Ken Grundey is one of those guys that I've known for a long time just over general web communication, even though for a long time we used different CAD products. Now that we're on the "same side", as it were, I have a better understanding about just how valuable a guy he is to know. If you've spent any time on the Solid Edge Community Forum, you know that he is a tireless source of information, and is patient with folks who sometimes don't understand exactly what they're asking. I'm sure traits like that come in handy in his job as a CAD Admin for Pella Windows.
If you run into Ken on the Forum, make sure to tell him just how much you appreciate his answers, and if you run into him at Solid Edge University, you could easily sit and talk with him for an hour or so. He's a genuinely nice guy, and a font of information and wisdom about Solid Edge, and more generally engineering practice.
This interview has taken a while to pull together, but I thought that the Solid Edge Community in general would be interested in hearing from the master himself, in his own words. Thanks, Ken, for agreeing to do this interview!
You’ve been a Solid Edge user for how long?
I've been a Solid Edge user for about 19 years. When I was with my prior employer, we used the previous CAD system to Solid Edge called I/EMS. As part of being an I/EMS customer, Intergraph (the company that created and owned both I/EMS and Solid Edge at the time) would send BETA copies of Solid Edge out to be tested at the customer's location. Our CAD Management group was doing nothing with them so I asked if it would be OK for me to load it up and check it out. I started sending in BETA issues and got to know Laura Watson who worked in the certification group and still runs it today. That would have been around 1995 if I can remember correctly. Then in 1997, my company switched to Solid Edge 3.5 and we started using it in production. Incidentally, version 3.5 was the introduction of sheet metal and marked the start of the "in-house" BETA program where customers are invited to Huntsville, Alabama for a week of training/testing. Shortly after adopting 3.5, my employer offered me the job of CAD Administrator which I gladly accepted. Then in 2001 I changed jobs and became the CAD Manager at Pella Corporation where I still reside today.
How does the ST7 release stack up against all those other versions that you’ve used?
Each release of Solid Edge is technologically strong, and ST7 is no different. I feel the cool thing with Solid Edge's technology is that it is aimed at real user's needs rather than the needs of salesmen doing flashy demos like other mainstream CAD system I've seen. Where ST7 really shines over other releases is the attention towards making it easier to learn and use, especially for new users. This is something that a seasoned user may not appreciate until they have to train "newbies", but even for the seasoned user ST7 has lots of cool stuff for them too like the View Cube, sketch feedback handles/dimensions, new measure tool, and the expansion of 3D sketch to the general environments and much more. Couple that with what I would call a very reliable and robust release and I would chalk ST7 up as one of the best releases yet. With ST8 BETA coming up soon, I can’t wait to see how ST8 is going to top ST7.
I see you and Sean Cresswell in the Forum constantly answering questions. What keeps you going?
As most folks involved in engineering, I'm a natural problem solver and I like to help other folks out. It makes me feel good to know that I was be able to solve someone's issue and keep them from struggling. I guess it is human nature to help others in need, and most if not all of us, are passionate about helping others who have some need. I guess that helping folks out with Solid Edge is my philanthropic passion, and believe it or not, sometimes it is challenging to find a solution to some issues but that helps me to keep my “Edge”.
How did you learn so much about the software that you can give such detailed answers on such a wide range of topics?
I am cursed/blessed with a good memory of things that interest me, and I have a knack for understanding mechanical systems which I guess bleeds over to mechanical design software like Solid Edge. I also have a natural need to know how things work and I think I sometimes annoy a lot of folks because I ask tons of questions about stuff that interests me which Dan and company can probably confirm. Over the years of being a BETA tester and having access to the Solid Edge product managers, asking lots of questions and my natural mechanical aptitude, I end up knowing and remember way more than I should about Solid Edge.
What kind of benefits do you personally get from the Solid Edge User Community?
Aside from the camaraderie and resultant friendships that often ensue, I often glean some useful information about obscure issues that we may be having like the intermittent save issue that is a result of the Windows Thumbs.db file or a SharePoint indexing problem which was due to a Microsoft file with an ASM extension trumping the Solid Edge ASM files in the index. The Community also serves as an indicator of how robust an initial release is or how many maintenance patches in we may want to wait before we deploy Solid Edge at my company of 100+ users. And of course the Community is also a good place for me to be able to share my knowledge and help out other Community members.
What were your thoughts when you learned that Karsten Newbury was moving on?
I was shocked when I heard this and my initial reaction was disbelief. After getting over my initial reaction and I got to thinking about it, I realized that even though Karsten did a lot of really good stuff over the last few years, he came in from another group within Siemens with little to no knowledge of Solid Edge and maybe even the CAD business, but he was an immensely talented leader and quickly figured out the business and then started doing those things that mattered to make it grow and support the customers. So I guess there is hope that his replacement can do the same, but I will definitely miss Karsten. People leaving Solid Edge is a hard concept to grasp because I’ve come to know a lot of folks in the Huntsville location over the last 2 decades and it seems that very few people leave.
Do you have any thing that you’d like to see the community add?
I would like to see an area that lists partner add-ons and/or complementary products like CAM, FEA, etc… with good descriptions of what they are and what they do. Couple this with a rating system that tells people how well integrated they are with Solid Edge. I would also like to see continued development on the usability of the site to enhance navigation and readability. My biggest gripe right now is with the mobile site using a phone. Navigation is not very efficient and the visibility of what is read and unread is hard to discern.
You’re a CAD admin in real life. You must be familiar with the idea that some people will participate with on-line and even live user events, and some people just won’t. Is there anything we can do to reach those who just refuse to participate as the world we live and work in becomes more and more digital?
I am familiar with this issue and have had to face it many times of the past few years. The old adage of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” certainly holds true here, but first and foremost, you have to lead them there. The marketing aspect is the biggest hurdle I think we have had in the past with regards to getting people interested. If you don’t know about an event, it makes it impossible to attend. The best marketing device I think I have ever seen is messaging directly in the application that pulls from a news feed. This guarantees that every user connected to the internet sees the event information. Once people know about an event, it gets more complex as to why people do not attend because there are so many variables that come in to play. There is a bit of psychology involved along with logistics and cost. For the big companies with many users it comes down to convincing the users that they need it, and more importantly, their boss that they need it which means you need a very strong return on investment proposition and you need to be sensitive of certain stigmas associated with locations be it a physical location like Disney or Vegas or a virtual location like Facebook or Twitter. For small companies where the boss is the user, I think they get the “need” issue but they often struggle with the time and cost issue. Also, times are changing and popularity of physical meetings are giving way to virtual meetings or “on demand” formats. You have to understand all this and either strike a balance or widen your offering of formats.
What grade would you give Solid Edge for understanding the needs of its customers?
Solid Edge has always been good at understanding the technical needs of their customers but I don’t think they completely understand the “usability” needs especially involving the new user. This has changed in recent releases with the expansion of online Help, the creation of Community, and the changes in the UI that help new users figure stuff out more quickly. This is an area that I would hope continues to be concentrated on for future releases because I think in the current climate, new users expect to pick up software and find it “obvious” how to use just like any other app they install on their phone. So for a letter grade, I would give them an A- given the strong technical understanding and their strong effort to improve “usability”, but there is still room for improvement in “usability” especially around consistency of “like” commands.
What sort of career advice would you give a young CAD user just starting out?
As much as it pains you to spend the time and money to get formal class room training, do it! This is the quickest and most thorough way to come up to speed on any complex application including Solid Edge. Participate in user events and forums because you don’t know everything and you always have something to learn that will justify the time and expense, and because no one else knows what you know so you also have the capacity to teach someone else. Be curious about the Solid Edge especially new versions because they don’t add stuff “just because”… it serves a purpose and it stands to make you more productive. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help whether it be your co-worker, VAR, GTAC or Community because we have all been their struggling and it is far better to get an answer quickly than struggle for hours being frustrated and ruin your weekend J