For the one or two of you who don’t know who Richard is, allow me to enlighten you. Richard’s official title is User Community Manager. I hardly think that does him justice, though. In my day 2 of SWW ’11 post, I described him as a Knight of SolidWorks and suggested people refer to him as Sir Richard. I think I was wrong, though. He’s more of a SolidWorks evangelist. Padre Richard perhaps? Reverend Richard? No matter, just know that when you meet him you’re meeting someone pretty special to SolidWorks users around the world. How did Richard end up with the most kick-ass job ever? That’s what I’m going to tell you.
Travel with me back to 1978 and the town of Santa Rosa, California. It was here that Richard’s illustrious career began as a drafter. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, he got his start by bucking the system. When asked, as part of the interview process, to draw three views of an object and show examples of his best hand lettering, all on an 8×11 clipboard, Richard wrote a note on the paper offering to bring in examples of his work, as balancing the clipboard on his knee was not working out. This boldness not only impressed the hiring manager, but, coupled with his examples, got him the job as well.
After cutting his teeth there for a few years, Richard packed up and moved to Montana, joining up with a firm that did contract work for telephone companies. He’d spend the next five years in exotic locales like Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado. It wasn’t until 1985, while now working for IBM, that Richard got a taste of CAD in a system IBM used called CADAM. Two years later, the Navy wanted IBM to document underground utilities for them and, because of his previous experience in utilities, Richard was put in charge of the project. One minor glitch, though; the Navy wanted them to use AutoCAD, something that no one had experience with. Not to worry, Richard simply got a hold of a demo copy, then locked himself in a room for two days to learn it. A couple of demo drawings later and they had the Navy contract.
Richard would spend the next 10 years practicing the ancient art of 2D drafting, ending up at DTM Corporation in Austin, Texas. It was at DTM, in 1997, that Richard was forced into 3D CAD. That’s right, he was one of “those” guys. One of those “we don’t need no stinkin’ 3D” guys. DTM went through the usual investigating before choosing SolidWorks. An hour into the first training class and Richard jumped out of his chair and said, “Wow, this stuff is really cool!” The rest, as they say, is history. Having had a few opportunities to hear Richard speak over the past 5 years, I can almost hear him exclaiming that phrase.
So began Richard’s ascension unto SolidWorks Community Manager. He fell in love with SolidWorks and began to learn all that he could, and still does to this day. As proof of my assertion that he’s a SolidWorks evangelist, Richard started the first user group in Texas, CTSUG, in Austin. It was at one of the group’s meetings that he planted the seed that led to his current position. He mentioned to SolidWorks that if they had a point person within the organization, “amazing things could happen.” They believed him and, after several months of negotiations, offered him the position of User Community Coordinator. As one might imagine, it didn’t take him long to accept.
He spends his days working with customers and SWUGN committee members creating new groups, supporting existing groups and providing user group leaders with the tools needed to be successful. He plans and executes, with local leaders, the SWUGN Summit events and, including those summits, attends about 30 user group meetings a year. He’s been to 55 of the 203 worldwide user groups. He has it on his Bucket List to attend every user group at least once. He also moderates the SolidWorks Forums, works on new presentations, whitepapers and videos and helps out with the planning of each year’s SolidWorks World. Specifically, he’s on the committee that reviews and schedules technical sessions. You’ll also see him up on the main stage talking about the importance of user groups and presenting awards. He also finds the time to write the SolidWorks Community Blog.
One of my favorite stories involving Richard took place at SolidWorks World 2000 in New Orleans. I’ll let him tell it:
“At SolidWorks World 2000 (New Orleans), there were two nice ladies set up taking surveys from the attendees. I sat down to take the survey (and receive my free SolidWorks coffee mug). One of the ladies started asking me questions…company name, address, etc. She asked next for my SolidWorks serial number. As the lady sitting next to her leaned over and said “We don’t need that”, I rattled off the 16 digit number. The second lady looked me right in the eye and deadpanned “What a Geek”. I laughed until I cried, and I still chuckle every time I get to tell the story.”
When all is said and done, Richard is one of SolidWorks’ shining stars. Beyond that, he’s the kind of employee that any company would wish for. The kind of employee who loves his job because of the job, not the money. He’s like a kid playing baseball, there for the fun and not the glory. I consider it an honor to count him among my friends, though I wouldn’t hesitate to to steal his job from him. Just kidding, Richard…mostly.
Picture stolen from Richard’s blog.