is your role at Autodesk,® Paul?
I manage Public Relations for Autodesk’s AEC Industry Division. In its most basic definition, PR is responsible for communicating with our customers and wider community through the media. One of the many ways that my team and I are involved is to work with our executives and our subject matter experts to provide pertinent information to the media.
I am fortunate to have an incredible team working alongside me. In essence, the PR team sometimes feel like BIM evangelists since so much of our work involves building information modeling. It fascinates me that we have such creative customers who create data-rich intelligent 3D models of their projects, and then leverage that information to gain greater insight, make more informed decisions, and create better engineered, more attractive and believable products. I have so much admiration for these designers and creators who are delivering unique solutions for a range of problems spanning robotics, automotive, sustainably designed buildings, custom fit prosthetics, and myriad consumer industries.
How long have you been with Autodesk and doing this? Any other roles?
I joined Autodesk four years ago to support the AEC business. I was attracted by the unique opportunity to be a part of something special. I remember thinking, “here’s a 3D design software company that walks the walk, talks the talk, has very noble core values, and delivers products that are, literally, making the world a better place”. I am very privileged and quite honored to play a small role in what the firm is doing.
Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be doing what you do now.
Communications has been part of my DNA from the start. When I first graduated college, I spent a couple of fun years teaching history in high school. I left this profession after two years, unfortunately, because I earned barely enough money to eat. Two years of ea ting frozen dinners. My dinner table was a cardboard box with a placemat on top. No chairs. Things got a lot better when I moved into business and specifically the world of technology. Prior to coming to Autodesk, I had never actually been in public relations, having spent 23 years at Intel in various sales, marketing, and industry analyst relations positions. While in those roles, I was also given an exciting opportunity to be one of the company's field spokespersons and “technology evangelist” on TV.
What does a typical day look like at your desk?
There really is no such thing as a typical day. Except maybe that they are all long. And they are always different.
What kind of challenges do you and those you work with deal with?
We on the PR team have similar challenges as most people in other positions. We have deadlines that
seem to pop up faster and faster all the time. News, especially with social media, is traveling more quickly than before, and news cycles are becoming increasingly short. Patience, "grace under fire," and flexibility are required.
How many coworkers are on your team and how do you share the work?
Autodesk has a superb, very tight-knit PR team; and this includes our wonderful agency partners. I love these coworkers. Everyone is so incredibly supportive of one another; we have fun together and have really come to rely on each other. As a team they are responsible for Corporate and Industry PR, including Media & Entertainment, Platform (AutoCAD), Consumer, and the Manufacturing industries.
Do you or your team get involved in planning for future releases of the software?
Yes, we work closely with product teams and industry marketing to prepare product news releases and outreach to media. It’s also fun for people outside of Autodesk to check out what is going on and what may become a product on Autodesk Labs (http://labs.autodesk.com/). So you too can get a glimpse of new technologies that could eventually be productized.
Do you get to do any planning for Autodesk University or other events?
Autodesk University is a huge event for the PR team. Many of your readers will agree, we took a bold step in delivering a very unique experience this year. In addition to the standard “university classes,” we in the PR team hosted special events for our media. Last month we had almost 100 reporters, editors, bloggers, and analysts from around the world participate. It is special and so enjoyable to meet the media from different geographies. We also participate in numerous conferences in each of our industries.
Do you check out the activity of other forums like ours at AUGI? How much time to get to do external research apart from responding to users directly?
Absolutely while we read the forums, we don’t generally talk directly to the users, except through the publications. The PR team makes it a point to spend time researching what readers are interested in, and what readers are talking about. Trend watching is important so we can stay current and provide a better service to our editors. As for how much time is spent doing the research, it is probably more accurate to say the research never stops.
What sort of things do you do for distraction, hobbies, travel?
My favorite activities outside of work include downhill skiing, hiking in NH’s White Mountains, travel, and reading.
What was the last book you read?
I read a lot, and I read multiple books simultaneously. There are more than 1,000 books in my home library and these books range from technology and business, to biographies, philosophy, history, and architecture. In addition to topics such as cities, architecture, and civil engineering, I am fascinated by people and therefore biographies are my favorites. The most recent biographies I finished included Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Keith Richards' Life, and Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer.
If money were no issue, where would you go on vacation?
If I want to go somewhere, I go. Finding the time is more of the restricting variable. Next year my travel plans include Park City, Grand Cayman, and cruising the Mediterranean.
What would we be most surprised to know about you?
That’s an interesting question. Let me see. If the readers don’t know me they probably couldn't care less, and if they do know me they wouldn’t be surprised. Does that make sense?