Oh, God, this is daunting. How does one go about writing about someone like Josh Mings? He writes one of the most popular CAD blogs, SolidSmack.com, he’s half of the incredible Engineer vs. Designer, and he’s a Web Marketing Manager at Luxion. He also has over 3500 followers on Twitter. If I don’t do him justice, I could be ostracized by the CAD community. Y’know, I think I’ll just let Josh do the talking.
First, let’s get some background on you. Where does Josh Mings come from?
I hail from the great white north, Illinois, but the south part, where the corn and apples grow plentiful. So, I guess you could say, I come from a corn field… when strange enough, I spent plenty of time being drug through by an angry horse after some oats. That and thistles… what was the question?
How about education?
I went to a public school, got my nipples twisted my some mean high-schoolers, got into some fights and talked back to my parents enough to end up in a private school. First teacher I ever liked was there, inspiring me about traveling and making things. I was that strangely amalgamated basketball player/skateboard punk in highshool. Wrote a lot there and had plenty of encouragement to keep with that. Wanted to go to the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue architecture and model-making, but the ‘swiss-army’ knife degree I was cunningly persuaded by my parents to pursue, was mechanical engineering. I failed calculus while spending more time in the labs and building stuff. I ended up graduating, strange enough, with a mechanical engineering technology degree and a design technology degree. I’m partially through an MBA, but have put that off to actually run a business.
At what point in time did you realize you wanted to be an engineer?
I don’t think it was ever something that hit me in the face, but when my little brother threw a dirt clod that hit me in the face, I built a small fort, and from then on I’ve always been interested in not being hit by dirt clods. I think that’s a pretty common path most engineers go down.
Do you remember your first design? If so, what was it?
It was the dirt clod fort or the hay bail fort. After that the first ‘real’ design was a skateboard ramp. Research, concepts, testing, drawings… the whole bit. We ended up with a half-pipe that rocked the block.
When did you first come up with SolidSmack, and what prompted it?
I had been involved with the SolidWorks community to an extent since 96. However, I lost interest in that back in the cad.comp.solidworks days. I had a personal blog and wanted to do something along the lines of my interests, so I thought a blog on SolidWorks would be a cool idea. That was in 2007. I didn’t know about any other ‘cad blogs’ out there at the time. I remember deciding to do it, thinking of the name and designing the first logo in about an 30 minutes to get it up and going.
From what dark part of your mind do your ‘good morning’ sayings come from?
Ha! Yeeeeeaah. I don’t know man. It’s probably some slightly demented section of my brain, combined with early influences from Ren & Stimpy and lack of sleep. I refuse to check email first thing in the morning, so instead I vomit on paper, or in this case on twitter. By the way, you can find a lot of those here.
What, exactly, does a ‘Web Marketing Manager’ do?
Ok, so, a web marketing manager can be a lot of things. I take on anything having to do with the web. This includes anything from web development and SEO to blogging and tweeting. I see what’s effective, build on that and spread the good word. So, in my case it spans a lot, and mostly it revolves around me making a lot of noise.
You’re married with kids, where do you find the time to do your job, plus SolidSmack, plus Engineer vs. Designer?
I get up early, 5am to start the day usually. I keep a tight todo list and fairly tight schedule, avoid the trap of email except for the occasional strategic bathroom breaks.
What does a typical day entail for you?
Get up at 5am. Have a little run/walk, tea and bible reading. I write posts immediately to get them done and schedule them througout the day. I’ll also look through my twitter lists, feeds and schedule tweets to go out throughout the day. I’ll have a quick look through email, answering back any and setting others as tasks. Then the day starts. From the web marketing side of things, I hit the social sites first, check Google alerts, answer comments, questions on forums and interact with users on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll check analytics, trends, adwords (not everyday) to see if there is any unusual activity and work on ways to grow incoming traffic and links. I’ll do a blog post, prep and plan others and communicate with users to do customer stories or find out more information about what they do. That’s usually the morning out of the way. Afternoons are spent on website optimization, SEO and searching out ways to engage users. I review my todo list mid-afternoon and knock-out anything that needs immediate attention, make some notes for the next day and prep whatever I can. Even with that tight a schedule, I can get overwhelmed with task, have rough days or get completely thrown off from travels. On the weekends, I try to stay away from the computer (although lately that has been impossible.) On Sundays, I’ll wipe the slate, clear out my emails, mark all my feeds as read and start fresh.
You just won $1,000,000, what are you going to do?
If I had a million dollars, first I’d pay off the house. I hate debt and that’s a big one that’s always looming. After that, I’d give some out to my family and then do the boring thing and invest the rest… after I bought a Ducati and a racetrack of course.
Ok, so maybe I took the easy way out on this interview, but I just don’t know that I could have done Josh justice using my limited writing skills. Josh is undoubtedly one of the movers and shakers in the CAD community and I’m flattered that he took the time to answer my questions. Some day, when I grow up, I hope I can come up with awesome “good mornings” like his.
Picture stolen, but I can’t remember from where.
Between his incredible amount of helpful posts on the SolidWorks’ forums, to his presentations at SolidWorks World to his website swtuts.com, Charles is a gift to the SolidWorks community. This assertion of mine was validated last month in San Diego when Charles was named the 2012 Michelle Pillars SWUGN Community Award recipient, an award he was quite deserving of.
How did Charles rise to such prominence? How did he become a recognized authority on SolidWorks, how to use it, and the best systems to use it on? To answer these questions, one needs to travel back in time to see a young Charles playing with his Legos. Follow this up with him building a fort in his basement. Notice, though, that he derives much more pleasure in building the fort than actually playing in it. Fast forward a bit to see a teenage Charles working with other like-minded teens as they competed in “Odyssey of the Mind”.
It was those early steps that led to Charles attending the University of Missouri – Rolla. Were it not for the astute observation of one of his frat brothers, Charles very well may have ended up as a chemical engineer. However, upon seeing Charles’ skills with 3D Studio Max, said frat brother commented on how Charles could always do that if he were to become a mechanical engineer. I, for one, would like to thank that nameless individual for setting Charles on that path. Who knows where Charles may have ended up had he become a chemical engineer.
As for his vast wealth of computer hardware knowledge, that began back when he helped his dad upgrade their 386 to a 486. From that point on, he built his own computers. While he did let himself slip a little on the knowledge after graduating, frustration with his work machine got him back into it. What he discovered was that most IT departments don’t know what to spec out for a workstation. Couple that with the fact that most assemblers will recommend the most expensive components, which aren’t necessarily the most correct, and you’ve got yourself a “perfect storm” of incompatibility. Now, however, Charles is there to help those of us who aren’t too good with such things to get the most bang for our buck.
These days finds Charles working at Essex Industries where he was recently promoted to Team Lead – Aerospace Components & Aircraft Controls. He designs pilot controls for such planes as the F-frigging-22. How cool is that? Even with that, Charles still finds the time to be one of the most prolific posters on the SolidWorks forums as well as running SWTuts, a user-contributed SolidWorks tutorial website that is filled with all manner of tutorials. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Better yet, do others a favor and submit a tutorial to help out your fellow users!