Thursday, March 28, 2024

Why I Am... "Autodesk University"

 Autodesk has hosted the Autodesk University event since 1993, started with the original user conference in San Francisco to the international gathering that will continue into it's 31st year October 15-17th in San Diego, CA this year. And yes, I'm working on my proposals this year, with a new slate of topics to elevate the discussion and provide advanced sessions on Revit MEP, Autodesk Docs, digital evolution and more. You can submit your own proposals beginning April 2 at this link.

I posted about this on my Linkedin site and had an a reply from a friend of mine that I have tremendous respect for his contributions to the Autodesk community. I didn't necessarily agree with the response, and was concerned about the tone on one of my posts. 

But I'm a free speech advocate, and don't believe in censoring other's views. I understand where he's coming from, as he's great at expressing his frustration with things that shouldn't be complicated. 

Instead, I wanted to answer here - in my own forum - to explain why I disagree, and provide the reasons why.

I starting teaching at the event in 2005, after attending for a couple of years. As the event grew, I got the chance to meeting such a wide variety of people, from different backgrounds, cultures and countries. AU, as it's well known inside of the design software community, has grown into an event where thousands of people - both in person and online - come together with a common objective. 

To engage.

To learn.

To participate.

To educate.

I know others don't always agree with my personal beliefs or political leanings. But this, for me personally, has been the place where we, as a community, put all of this aside for a common objective. We are engaging and meeting others to learn about their experiences, getting to know them as individuals (and not groups) because we all have the same thing in common. We use Autodesk software to design our world, communities, workplaces and homes. 

Autodesk uses this event to help project their products and vision to the community. And like all visions, they don't always work out as we expect them too. Even the event itself has had it challenges, especially in the last few years. But the fact that they have consistently engaged the community, and worked better than most vendors to leverage that relationship to improve their products, is what separates this from other events I've attended.

There is always going to be someone that has a negative experience with Autodesk (and a lot of other software vendors). My difference is that I choose to use the opportunity to engage with the developers, product managers and other resources to help resolve these issues and improve the product. I gain nothing by trashing a product, group or company personally, as it doesn't bring anyone real satisfaction. 

But I gain everything when I make the effort to help others. I learn when I listen to others at the event when they share their experiences. I grow when I choose to train myself, even if the company isn't paying for it, or if I have to make the investment to attend myself. The impact of seeing that light go off when educating a user, and hearing that excitement when an issue they've been struggling with is given light to help resolve it, is irreplaceable.

One way I witnessed this last year was in my class where the majority of users raised their hands when I asked if they are using these tools everyday. That's big change from just a few years ago, even before Covid forced us to re-think and re-imagine our very work environment. Even AU was changed, and greater emphasis on reaching out to community beyond the event, to make the resources and content more accessible to those who could not participate in person.

Like everything in life, I'm looking forward to winding down after forty-plus years in the industry and enjoying my remaining career as much as possible. I'm almost ready to stay in the background, supporting other instructors through the mentoring program and helping with the event itself as much as I can. This is an occasion that continues to provide that chance - to meet with old friends, engage in all the craziness, learn from my colleagues, to go toe to toe with exhibitors that want to sell me the "next great thing", and then to discover that hey - that really is a great new thing. 

And take advantage of this to continue to challenge Autodesk - meet with the product managers, but also meet with others to gather support for anything you're passionate about to help improve the product and event. I'm listening...and so are others.

It's what you choose to make of it - so if you're ready to step up on that stage, and be the voice for the community, then do it. You'll never regret it.