Thoughts on Training


As a CAD manager, I strive to have the best CAD team in the industry and “training” is essential in achieving that goal.  While we all think about it and could benefit by it, it is always a struggle to identify the most effective way to deliver training that will be retained once the instructor has left the room.

While my approach to training and learning may differ from most, it has resulted in an overall increase in content retention.


Here are a few things to ask yourself before you start calling firms to fly in and train your team.

  1. Who needs training? 
  2. When should training be scheduled?
  3. What is the best type of training to accomplish long-term goals?


My intent when hiring is to identify people whom have skills in different areas.  I have a team of three designers (Mike, Roger, and Julie). Each possesses a unique set of expertise, personality, and learning style.

Mike is my number one go-to guy!  He can do it all—grading, corridors, TIN editing, pressure pipes, etc.—the list goes on and on.  He is a superstar!  Mike will not benefit from additional training, but Roger and Julie will.

Roger is a 30-year CAD user who has had few opportunities over the years to really dive into anything other than “vanilla” CAD or LDD. As a result, he is behind. C3D training is exactly what he needs. 

Julie falls between Mike and Roger. She knows the civil engineering and LDD, but has only dabbled with C3D.  She needs help using feature line tools, TIN editing, and removing “bow ties” from corridors, etc.  I want the training tailored more toward her needs. She has the civil experience, understands the software, and has the potential to be Mike 2.0 once the proper training is delivered.  This will allow me to have two superstars that can assist with Roger’s transition into C3D.  

What about the CAD manager, though?  Shouldn’t he stay up to date?    


We encounter the same scenarios: “Sorry we are too busy to schedule training” or “Our utilization is low and training is not billable.”

I was faced with those exact obstacles, but I rolled the dice and it paid off!   Our current workload was relaxed, creating an ideal time to think training.  Civil 3D expert Shawn Herring with ProSoft was my first choice. 


Training these days comes in all shapes, sizes, and formats. Let’s explore a few.

Books/Manuals (Hard Copy)

For many “old school” CAD guys, brand new users, or Autodesk book collectors, a book or manual is the preferred way to go. Maybe it’s having something concrete to grasp onto, highlight in, or just simply add to a collection. However, those days are over—at least for me and my team.  

“Live” Training – Using a Book from the Shelf

Typically, it’s always the bad experiences that people remember (e.g., bad restaurants, bad movies), but in my case, it was bad in-person training that stuck with me. 

Early in my career, a former employer flew in a CAD “expert” for a three-day training session. After day one, I was ready to give up.  The trainer could not answer a single question about the software unless it was in the book.  Literally, not a single one! In my opinion, the worst way to train is straight out of a manual.  Even if you have a stellar trainer, following a manual is not effective.

While books and manuals can be contoured to fit most scenarios, they will rarely be exact.  For example, projects in the book are always different from your firm’s projects. Autodesk styles are used by pretty much all resellers and trainers, and good firms have created their own.  I only recommend this type of training to brand new C3D users. 

Bottom Line: Training from “out-of-the-box” templates and cookie-cutter examples only ensure that you will continue to pay for support or additional training. If done right, you could have knocked out the training in Round One. The training that my team received from Shawn was relevant to the work we do and used our specific projects and templates.

Google and the World Wide Web

In my opinion, the Internet is the most underutilized tool in the software world. I Google everything!  If I can’t remember the command to blank out a field in the SSM, I Google it ( case you are wondering). You have to leverage the tools you have and in this case it’s www.something.  All users should utilize the web.

Web-based – Live Training

One novelty that has emerged is instructor-led, web-based training.  I do not recommend this method of training. Although this may be a cost-effective solution for some companies, the absence of an actual instructor could hurt users.  For example, if multiple users were on a GoToMeeting call with an instructor, how would the instructor bounce from person to person and help them?   It would be very difficult.  An in-person trainer is my preference—given the trainer is knowledgeable.  

Open Forum – Live Training

This is by far the best training method in my opinion. There is no real agenda or set number of chapters to cover, just Q&A. Users cover specific road blocks with the software and the problems are instantly solved.  As mentioned previously, I had the pleasure of having Shawn Herring visit my office for two separate training sessions.  The first was a basic introduction to C3D 2017, while the second targeted advanced topics including corridors, Infraworks, Recap, and grading. 

Multiple users with all levels of experience attended the training.  After the training, I took a poll and all users said it was the best training they ever had.  Shawn had all the answers, he was prepared and very professional.  We worked on actual projects using our templates, and he gave suggestions on specific best practices for better workflow.  My team and I were able to asked pointed questions and we received solutions and suggestions that increased productivity!  


While I am advocate of training, I believe that it has to be structured in a way that is meaningful. What I call open forum-live training has had the largest impact, in my experience.  Yes, I can find similar answers in a book or on the web, but not as quickly. I believe in web solutions, but often users have trouble properly wording the search.  They know what they want to find, but are unable to put it into the correct words to receive the proper information.

Live training takes it to a whole new level. Simply ask the question and get the answer.  I recommend open forum-live training over any other type of training I have mentioned.  

Before you decide on the type of training, decide which training best suits your needs and the needs of your team.  All the training in the world could be provided, but if it and does not target the correct sudiencce then it is  its not reveldoes not target the correct audience, then it is a waste of time and money.

Throughout his 12-year career, Phillip Lynch has played an instrumental part in a variety of civil engineering and survey design projects, with his primary focus being on civil 3D management and surveying.  He has successfully created and implemented C3D templates and CAD standards for 28 internal offices for use on a $90 million program.  In addition, Phillip has trained multiple offices in C3D and established a solid workflow for each.  Using the latest GPS technology, he has surveyed multiple stream restoration projects, miles of underground utilities, and hundreds of stormwater structures and bridges. He can be reached for questions or comments at

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