This Time It’s Okay - Keep Your Head in the Clouds

I remember receiving my first set of drafting supplies when I was in Junior High School. A T-Square, lettering guide, angles, pencils, lead, erasing brush etc. There they were, sitting on the tray next to me, with me studying each item. And what was on my mind at that time? 

“What exactly am I supposed to be doing with these things?”

In front of me, a drafting board. A blank canvas waiting for me to strike my first line of lead across it and just waiting patiently for me to begin my career as a designer.

Standing behind me, Mr. Stevens, my drafting instructor. 

“Hines, that technology sitting next to you won’t get any better than that, so start drawing.” He gruffed at me.

Thirty-five years later, and after being in the AEC industry for well over 20 years, I often think of that comment. “That technology sitting next to you won’t get any better than that.”

I’ll admit, I’m a tech geek. Yes, a geek in its finest and true sense of the word. Especially anything BIM – AEC – VDC related. However, there are times I miss those supplies. Thirty-five years ago, life seemed to be moving much slower. 

That “Technology” he referred to didn’t drive me, I drove it. 

Mr. Stevens, let me tell you a little secret that will freak you out. Today, I can now work on a drawing, yes, the same exact drawing, with multiple designers in multiple locations. I can even work with any engineer or architect, located anywhere in the world, all at the same time. That old drafting board, as you know it, is not part of that workflow.

Kaboom…mind blown….right? Oh, trust me, I know.

Now in all fairness, I’ve been born and raised in Autodesk® products. They’re all I know. So, it’s safe to say, I’ve sat through many presentations regarding the software I use and manage every day. I’ll admit, I’ve often said to myself, “Well, that’s nice, (but under my breath) that’ll be dead by Tuesday.” Or “Eh…I can see me using that, but not very often.” But almost three years ago, I found myself sitting in the back of the room and listening to “Another Presentation” to show me another "Idea," where we were talking about the infamous “Cloud.”

Was I paying attention? Sure. Was I totally focused? Not really. I had just sat down from a busy day at the office and was interested in the food that was being served more than I was watching the presentation that consisted of slide after slide after slide.

I looked up and heard, “Music on the cloud?” Got it, I already do that…Back to my plate.

“Documents on the cloud?” Got it, I’ve started doing that…Back to my plate.

“Movies on the cloud?” Now I’m getting bored with this presentation and this plate of food.

“Revit projects on the cloud?" Yeah, I wish we could do tha….Wait, what? Choking on a mouthful of food.

Excuse me, but did you just explain to me that I can now have a workflow where:

  1. I don’t have to email Revit® models back and forth?
  2. And at the same time, I can collaborate in real time with a consultant in Oregon, or from any location, while I’m in South Carolina?

Kudos to you, Autodesk, K-U-D-O-S to you…if that really works.

Glowing from the front of the video projector lit room, up on the screen I saw the words that changed my thoughts on the workflow in the AEC Industry, Collaboration for Revit ® (C4R) and BIM 360®.

Glancing to the presenter and back to the screen that evening, my plate of food was never touched again. For the next hour, my mind was racing back and forth. I even felt my eye twitch from almost going into a seizure thinking about all the struggles in the past where I could have used this on many many many many many many…..big inhale….many many many projects.

So now, one must ask…Does it really work like Autodesk says it does?

Listen to me closely, especially for the naysayers, the holder backers, the ones who have been down that road before where you were shown one thing, and yep, it always dies on a Tuesday, right after you implemented it just that Monday.

I can give you 150 reasons. That’s the number of projects we have pushed and currently host on BIM 360®.

Not good enough? Ok… how about 190 reasons? That’s the number of my licensed users who operate on BIM 360® and use C4R in those projects.

What???? Still not good enough?

Okay okay, you like to play hardball. I get it. Let me throw this number out there at you. 1.5 billion. That’s a million, minus the M and then replace it with a big fat B. That’s the approximate dollar amount in construction costs we currently host and work on using C4R and BIM 360.

So, let’s ask it again, does it actually work?

Get ready, because you just freed up your Mondays, Tuesdays, and even the rest of the week. Yes, it works that well.

Again, K-U-D-O-S to you, Autodesk. In fact, let me stand up and applaud you. You hit it spot on with this one. Thank you so much for freeing up the rest of our week from either needing to find something new or fixing what keeps breaking over and over.

Now let me pull up a chair and focus my attention back to you naysayers or the words I like to use, the holder backers. Ummmmmmm,what’s taking you so long?

Often we tell people, "Get your head out of the clouds." But in this case, keep your head up there. Stay there, don’t move, see what’s up there because what you’ll discover is exactly what happened to Mr. Stevens…Mind Blowing.

If you holder backers are unsure, take it slow. It's okay to ask a ton of questions because that’s what I did. But don’t fake your questions like I do when I’m studying a used car at some shady lot location. I've been bitten many times, so I ask a ton of questions and try to find anything wrong when I don’t know what I’m doing or talking about. I’m far from a mechanic so usually my discussions with the dealer made it clear that, well, I was just an idiot.

“So, it looks like the intake valve here next to the muffler sounder thing that keeps the lug nuts working needs to be replaced. Oh, and I see the fuel gizmo is clashing with the other fuel thingy that keeps the hood on. Yeah, you should get that adjusted before I buy this thing,” I said with a serious and straight face.

Don’t do that. You know this car that you’re driving. It’s Revit. The concepts are the same from project to project, you know that. You know your workflow, so don’t be afraid to give it a good test run, kick the tires, and ask a ton of questions.

I drove this thing like I had just been given the keys to a Formula One race car. I flat laid an inferno of a trail from Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. Greenville, South Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina, and once I saw that it worked, I gave it a cross-country road test. If you’ve ever driven the Pacific Coast Highway in California you know exactly what I’m talking about when I tell you that those curves combined with that Formula One race car means I test drove it like I was in a car chase scene from "Mission Impossible."

Back at the Autodesk dealership, I handed my keys back to the dealer.

“Well, what do you think?” the dealer asked.

As cool and as calm as I could be without showing my excitement, I pulled away my sunglasses, picked a dead bug off the hood, and gave the spot a final polish. I leaned down into the side mirror to make sure I was hiding my excitement. Don’t want this dealer to see my weakness. As I was looking calm I noticed in the reflection a sight I had not seen in years.

I stood up, turned around, and faced Mr. Stevens, holding a cardboard box. Inside, a T-Square, lettering guide, angles, pencils, lead, erasing brush. The man I once knew, who believed that he was holding the best technology in the world, knew those days were gone.

He studied the contents of the box, looked back up at me and in one final gruff I heard him tell the dealer as he was handing him the box in exchange for the keys: "We'll take it."

And to me he said, “But I get to drive.”

Starting out in front of an old-style drafting board, Glen Hines has since expanded his 20+ year career in the AEC industry to embrace technology and utilize it to its fullest potential. From AutoCAD to Revit, and now to the implementation of cloud technology to over 200 users at McMillan Pazdan Smith, he has taken the project design experience gained over those decades and applied it to his understanding of what it takes to keep McMillan Pazdan Smith a step ahead in this high-paced industry. Glen loves sharing the “Aha Moments” from his career, as he feels that each of these revelations changed his relationship to the industry in some meaningful fashion. Today he will tell you, “Even with twenty years under my belt, I’m not an expert by any means, but as long as I keep having my aha moments, then I know I’m headed in the right direction. And that’s something worth sharing with others.”

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