When my journey started, I didn’t know it would end up here. Mostly because “Certified SolidWorks Expert” didn’t exist, but also because, at the time, SolidWorks was simply a means to an end. (Cue “back in time” special effects).

I started using SolidWorks around 1998. I was employed at a machine manufacturer and had just been moved into the technical publications department as a parts manual writer. At the time, there was about a 2.5:1 ratio of writers to illustrators. The workflow was such that the illustrators would feed the writers, then the writers would create the parts lists. I was told that I’d have to wait before I could start on the manual as the illustrators were behind. Being the curious lad that I was, I’d spent some time talking to the engineers about their CAD software because I thought it looked cool. No surprise, it was SolidWorks. I knew that the tech pubs illustrators were using AutoCad and I asked why they didn’t just use SolidWorks to generate their illustrations. The response? They claimed you couldn’t get a true Isometric view. Challenge accepted. With a bit of finagling on my part, I was able to get SolidWorks loaded onto my computer and set about learning how to use it. Fast forward 6 months or so, and the first parts wholly derived from SolidWorks was completed. To do this, I’d had my fair share trials and tribulations, but had recreated the whole machine in SolidWorks and then created my own illustrations from the assembly. Over the course of the next few years, I learned more and more while creating other parts manuals. By the time I left the company in 2005, I was one of the most proficient users there. This was validated when I passed the CSWP exam in December of that year.

Life moved on and I grew as a user. I started participating in forums and user groups and started writing this blog. I enjoyed helping other users overcome their issues and being able to help them grow too (still do). For a point in time there, I worked as an AE for a reseller which was a blessing and a curse. However, that’s not a story for today. I railed against the second generation of the CSWP exam, along with others who had taken the old exam. We felt it had been dumbed-down. The certification team then upped the ante with another revamped exam and then they started busting out the advanced exams. Then they rolled out the expert exam and raised things to another level.

I saw all this going on, and kept telling myself that I’d sit for the advanced exams…someday. Fast forward to SolidWorks World 2013. The age of the CSWP special event had come to an end in favor of a CSWE event. Now, where I attend SWW as a member of the press, I figured I’d just sneak in. Mike Puckett wasn’t having any of it, though. He did make a deal with me. I could attend if, by SWW 2014, I promised to be a CSWE. I quickly agreed. (You can read about the party here.)

Fast forward to December 2013. SolidWorks World 2014 is looming around the corner and I haven’t even taken the first of the four advanced exams needed just to qualify to take the CSWE. With almost 2 weeks off around Christmas, I bit the bullet and started taking the exams. I passed the drawing and sheet metal exams, got spanked by the surfacing exam, then passed the mold tools and weldments. While I didn’t ace any of the exams, I passed all but mold tools with a comfortable margin.

Now it was time for the CSWE exam. I planned on taking it on a Saturday morning while my kids were still asleep. The last thing I needed was to be interrupted during a timed exam, one that I wasn’t 100% sure I’d pass. Coffee in hand, I sat down and fired up my laptop. After procrastinating a bit, I got Pandora going, put on my headphones and started up the exam. When I finished, I took a deep breath and ended the exam. I had just become a CSWE.

For me, it’s a personal victory. While I’m sure that there are plenty of users out there who also possess the knowledge to become CSWEs, I think having done it is its own statement. For those of you who plan on going after it, be sure to do any practice exams you can, they’ll help you with how the real exams work. Don’t rush, there is plenty of time for each exam, for the most part. Pay close attention to models you create that will be used to answer multiple questions, one mistake will mess up all the answers.

If you’re planning on going for it, or already have, I’d love to hear what you think about the advanced exams, as well as the CSWE.



January 28, 2014 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  

I’ve often heard people ask about SolidWorks training and what the best path is: VAR, self-learning, technical school, online or on-the-job. They all have their pros and cons, but I’m not going to debate them here, again. I’ve said many times that I think online training is the way to go, and I firmly believe that. However, should you want to hire me to provide you with some customized training…

Anyway, I’ve spoken with the folks over at Infinite Skills a few times about my doing some training videos for them, but it’s never quite worked out, usually do to my schedule. That being said, they did ask me to check out their offerings and weigh in with my opinion, which is the ultimate reason for this post. I’ve spent a few hours this morning looking around and watching some of their videos to get a feel for how things are. For their newer SolidWorks videos, Infinite Skills recruited a couple of CSWEs, Matthew Perez and Dean Kerste, to create them. Matt Lombard and Alex Ruiz worked on earlier videos. One can’t really argue with the credentials of any of these authors, so let’s talk about the meat of the videos.

Infinite Skills has over 23,000 videos covering everything from Microsoft Office to 3D to programming and everything in between. For those wanting to learn about SolidWorks, they have 11 video series for a total of 723 lessons. A fairly impressive amount, dating back to SolidWorks 2011, including videos on advanced topics like surfacing and weldments. Each video is broken down into chapters, which are then broken down into easy to digest bites. They’re laid out logically, and the authors take their time and provide a lot of detail with each step.

Overall, Infinite Skills just reinforces my opinion that online training is the way to go. You can spend $25/month for unlimited access to their complete library, or jump in and pay $250 for a one-year subscription. Somehow, I think the ROI is easily justifiable to the bean-counters and check-writers. Just my simple opinion.

As I’ve said many times before, I wish all these training resources were available when I started out. Things would have been so much easier.

January 3, 2014 · Posted in Software Review  

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