Richard Doyle’s official title is Senior User Advocacy & SolidWorks User Groups – but most people just call him “The User Group Guy”. Richard has been a SolidWorks user since 1997 and was one of the founding members of the SWUGN Committee. Since starting the Central Texas SolidWorks User Group in 1999, his career path has led him to DS SolidWorks and a dream job supporting the SolidWorks User Group Network worldwide. Because of that, I do not think there is anyone in the world who has more friends than Richard.
Who was Richard Doyle before becoming ‘The User Group Guy?’
I’ve been working in engineering since 1978 with experience in packaging design, PCB design, facilities/utilities engineering, document control, and finally settling on machine design in the mid-80’s. I started using SolidWorks in 1997 with a company called DTM Corporation (now a part of 3D Systems). In 1999, at the insistence of my reseller, I started the Central Texas SolidWorks User Group – the first SolidWorks User group in Texas.
How and why was the SWUGN started? Who came up with the idea? What is the SWUGN?
In late 1999, I received a call from SolidWorks Corporation, asking if I was interested in meeting with some other user group leaders and some folks at corporate about forming a national body to support SolidWorks user groups. The result was “SNUG”, or the SolidWorks National User Group and the SNUG Committee. A couple of years later we realized that this wasn’t just a “National” group, but rather a collection of independent user group chapters around the world. We added a couple of committee members to help with our international groups, and changed the name of the organization to the SolidWorks User Group Network, or SWUGN.
Why should anyone attend the meetings? What do they get out of it?
The benefit of belonging to a local user group chapter starts with the technical information. User group meetings always consist of at least one technical presentation, and most groups have two or three sessions at each meeting. User presentations, reseller presentations, even DS SolidWorks employees show up at these meetings to help users learn new techniques, share Tips and Tricks, or focus on teaching specific functionality in SolidWorks and related products.
A close second is the networking opportunities. Where else can you go to hang out with people that share many of your interests (and get a free dinner)?
How hard is to start a new group? Is there a requirement for a minimum number of members? In Canada, there are a lot of remote towns that have only two or three companies using SolidWorks (7-10 users in total). Is that enough?
Starting a group is very easy, and the SWUGN Committee provides a ton of support (see http://www.swugn.org/swugn/support.htm), and we can help make contacts (resellers, Partner companies) that can help with technical support and/or promotional support.
There’s really no minimum number of companies/members for a local chapter, any group that gets together regularly (and meets the basic requirements) can be recognized as a SWUGN member.
Is SolidWorks providing any support for creating a new user group? What about supporting existing groups?
SolidWorks Corporation works closely with the SWUGN committee to help create new groups in areas that are underserved, but most new groups start with one special individual that thinks “Hey, we need a user group in our area”. I love those people.
As far as SolidWorks support of existing groups, we provide the funding (up to $400.00 per meeting) for meeting space, food, and any A/V equipment that might be needed. We’ll also send out a nice package of goodies to raffle or give away.
In addition to financial help. SolidWorks regularly provides technical content and/or special guests. Every SolidWorks executive is expected to attend at least one meeting per year, and most (if not all) of them attend multiple meetings. The “Executive Tours” are quite popular with our user groups.
The Certification Team at SolidWorks is goaled on the number of groups they visit. Last year, members of the SolidWorks Certification team attended more than 30 user group meetings. Product Definition, Product Development, and other departments also attend multiple meetings during the year.
What are the best ways to find people willing to deliver interesting presentations at User Group meetings?
This is the toughest thing facing user group leaders – finding good presenters. Local resellers do a great job of helping out, and the aforementioned DS SolidWorks employees are willing and able, but user presentations sometimes take some prodding.
Some groups “trick” users into presenting, or reward user presentations with one of the giveaway items.
Javelin has a great relationship with the SWUGN in general, and with the Canadian User Groups in particular, being awarded the SWUGN Reseller of the Year Award in 2009 and 2012. How important is the support of the local VARs for the SWUGN? What are the best ways a VAR can contribute to the success of the local groups?
Reseller support is huge! The best way resellers can help is by promoting the local chapters. Make sure everyone that comes in for training gets some information about the local chapter. Having a web page that shows where the local chapters are, when the next meeting will be, and the appropriate contact information is also a big help. And of course, providing technical content when requested really makes the group leaders job much easier.
I know that you travel a lot to visit SolidWorks User Groups all over the world. How many meetings have you attended so far (approximate number)?
So far I have visited 81 of the 233 groups around the world, but I’ve been to many groups multiple times. If I had to guess, I’d say I have attended more than 300 meetings since 2005.
Can you tell us a story from one of your visits in Canada?
My favorite Canada story doesn’t involve a meeting per say (I was there for a meeting, but..). When I travel, I like to eat local foods – Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago, Clam Chowder in Boston, etc. Prior to a trip to Toronto, I tried to find out what, if any, local foods could be found. No luck, so I hit up a local Chinese Buffet restaurant. When the hostess asked if I had ever been there before, I said no, so she offered to show me around. She said “Over there are the salads, down there the sushi and hot foods, and at the end you’ll find the Canadian foods”. I got really excited and asked “Canadian foods? Like what?”
She replied….”You know, things like Pizza, Chicken, and Hamburgers”.
In the past 3 years our Canadian Groups hosted a Technical Summit and also welcomed quite a few presentations delivered by SolidWorks specialists (yourself, Mike Puckett, Matthew Lorono). Would you like to share with our readers your plans for this year in regards to similar activities in Canada? Any surprise guest speaker presenting in our meetings?
We don’t have a SWUGN Summit scheduled for Canada this year, but next week, Ken Clayton, VP of Worldwide Sales, will be visiting three SOLIDWORKS user groups in Ontario. He will be in Waterloo on Tuesday the 22nd, in Toronto on Wednesday the 23rd and in Barrie on Thursday the 24th.
Thanks for the interview, Richard!
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