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Catching Up With Brad Meador – Star City SWUG Leader – Part 2

Catching Up with Brad Meador – Star City SWUG Leader

Brad Meador has been a SOLIDWORKS User Group Leader for about four years – but you’d never know.

Mention his name and people just know who he is – by his own admission he admits “I’ve never met a stranger.”

Just a few years ago, he and a colleague started the Star City SWUG based in Roanoke, Virginia.

A year or so later, Brad has taken over leadership of the group and is working hard to promote both SOLIDWORKS and STEM in the area…and he’s just getting started!

We had a chance to sit down for a catch-up with Brad to learn a bit more about the man people call “Tank.”

It was a pleasure speaking to Brad to learn more about his role at Altec and how he Started the Star City SWUG.

If you missed it, you can catch Part One here. In this second part, we learn more about Brad, Star City SWUG, working with STEM, and his time at 3DEXPERIENCE World events.

Brad, you have been to 5 SOLIDWORKS Works World/3DEXPERIENCE World Events, do you have a favourite location?

As someone who loves live music, I would have to say that Nashville was my favourite so far – the music and the entire scene was awesome.

All of the events have brought something special for me though – whether it’s listening to impactful speakers during the General Sessions or finding my favourite tattoo artist to get new ink, I’ve enjoyed them all!

How was your experience this year with the virtual 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021?

Honestly, I will say that I really liked the increased amount of flexibility that the sessions allowed for. I was able to go back and watch some sessions that I would have missed if in person. As I was also presenting, I could now go back and watch other presentations that were happening at the same time as mine so I didn’t miss them as I would have if in person.

At the start of the week, I had to tell all of my coworkers that even though they may see me at home and online, I wasn’t working with them for the week. It was important for me to treat the week like I really there as I wanted to get the most out of it.

That said, I do tend to do a lot of networking and interacting between sessions, so I really missed that. Even after my own session, I tend to hang out afterward or let folks know where I am going to be so we can talk more and follow up on things we discussed or ran out of time to discuss.

Brad, how many people attended your session at 3DEXPEREINCE World?

At last count, I believe we had about 916 attendees that attended the session. In-person, given the physical room constraints and other considerations, I think I’ve had a maximum of 350 people attend a session.

My session was really popular – it was called “I am Lazy, Tips to Make SOLIDWORKS Work with You!” The session focused around how you can set up the software for your own needs rather than the standard setup out of the box in order to make your life easier. It was great to have a moderator during the Q&A sessions that were held after as they helped facilitate questions, so things ran smoothly.

In the future, maybe they can combine the in-person event with the virtual event to ensure that as many people can attend as possible with no logistical constraints.

Brad, you have plans for a SWUG Tour – where guests travel to present at several meetings over the course of a week. What you have in mind is a bit different from those done in the past, tell us more about your plans for “Iron SWUG”.

Sure, well first off, I think it’s important to know that there is a motorcycle association known as the Iron Butt Association.

This is an organization that enjoys riding long distances over short time periods. Now, to be clear they aren’t speeding or otherwise endangering themselves – they just set out to complete a long-distance over a few days.

For example, there is something called a “Saddle Sore 1000” which is 1,000 miles within 24 hours. Another SWUG Leader (Adam Ebernickel, WNC-Ashville SWUG) and I were going to attempt to do this but with a SWUG twist. The goal was going to be to visit 5 user group meetings in 4 days through North and South Carolina. We both work for Altec, both motorcyclists, and both user group leaders so we thought ‘let’s combine all of this together and see what happens!’

Our original plan was to complete this in April of 2020, but of course, we have had to delay this plan until we can all meet again together. It’s my goal to plan and complete the Iron SWUG in the Spring of 2022. I even have lanyard tags ready to print to bring to the next 3DEXPERIENCE World to hand out for those that participated! I think it will be a lot of fun and make a SWUG Tour even more exciting!

How has the pandemic impacted your user group meetings?

My personality is very outgoing so of course I miss in-person meetings, I think social interaction is so important. Having been isolated has been a bit of a struggle as I am the kind of person that likes to meet and network with people.

Although I miss all of the things that a physical face-to-face meeting has to offer, I have been able to embrace the technology that we were provided to host meetings and make new connections.

I’ve learned to adapt and reach out to places such as local community groups, schools, and FIRST Robotics teams in the area.

It’s exciting, there is one FRC team in the area and through outreach with them, I’ve learned that they are doing all of their designs by hand with no CAD – so I am working with them to help get in touch with SOLIDWORKS to sponsor them and help them build up their skills.

With respect to meetings, we use both Meetup and GoToMeeting as platforms to facilitate our virtual meetings until we can safely be together again.

Virtual meetings have allowed us all to get out there and visit other groups. Having a chance to sit in on a meeting from my home office is great – worldwide meetings are close to home! Who knew that when we were given these tools to assist us as leaders that they would become our primary tools?

Attendance at Star City Virtual SWUG meetings has been different than the in-person meetings. It’s almost as if I have a completely different group of users attending the virtual meetings vs. in person.

I think the availability of the virtual meetings has given people a chance to attend that may not have been able to attend in-person meetings in the past. When we are back to in-person meetings, I’d like to be able to use both to help people that can’t make the in-person meetings to continue to attend and be a part of them.

As we look to the future, as a user group leader how do you think we can all work together to get more students involved?

We run across similar challenges with youth engagement in other areas of community – even in the ministry world where my wife and I are active (we also have young children at home!).

A consideration when trying to engage with youth is attention span. Hosting a 3-hour long meeting is probably not something that a younger person may want to sit through. Being able to create an event that may be about an hour-long is probably something a little more desirable for that age range.

My wife has been helpful in providing some insight as she works with younger people and communicating – the basic rule is that an attention span may be one minute for every year of someone’s age (example: 20 minutes for a 20 year old, etc.)

I’ve been working on creating our own meetings of Star City SWUG with that time consideration in mind. My goal has been to host a meeting that may be about 45 minutes or so with time buffered in for any questions or follow-ups with presenters.

The goal is to keep everyone’s attention – in the age of Snapchat, Tik-Tok and other digital media platforms that deliver content quickly, we need to acknowledge that this is where younger people and students are consuming information.

As we look to the future – getting back out on the road and meeting people, what are your plans?

I’m really starting to ‘ramp’ up our meetings – my plan is to create shorter meetings, but more of them. This will allow me to get more people involved to network, learn and share with each other.

My goal is really to get out there and push STEM – trying to get more folks to embrace STEM in their education and as a career choice. We are starting to turn the tide and I think people are starting to understand that a technical education in STEM is just as valuable as a 4-year university degree.

Finally, Brad – we have to know – how did you get the nickname “Tank”?

Ah, well I was the first person at my Biker Church to get baptised aka hitting the dunk tank so it was given to me and stuck.

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There’s More Like This on Our Blog

If you enjoyed learning more about Brad, check out the rest of our ‘catching up with’ series.

We have been busy catching up with lots of different people from all corners of the SOLIDWORKS and DriveWorks Community.

It’s been great to learn more about the different career paths that have led members of the community to be such a key part of the network.