Dan Pihlaja

Solidworks User Advocacy day - September 10, 2018

Discussion created by Dan Pihlaja on Sep 12, 2018
Latest reply on Sep 14, 2018 by Dan Pihlaja

OK, I thought about just adding this as a reply to Richard Doyle's thread, User Advocacy Day 2018 , but I was worried that it would be lost in the replies.


So, here goes.  If you only want to read the stuff about my experience AT advocacy day, then skip down to # 2.


Caveat:  If my memory is incorrect in any of these things or if I got any names or places wrong....please feel free to correct me.


1) Pre-Advocacy day stuff:

I arrived in Boston around 6 PM Sunday (the 9th) and headed out to where my driver was waiting to pick me up (I've never had a "driver" before.....I only mention it because it was a new experience for me).  He was awesome!:



Anyway, I made it to my hotel, got out of the car and as I was walking through the door, there were a LOT of people suddenly coming out the door.   Led by Richard Doyle himself.   It turned out that the hotel was having a fire drill at that moment.....so my first experience upon arriving was being able to hang out immediately with all the people that were at the hotel for User Advocacy Day 2018.  For a bit, the time was dedicated to Rachel York and Richard Doyle practicing how to pronounce my last name. 


After a few minutes John Stoltzfus showed up with his lovely wife.  We got to hang out for a while and then I checked in.  After check in, I was given a "goodie" bag. I am still wearing the sunglasses!  Thanks all!


Then I got to hang in the lounge with many different people.   Rick Becker showed up and we (myself, John Stoltzfus, his wife, and Rick) all went out to dinner.  I think we were there at least 3 hours getting to know each other.  Well....I have to admit....it was mostly me talking...  ..I tend to take over conversations and run with them. But it was truly an awesome experience to meet Rick and John. (I am going to use that phrase a lot here.... "awesome experience").


2) Advocacy day stuff:

Round 1: Bruce Holway and Product Definition:

     Bruce told us a little bit about the Alpha testing that Solidworks conducts and that Solidworks had separated the business side of product definition from the Technical side.  This was to give extra focus on the Technical Side.   He covered the fact that they challenge themselves to give the most value to the most customers - (Quality Functional Deployment).  He did focus on the fact that the feedback loop is essential.....because if they don't know about customers wanting something....it is hard to focus on it.  He also stated that they are essentially a "fly on the wall" with regards to the forums.  Almost everyone is constantly watching the forums.


Round 2:  Kevin Berni and User Experience:

     Kevin talked about the many different paths to get to the same goal inside Solidworks (this is something that I personally appreciate....reference: Challenge! , How do I manipulate my model view; let me count the ways ).

Kevin also spoke about the User research program and usability testing that are so vital to hearing the voice of the customer.   I plan on signing up....what about you?

User Research Program | SOLIDWORKS


Round 3: John Sweeney and Product Development:

     John mentioned many of the things that Bruce and Kevin mentioned....but in addition to this, he spoke about the many different and varied people who are involved in Product Development at Solidworks.  That they are listening...even when it feels like they aren't.    He talked about the Increased functionality for crash support for SW 2018 using the error report dialog box (2018 SOLIDWORKS Help - SOLIDWORKS Error Report Dialog Box ).

He also mentioned something called, "White Glaze".....which replaces the "Not responding" window that is generated by Windows (Don’t Panic, it’s most likely NOT “not responding” ).  This is available with SW 2018 sp5 and 2019, although it is not turned on by default in 2018.  And, as I understand it, needs a registry edit to turn on (so contact your VAR if you are interested in this).

John had all the managers in front of us that deal with Product Development....and they filled the entire front of the room!   Solidworks definitely has a large focus on Product development!


Round 4: Mike Sabocheck and Territory Managers

     Mike spoke about the Territory managers that work for Solidworks (I really didn't even know that was a thing until he mentioned it).   He showed us a map of the world and showed where each of the managers are located and what their specialty is (if any).  He said that these Territory managers were there to support the VAR's and when a VAR needs specialty support, these territory managers are the first line of defense.  They are the ones that move the ball uphill if needed.


Round 5: Mark Johnson (I think that this is his profile.....but I am not sure....needs confirmation) and Technical Support:

     Mark mentioned that over 60% of all SPR's only have 1 vote attached to them.  He also mentioned that there is a background program that churns through all the SPR's (and the background data that is attached to them) that creates a priority level for them.  In other words, if the problem is reproducible and there isn't a workaround (and other factors), then the program moves the priority up.   They can override this priority if needed to bring things higher.  Afterwards, Mark and I talked about the knowledge base and some of its issues.   My takeaway from this discussion was that, while there are improvements coming, we still need to use the system if we want results.

(The following is from me and not from Mark): Not using the Knowledge base and the VAR system when you have a problem and expecting them to fix said problem, is like getting into the cockpit of an airplane and flapping your arms to try to get it to fly instead of using the tools that are available to control and fly the plane.

Use the tools that are available if you want at least a chance at getting to the solution to your problem....no matter how much you don't like it.

I offhandedly mentioned to Mark that I had been in contact with my VAR over the course of the past 2 weeks about a specific issue, and then later, during lunch, he brought the specialist to me that deals with that kind of issue to walk me through a potential fix (I say potential, because the only thing the guy had to go on was me talking instead of me showing him the problem because I didn't have my computer in front of me).


Round 6: Eli Mather and CAD models on MSolidWorks

     Eli showed us the (still in development) CAD model area for MySolidworks.  Eli was very interested in hearing how the area could be improved and listened to our feedback.  This seems similar to GrabCAD and 3DContentCentral, but was specific to Solidworks models.

    Eli also talked about the training that is available on MySolidworks.  Things like the CSWA Prep course: CSWA Exam Prep Course | MySolidWorks Training  and the 4 minute long videos walking you through the different products that are available.   I will admit...I really haven't looked much into this area......This is now on my to-do list!


Round 7: Mark Martel and xDesign:

     Mark brought xDesign (SOLIDWORKS xDesign | SOLIDWORKS ) (entirely cloud based CAD software) up on the projector and showed us how it worked.   It is very similar to Solidworks in general....with some things that are improved upon (1 example: if you have a circle already drawn in a sketch, and you create a 2nd circle, when you drag to change the size of the 2nd circle, then when you get to the same size as the already drawn circle, the color will change, indicating that if you let go of the mouse at that point, it will create an equal relationship between the diameters....we looked at Bruce Holway and jokingly asked him why this wasn't in Solidworks already!  ).  xDesign looks like it is at least as easy to use as Solidworks, if not easier.   There are more improvements coming for it.  (I don't know if a license of Solidworks will allow you to use xDesign or not, or what the cost is at all....I forgot to ask)


Round 8: Lunch:

          I previously mentioned that Mark Johnson introduced me to a specialist to try to walk me through a specific problem that I was having.  This was awesome!  Also, I got a change to chat with some of the managers.  And I got to speak with Jim Wilkinson for a while.  It was great to finally meet him!

Rachel and her team had set up tours of some of the areas of their building....like a VR area and other things....but I didn't get a chance to see them, as I was talking to people (what a surprise )


Round 9: Danielle Boyer and Every Kid Gets a Robot (EKGAR)

     SOLIDWORKS Women In Engineering Series: Danielle Boyer

     This was an introduction to an initiative that is gaining ground that provides low cost robots (that kids would need to build first) to children so that they can compete in robotics competitions.   Danielle mentioned that she is the coach on a bunch of teams and that more teams are being formed.  She is based out of Troy, Michigan.

Read the article that I linked above.  Danielle mentioned that one of her challenges is still raising money (they are seeking machine time to create molds for the robot components) and finding time in 3D printers (to create the components while they are waiting on funding and machine time for mold making).


Round 10: Chinloo Lama and Magic Wheelchair:

Magic Wheelchair

Chin-Loo talked about the Magic Wheelchair and how Solidworks is supporting this organization in their area.  Its pretty cool!   Check the website out!  A few of the stories definitely brought a tear to my eye.


Round 11: John Stoltzfus and the Dave Bear story

     Since John has been vital in "the Dave Bear movement" (as I call it), John was able to relate some of the details.  I will let you read about it here:

A Quick Note on Dave Bear , World Map of Support for Dave Bear , Dave Bear is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Power User


Round 12: The FAB lab (3DExperience Lab) and the Robot Races:

     We then got to head to the next building to their Fab Lab.  They gave us a bit of a tour and then told us the "rules".  Basically, we split up into 5 teams were given a Laptop with some sort of Javascript quick code software and a box with the bits to a robot in it.  Our job was to build a robot (using the directions) and then program the remote and the robot itself so that we could use it like an RC car and drive along a predefined track.   Whoever maneuvered along the track without going out of it too far the fastest would win.

Our team struggled with a dead battery for the first portion of the competition....we just thought our code was wrong (which it was was for a bit of it).  Then Amon (spelling?, he's one of the guys who works in the FAB Lab) helped us out by testing our battery and replacing it.  We then had about 5 minutes to finish up our code and test it.    We had a great team!!  It was so much fun!



Round 13: The after meeting:

     We met later at a restaurant and had a lot of small talk...then started dinner and had some trivia.  We still had a good team...but we didn't even come close to winning.  Probably more because I detoured us right off the right path by completely guessing at some of the answers.  Again....we had a great time.


3) Post advocacy day stuff:

     The next morning, I had a little breakfast, and Robert Maldonado (not sure if this is his profile....needs confirmation) and I rode together in the car that was heading to the airport.  Yes...we had a "driver"   It was still a cool experience. 

On the way to the airport, however, a dump truck didn't see us and merged right into the side of the car.  The part that hit us was about 12" from the driver's head.   No one was hurt, but it shook the driver up a bit.


The police that showed up were really nice.  I couldn't believe the response time to an accident where no one was hurt.  In Michigan, you would be waiting a minimum of 30 minutes for them to arrive....with it being more likely an hour.  These guys showed up within 5 minutes.   I was sure that Rob and I would be missing our flights....but a new car came to pick us up and we got to the airport in time.  All was good.




My takeaways:

Even though sometimes it doesn't seem like it...Solidworks is definitely listening....and responding.  I think that me being there is proof of that.   I came on the scene in the forums about March of 2016 (even though my profile was created in 2014).  Before September 10, 2018, I had never been to a Solidworks event.  Not a user group meeting.....not Solidworks world.....not anything.  As time goes on, I have been more and more active in the forums....but not much outside of that.  I was absolutely floored when Rachel contacted me and invited me to this.


I am very happy with the response from Solidworks regarding improvements and user feedback.  While I think that there is still improvement to be made...I think that they are definitely moving in the right direction.   I also have a much better appreciation for how a corporation struggles with managing hundreds of thousands of users and their day to day issues.


Rick Becker, John Stoltzfus and I were talking about why Solidworks is one of the leading CAD programs out there (if not THE best!)....and my takeaway is that they really do care out their customer.  They have created a corporate mindset that treats their employees, their customers and their support network as family.  And I really appreciate that.


slightly Edited for spelling errors and grammar

9/14/2018: Edited White Glaze reference because I mis-remembered some details