Wow. I don’t know that I can say anything more intelligent than that. It’s been a pretty incredible day today. I woke up way too early to start with. How early? Starbucks wasn’t even open. I had to wait for that to happen.
Things started to pick up around 8:00 when we all started amassing for the stampede into the hall for today’s general session. It was while standing around that Alex Ruiz showed up wearing this absolutely awesome shirt:
Jeff Ray opened the day, as he has for the past 7 years. This year, however, was his final one. As most know, Jeff is moving on up into Dassaut corporate and Bertrand Sicot is taking over as CEO of SolidWorks. Jeff talked about how SolidWorks was involved with the Chilean mine rescue. Schramm Incorporated drill rigs were used for both holes drilled, while the drill bits came from Center Rock. When the first drill bit broke, a new one was designed on site, in Chile, in three days. Pretty incredible stuff, there. Oh, remember how Oakley provided sunglasses to all the rescued miners? Yeah, designed in SolidWorks.
Bertrand spoke for a bit with the most important thing being his assuring all that SolidWorks would always be available as a local install. It would never be an either/or sort of thing with regards to the cloud.He made mention of how well Draftsight has taken off, with over 300,000 downloads and 66,o00 activations.
However, nothing Jeff or Bertrand said was as awe inspiring, or as captivating, as the next two speakers. Gene Kranz and Jim Lovell of Apollo 13. We’ve all heard the story and/or seen the movie, but to hear the story from two of the men who lived it was incredible. Up until Gene started speaking, Twitter was rolling with tweets with the #SWW11 tag on them. By the time Jim joined Gene onstage, the Twitter stream for SolidWorks World had all but dried up.
Those two are incredible men, reminders of a time gone by. When Gene spoke, you could just tell he was a no bullshit kind of guy. To think that the lives of the crew were saved by duct tape, a sock and a manual box is just mind blowing. Even though I kept picturing Tom Hanks, Jim’s recounting was mesmerizing. No PowerPoint for him, either; 3×5 cards were his only media. I really don’t think I can adequately express what it was like to be so close to two bona fide heroes. Wow doesn’t even come close.
At SolidWorks World 2009, Jeff Ray talked about an Engineering Stimulus Plan. Naturally, with the economy tanking, there were quite a few people interested in what it was about. Through bribes, torture and blackmail, I was able to find out some of the pertinent points.
The idea is to help displaced engineers and designers sharpen their skills in order to make them more employable. How is this going to be done? The plan is three phased.
First, free downloads of SolidWorks 2009 standard. (Yes, it’s the Student Design Kit.) For the time being, it will only the English version and only available in the U.S. and Canada. Details are still being worked out on overseas plans. The downloads are expected to start in April 2009 and will have a 90-day life.
Two, currently it will be mostly self training via the tutorials and more video content. SolidWorks is asking their VARs to step up and help in this area (think Fisher/Unitech’s ‘No Engineer Left Behind’). While 1/2 day hands-on test drives are more than likely, SolidWorks would like to see their VARs offer unemployed engineers empty seats in essentials classes. It will be interesting to see how many of them actually step up and do it. Most state governments, as well as the Feds, offer re-training grants, so hopefully that will help to motivate the VARs.
The third phase involves offering discounted CSWA exams, and by discounted I hope they mean free, as well as a job portal.
As I understand it, this will all be triggered by a survey due out in mid-March. As soon as I know, I’ll pass on the information.
Most of this information will be available at SolidWorks’ website in a short amount of time. There are lingering questions, though. How will they determine if someone is actually unemployed is the first thing that comes to mind. When will our overseas brethren see the program? How many VARs will actually step up to the plate? What can we, as a community, do to help this succeed?
While I think that this is a great idea, its success will lie in the motivation of the individual to learn and the willingness of VARs to help out. Now would be a good time for them to truly put meaning behind Value Added Reseller.