What is your role at Autodesk, Steve?
I am the Manufacturing Technical Engineer for the UK and Ireland. My role is to work with manufacturers, engineers and designers to understand what they are doing today, where they would like to go and how the Autodesk Digital Prototyping solutions can help them to achieve their goals. I work closely with Autodesk channel partners in the UK and Ireland to answer questions they have and make sure that their teams have all of the knowledge and expertise they need for working with manufacturers using our technology. I also look after a number of Social Media feeds such as the Autodesk MFG Twitter (twitter.com/AutodeskMFG) and Autodesk MFG Northern Europe Blog (autodeskmfg.typepad.com) to share tips, tricks and news.
How long have you been with Autodesk doing this, and have you held other positions?
I’ve been with Autodesk since October 2007 and have been in the same role all that time. My role (or job title) has stayed the same, but what I do evolves regularly, and that’s what I love about it—no two days are ever the same. Before joining Autodesk I was working with a channel partner as an Application Engineer since 1996.
Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be doing what you do now.
I always had an interest in design, engineering, and computers. It wasn’t until a chance meeting with a college teacher that he told me I could combine the two things I loved at University. To cut a long story short, this led to a degree in Computer Aided Product Design. During my time studying, I knew this was what I wanted to do for a career.
My first introduction to AutoCAD was with R10 for DOS, then up to R12 for Windows, then R13. At the same time I started with 3D parametric design using Pro\Engineer. I joined the Autodesk channel in 1996 and started with Mechanical Desktop R1 and worked with many manufacturers with MDT up until Autodesk Inventor was introduced to the UK in 1999.
I’ve basically spent the last 12 years working with manufacturing companies across Europe and North America to get the most out of their investment in design and data management solution.
What does a typical day look like at your desk?
As mentioned, no two days are ever the same, but I’ll try and give you a bit of an overview.
When not out and about I work from home in the UK’s Peak District so I usually start quite early checking email, social media accounts, etc., and then get into calls and emails with customers, prospects, and partners helping them to locate information, answer their questions, solve challenges, and develop workflows and solutions based on their Autodesk technology and the questions they have. Whilst working from home I also try and use the content I am working on for customers or partners to develop blogs, YouTube videos, and images for the Flickr gallery.
A lot of my time is spent out on the road visiting and meeting with manufacturers and channel partners. This usually involves an early start as to get anywhere in the UK you have to factor in morning traffic, which means adding up to an hour to any journey! Once at my destination I will be there to listen, understand the current situation, ask questions about how they are doing things today and where they would like to be in the future and help them to understand how the Autodesk Digital Prototyping solutions can help them achieve their goals. Sometimes my visits to a manufacturer are to discuss and answer questions about Autodesk technology they have already invested in and are actively using.
Once back home, I have dinner with my wife and our 5-year-old son before having some time making robots, chasing aliens, playing hide and seek, and generally running around like a big kid. That’s with our 5 year old, by the way, not my wife!
Describe the challenges that you and those you work with face.
My primary role is to help educate manufacturers on what the Autodesk Digital Prototyping solutions can do for them. This usually involves working with various departments and people within the organization, who all have their own ways of working, their own issues and their own opinions of how technology can help them. My biggest challenge is to take everything that I have learnt from all of the people within a manufacturer and provide a solution that works for as many of them as possible whilst taking all of their requests, issues and opinions into consideration. It’s a challenge that I love though—I love meeting new people and talking to them about design, engineering, and manufacturing.
Can you say how many people work with you or perhaps how the work you do is shared?
I am part of the Autodesk Northern Europe Technical Sales Team, which is made up of six exceptionally knowledgeable and experienced engineers… and me. I work really closely with these guys but also work really closely with my UK and Ireland sales colleagues and channel partners.
Do you or your team get involved in planning for future releases of the software?
I wouldn’t say we get involved so much with the actual planning, but we speak regularly with Product Designers, Developers and Product Managers to feed back what we have heard from manufacturers who are looking to use, or already are using our Digital Prototyping Solutions.
A lot of my time is spent on site with manufacturers and in many cases it is working with manufacturers who are using tools like Inventor, Showcase, Publisher, Vault, etc. Whilst working with them I am always keen to know how they feel the solutions could be improved or what they feel it is lacking and I will feed this back to the relevant people within Autodesk.
Do you do any planning for Autodesk University or other events?
I don’t get involved with the planning for AU other than promoting it via my Social Media activities and submitting class proposals, but I do get involved in planning for local events like the UK Digital Prototyping Forum.
We organized the first UK Digital Prototyping Forum last year and had a very successful event at the world famous Belfry Golf Club (we didn’t get to play golf). This year’s event will take place on 2nd November at Aston Villa Football Club in Birmingham and will be packed full of presentations, classes and discussions for manufacturers, engineers and designers.
I am on the planning and organization team for the UK DP Forum along with colleagues from across Northern Europe and I will also be presenting at the event.
You’ve been actively blogging for the Autodesk MFG Northern Europe Blog. How long ago did you start it, how do you decide what to post, and how is readership growing?
I started the blog in 2008 using Blogger but in February of this year have moved over to the Autodesk corporate platform using TypePad.
I decided to start the blog as many of the people I spoke to across Europe were commenting that at the time there wasn’t a blog for the European users. I saw this as an opportunity to provide users across Europe with localized content. Since then though, the blog has grown to be popular across the globe.
I try to post news, tips, tricks and updates that relate to questions I have been asked from new and existing users of our Digital Prototyping Solutions. If one person is asking it, then it’s likely that someone else somewhere will also have the same or similar question. When I get a new question from a user, I’ll respond to them directly as well as answer their question via my blog. For example, I was contacted by a user who had a question about using Adobe Illustrator vectors in Inventor. Whilst I was answering the question for the user I also created a blog post and YouTube video that I later posted so others could use the same information.
The readership is growing very well; I am thrilled by the stats recently.
Any tricks you use to help check how successful your efforts are? In other words, do you guys get enough feedback to know that you are moving in the right direction? What can AUGI members do to help?
I am the kind of person that can never have enough feedback—I am always looking for feedback and opinion from as many people as possible.
When I am working with manufacturers or channel partners I am usually up in front of a group of people presenting so always want to get feedback to make sure that what I am presenting was relevant and understandable.
As for the blog, I get comments from readers and receive posts via Twitter and Facebook pages giving feedback but, like I say, the more feedback the better; it helps me make sure that I’m staying helpful and informative.
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?
Absolutely! I read a lot of blogs, websites and forums like AUGI to see what is being discussed and questions that are being asked. I usually do my catch-up reading first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, but with mobile devices now, it’s great to be able to keep up to date and informed whilst on the go.
What sort of things do you do for distraction, hobbies, travel?
Our 5-year-old son keeps me distracted and busy when I am not working, but when I do get the chance I love photography and love getting out and about taking photos. I recently invested in a mountain bike and am enjoying taking that out and riding through the Peak District countryside.
I enjoy watching most sports in particular football (soccer) and Formula 1 and watch whenever I possibly can.
What would we be most surprised to know about you?
When I was younger I played in a band that performed in front of 22,000 people in Germany and also played at the Royal Albert Hall in London.