What’s the use of a SolidWorks User Group? It turns out: rather a lot

Published 27 February 2015

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: solidworks, solidworks world, community, jeff mirisola, michael lord, swug, sww15, networks

At SolidWorks World, this was a literal ‘badge of honour’

While covering SolidWorks World (SWW) this year, we were once again fixated on the tribes of loyal users coming together to listen, learn, and party - the SolidWorks User Groups.

By far and away the strongest networks exist in the US - at SWW our stiff British upper-lips went harder than a woodpecker’s at the sound of US attendees openly cheering the Top Ten Ideas list - but there are new networks popping up across the UK.

Yet with so many resources now available online, what can members expect to get from these groups? We set out to find out more from SolidWorks User Group leaders across three continents - here are their answers:

Adam Green - SWUG Leader, North West England

Adam’s a design engineer at Locker Ltd, having previously worked for SolidWorks partner product DriveWorks, but most importantly he’s heading up one of the newest SWUGs in the world in the North West of England.
@UK_SWUGNW

1 - Where’s your group based and roughly how many people are a part of it?
The User Group is based out of the North West. We’ve only held a few meetings so far but we’re looking at a solid 25 attendees at each meeting so far.

2 - What does a general SWUG meet-up entail?
The meetings really consist of five things:
- Eating and drinking
- Watching technical presentations from the fantastic partners and resellers
- Factory/building tours (depending on location)
- Networking
- Prizes

3 - When there are so many different ways to get knowledge/join groups/chat SW online, what are the benefits of doing it at a SWUG?
Online forums are great but only so much can be said and explained through a post or in a help file.

The user groups give people the opportunity to talk face to face and discus technical issues and develop solutions. With the rise of the maker movement the user groups a great way to start new hobbies and share resources and ideas. The user groups also have a direct link back to SolidWorks and are promoted by SolidWorks, so if you want to be heard come along.

4 - Is it not a bit restrictive, visibly tying your flag to the mast of a single CAD software, when so many are used in the workplace today?
I don’t think so, each CAD package works in a different way and normally the type of design work you are carrying out will point to a CAD package.

I chose SolidWorks because of the vast amount of partner programs that exist which help to speed up and simplify design work. The SolidWorks community is also very strong and it is some thing that SolidWorks work very hard on, and it shows in the user groups.

5 - What are the biggest benefits of being a SWUG member?
Access to other resources and technology has got to be the biggest benefit but the most enjoyable is finding a solution to a problem that has been bugging you for ages!

6 - What are the biggest misconceptions about being a SWUG member?
The biggest misconception I have found is that people see the meetings as another flat, boring power point presentation that is almost an extension of work, when in fact they are an open forum for people to throw around ideas and talk about their interests and just be a bit nerdy.

7 - Why would you encourage someone to check out their local SWUG?
Just look at the benefits: Meet like-minded people; get access to new and exciting technology; gain experience from others; see awesome facilities.

The next NW-SWUG meeting is at Manchester’s Fab Lab on Thursday 5 March, for which we’re donating to its regular haul of prizes - an incredible UAV to be presented at DEVELOP3D LIVE by SolidWorks CEO Gian Paolo Bassi - If you’re in the area and fancy heading along, find more details here.


Michael Lord - SWUG Leader, Sydney, Australia

Michael is a design engineer at Trakka, SWUG leader for its Sydney outpost, and writes for his own SolidWorks blog, as well as finding time to do the occasional review for DEVELOP3D
@ml13ml

1 - Where’s your group based and roughly how many people are a part of it?
Sydney, NSW (New South Wales - Australia) We have around 120 on our email database. Of that around 15 are from Dassault Systèmes Asia/Pacific and/or from the two Australian resellers. On average we have around 34 attend each meeting.

There’s a core group of 15-20 who attend most meetings. We have many on the database who can’t attend meetings so we try to provide some of the content within follow up emails. These might contain links to the presentation or companies or similar.

2 - What does a general SWUG meet-up entail?
Normally we will have two presentations at each meeting. These do vary but we try to have one that is technical and related to a component of SOLIDWORKS.

We also have presentations on hardware (computers, graphic cards) and other associated topics like ePDM, along with General information on what is happening around SolidWorks.

Presenters vary greatly, members, AE from the resellers, technical experts visiting Sydney (eg. DriveWorks UK in town at the time conducting training for the resellers, member of DS Solidworks), although we have a meeting venue we have started having the occasional site meeting.

These are normally then dedicated to whoever is hosting. These would then include a site/workshop tour and then a presentation on how they use SolidWorks in their business.

3 - When there are so many different ways to get knowledge/join groups/chat SW online, what are the benefits of doing it at a SWUG?
Access is to a wider range of the community. Both in regards to skill sets but also a far greater diversity of industries. It is also face to face and in a far more relaxed atmosphere. Therefore the members are far more likely to share information both in regards to technical skill, but also in regards to networking.

Also as a diverse group there is greater variety of input: everyone has something to offer, it doesn’t matter if you have had 12 months or 12 years experience - everyone uses the software in different ways.

4 - Is it not a bit restrictive, visibly tying your flag to the mast of a single CAD software, when so many are used in the workplace today?
Although they are called SolidWorks User Groups there are no restrictions to the members.

Many have years of experience in many different CAD softwares and those discussions come up at times.

5 - What are the biggest benefits of being a SWUG member?
As per much of the above, the main reason people attend is to learn, assist, network and socialise. There are not many places that they can do that apart from the likes of SolidWorks World, so it is good to provide opportunity on a more frequent bases.

6 - What are the biggest misconceptions about being a SWUG member?
Perhaps that it’s a sales/marketing thing! Or that it costs to attend.

7 - Why would you encourage someone to check out their local SWUG?
Member are open and willing to provide and share their wealth of knowledge.

With access to those resources there’s the ability to learn additional skills and along the way connect with a far greater range of people and companies that you’d otherwise not have the chance to do so in normal work life.


Kevin Clouden - SWUG Leader London and Bristol

Kevin is the founder of KJC Design Solutions, and oversees all of the UK user groups, including leading the London and Bristol groups. 
@swugn_uk

1 - Where’s your group based and roughly how many people is are a part of it?
At the moment I am responsible for 2 groups - one in London and one in Bristol.

The London group is just re-starting up and we have decided to get more central which hopefully will make it easier to get to. The next meeting is being held at Kings Cross so transport links should be great as well being able to utilise an amazing place, we will have great views of the platforms.

The number of people who attend does fluctuate we have had as many as 15 or more attend, however we are really focusing on increasing the number of people who attends.

The Bristol group takes place at the Holiday Inn at Filton and we have new User Group leader who will be taking over there in the coming weeks.

2 - What does a general SWUG meet-up entail?
Primarily it’s about getting together with other professionals who can share their experiences and hopefully we can all learn a little bit more about our tools and industry.

It’s an opportunity to take a bit of time out of our busy lives to share ideas and thoughts with our colleagues and although our network is based on SW we are all interested in what others are doing with it, across all industries and how they have learnt to use the system more effectively and hopefully avoid frustrations.

We invite guest speakers to discuss their products and services that the offer to the CAD industry and we are supported by our own SolidWorks technical experts at each event. This provides you with an opportunity to ask the questions that you never get time to find out as well as being able to pick the brains of your fellow professionals.

3 - When there are so many different ways to get knowledge/join groups/chat SW online, what are the benefits of doing it at a SWUG?
There are so many ways available to learn more or get support and using online mediums like forums and webinars can often provide answers very quickly, however whilst I do advocate these options there is nothing like having a good chat with a colleague over a coffee to really get under the skin of issues and explore different ideas and concepts.

The number of people who have brought along an issue to debate really provides an added dimension to this forum, after all there is nothing like brain storming an idea or issue to get the creative juices flowing - it’s just we don’t always have the luxury of time to do that.

Whilst we plan each meeting we really want to adapt to the needs of our members, so if we need to introduce a new topic or debate a theme we are able to quickly adapt and change to meet the needs of our members which is easier in a face-to-face forum.

4 - Is it not a bit restrictive, visibly tying your flag to the mast of a single CAD software, when so many are used in the workplace today?
Yes, it is true that the SolidWorks User Groups are tied to one particular software; however this gives us our unique identity.

It is a fact that the SolidWorks User base community has grown across all continents over the years. So by being involved and focusing on one single platform, we in the SolidWorks User Group we can collectively share our experiences of using the software across many areas of industries.

5 - What are the biggest benefits of being a SWUG member?
Developing a network of dedicated professionals that can support you when you need it is a valuable resource and the User Groups always have a Certified SolidWorks expert on hand to demonstrate advanced functions and features to solve the most complex of modelling challenges.

The most important benefit is that you have a direct ‘voice’ to SolidWorks. Many of the annual updates come from users of SolidWorks and their feedback is essential to the future development of the system.
Many groups will also have raffles or give-aways from our sponsors as well feature presenters from our industries with new technology or services.

We encourage members to debate and share their ideas and experiences amongst their peers during question and answer sessions and always provide time for members to introduce themselves each other.

This networking can be done by social media but nothing beats chatting face-to-face with others and can help to validate your own expertise as well as learning first hand from the experts themselves.

6 - What are the biggest misconceptions about being a SWUG member?
Most people think it will either be costly in time or money, however apart from travelling costs it’s absolutely free to attend and most User Groups are located quite centrally and close to public transport links to avoid difficult journeys.

We know everyone leads busy lives, so we try to plan the meetings in advance with plenty of notice and at the moment we are running them every 2-3 months.

7 - Why would you encourage someone to check out their local SWUG?
For just three of hours every couple of months there is a great opportunity to relax with some colleagues and discuss those burning issues that you normally don’t get time to do.

In addition you can learn about new products or services and really explore the functions that are available to you and in doing save you time and money!

We have the technical experts at the meetings to show you how best to utilise the functions and features which you can take back to your office with you to share with your teams, thereby increasing the knowledge and skills within your organisation, which in turn can be earning you more money or saving you money - and it’s all for free!


Jeff Mirisola - SWUG Leader Seattle, USA

Jeff is not only a design engineer and SWUG leader, but was the recipient of the SWUGN 2015 Community Award, presented on stage at SolidWorks World - which now means he’s big time. He also writes his own blog, Jeff’s Tool Shed and might originally be from Boston, but he’s coy about telling people that…
@JeffMirisola

1 - Where’s your group based and roughly how many people are a part of it?
My group is based in Seattle, Washington. I have a mailing list that of about 120 people. Average attendance is 30.

2 - What does a general SWUG meet-up entail?
Our meetings entail some networking time, some eating time, some giving stuff away time and presentation time.

3 - When there are so many different ways to get knowledge/join groups/chat SW online, what are the benefits of doing it at a SWUG?
Benefits? There’s the networking and the ability to ask questions of the expert doing the presentation. Plus the last time I checked, online resources don’t give away prizes or supply food and drink!

4 - Is it not a bit restrictive, visibly tying your flag to the mast of a single CAD software, when so many are used in the workplace today?
For me, no. I’ve been a SolidWorks user since ‘98 and haven’t had any problems finding positions that allow me to leverage my skills.

Also, the passion I have for SolidWorks hasn’t seemed to hindered me in any way.

If anything, it’s allowed me more opportunities; i.e. Attending SolidWorks World (Group Leaders get free admission to the annual SolidWorks World event).

5 - What are the biggest benefits of being a SWUG member?
Learning about new ways that SolidWorks can be used. Networking with other users. Discovering partner products (software/hardware) that can compliment your workflow.

6 - What are the biggest misconceptions about being a SWUG member?
That we only serve pizza or that it costs money to be a member.

7 - Why would you encourage someone to check out their local SWUG?
See my above answers!


So there you have it - a lot of cost-cutting, time/sanity-saving information, advice and knowledge, with an opportunity to get your voice heard at the top table of one of the world’s biggest software companies - all while shovelling pizza, winning prizes and networking for free.

So get joining - you can find your nearest group easily by using this handy locator on the SWUG website.


Want more SolidWorks?

- Click here to check out our coverage of SolidWorks World 2015

- Click here to read our full review of SolidWorks 2015

- Click here to search for all related SolidWorks articles

- Download the March issue of DEVELOP3D Magazine for free, wherever you are in the world

Comments:

Your twitter name should be @causespeopletosweartoomuch.

Posted by Jeff on 27 February 2015 at 05:53 PM

Leave a comment

Enter the word you see below: