You can divide my career at Autodesk into two parts. The part before Autodesk University and the part after. No single event has had as much impact. Of course, the fact that I work for Autodesk had a lot to do with it. So individual results may vary.
Pre AU, I was mostly your average computer programmer. People would give me features to code, and I would code them. I pretty much relied on management to tell be what was important in the product and how people used the product. I did not yet have a blog or a YouTube channel. However, some interesting things were starting up. Vault Mirror, my first “app,” was up on Autodesk Labs, and I was actively participating with the newly created discussion group for Vault. But AU put those initiatives in high gear.
The year was 2006, and one of my tasks was managing the Vault API, so ADN invited me over to show it off for DevDays. I decided to stay for the whole week and attend as much Vault-related content as possible.
The classes themselves were stuff I already knew, but the real benefit for me was after the class. People would hang around after the class to talk to the instructor. This gave me a chance to listen and talk to people, which I don’t usually get do to as a programmer.
The amount of information I gained from those simple conversations was amazing. It changed my view of the product and how people use it. Sure, at a technical level the product is the same, but it’s not always clear how technical details come together to form a useful product.
Even outside the classes, I was able to have good interactions. At lunch, I’d sit with a bunch of strangers. After seeing from my badge that I worked at Autodesk, the conversations would pretty much go like this...
“So you work at Autodesk, what do you do?”
“I work on the Vault product.”
“Vault? I think I may have heard of it. What does it do, exactly?”
“Well, let me tell you...”
And before I knew it, I turned into a salesman. It’s not something I would want to do every day, but it was still a welcome change from day-to-day programming work.
The main stage event blew me away. Before then I had no idea just how cool Autodesk is. Sure the Media and Entertainment division is a big help with their 3D animation software. But the geeky CAD stuff was just as cool to me. Cities designed in 3D, factory floor simulations, etc. Not many companies could pull off that kind of presentation, so I felt privileged to be part Autodesk.
This is probably the only part of AU that has lost it luster for me. I still enjoy the main stage events, but they don’t pack nearly the same punch as the first one. Although I was very happy to see Vault an PLM get some time on the main stage last year.
After that first AU, things changed for me. I still spend most of my time programming, but my role expanded in ways I couldn’t comprehend. A significant portion of my time now goes to API training and support. Maybe those changes would have happened anyway, but AU was definitely a tipping point.
I’ve been back to AU four times since then, and I learn something new each time. Most of my apps are inspired by my interactions with customers and resellers. But there are intangible benefits too. Every feature I code is influenced, sometimes at a sub-conscience level, by those interactions. I can’t wait for this year’s AU.
See you there.