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Catching up with Eric Beatty – Part 2

Catching Up With Eric Beatty Part 1 

We have enjoyed the chance to catch up with folks in the engineering, technical and design community. It’s been a great opportunity to learn more about their path in life – whether it be personal, educational, or professional. As we learn more through these discussions, it’s clear that there is a repetitive theme that seems to carry through every conversation – community.

It’s no surprise that our 2020 DriveWorks SWUGN Leader of the Year, Eric Beatty would be any different. We recently caught up with Eric where he shared with us a bit more about his background, his education and how he started the Seattle Area SOLIDWORKS Power User Group.

If you missed it, catch up on Part One here.

Eric, we have seen you speak at various events about OMAX and the work you do there. Share with us a bit on how you made the shift from teaching full time to working with this company?

Once we started doing more training and education on SOLIDWORKS at the college, the folks at Personal Workstations were sending customers over on a regular basis. It started off with two days of training spread over two weeks. As with anything, over time the training needed to get longer, and we had to host more sessions over more weeks. We had a chance to meet a lot of customers and people using this new CAD in industry.

During these training sessions, I met Darren Stang. He was working at a place called Flow Drill (they made tunnel boring equipment for utility work). A few years later he had moved onto OMAX. He called me to ask if I had any students that could do some work; they needed someone to transfer some legacy models from AutoCAD to SOLIDWORKS. We were happy to help out and the students were happy to get some hands-on experience.

For myself, after teaching for so many years, I was also starting to think about my own next steps. Having spent some time at OMAX, I really liked the work they were doing. A few months later, Darren called me and asked if I would be interested in working at OMAX and that was literally the job interview!  I’ve been with OMAX now for almost 15 years.

While my role with OMAX reads Senior Mechanical Engineer – I often refer to myself in the same respect as Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction “I make 3D CAD/CAM problems go away…”

With so many years in education and industry, how many SOLIDWORKS World/3DEXPERIENCE World events have you attended?

Surprisingly, I have only been to nine ‘world’ events – the 1st one being SOLIDWORKS World 2003 (Coronado Springs, Orlando, Florida). At the time, I was still teaching full-time at the North Seattle Community College. We had very little budget for that kind of event and I remember stringing together multiple grants at the college to help pay for the conference pass and some of my accommodations – I think I ended up paying about 2/3 of the costs but it was 100% worth it!

Do you happen to have a favourite location from the events you have attended?

If I had to say, it would be SOLIDWORKS World 2014 in San Diego, California. It was such a beautiful sight. The conference location was great, I enjoyed exploring the Gas Lamp Quarter and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that it was totally awesome to geek out for being in the same space that Comic Con is held!

Has there been a particular speaker or otherwise at any of the ‘world’ events that have stuck with you over time?

Yes – when I returned to SOLIDWORKS World 2013, Orlando, during the General Session we had the opportunity to listen to Art Thompson speak. Art Thompson is the Technical Project Manager for the Red Bull Stratos project. It was amazing to hear the story of Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking skydive from the edge of space. To this day I still think about the amazing story that Art shared. Even better for me was that later in the day as I was crossing from the ‘Swan’ to the ‘Dolphin’ I ran into him and we had a chance to speak for about 15-20 minutes (I was totally suppressing my inner ‘fan boy’).

What did you think of 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021 and the virtual experience?

Overall, I think they pulled it off really well. While this was the first time hosting this event this way, there were a few glitches that were quickly overcome.  Some of the ‘one-way’ conversations of course were not the same, but that was to be expected.

Every morning during General Session, I would receive invites from different groups of people that were hosting ‘viewing parties.’ There were some really great efforts made by folks to be ‘together’ virtually when we couldn’t be together in person.

Honestly, when Thursday came around and the sessions were mostly over, I was just as exhausted as I would have been at a week-long in-person event! It wasn’t being tired from staring at the screen all week, it was a similar energy exhaustion that one may have at the end of an event on location.

Let’s shift back to the SOLIDWORKS User Group Community – what do you love the most about being part of this community for so many years?

While it may sound cliché, but it’s the overall sense of community. In my personal life, I have always kept a small circle of friends. Being part of the SOLIDWORKS community, I have made friends with people from all walks of life from all corners of the world. We are all here for each other – especially during the last year. Honestly, you get close to these people and look forward to spending time with them when you can.

It’s the family reunion that you look forward to because you like all of your relatives!  

Over the course of the last year, SWUG meetings have been shifted to virtual meetings. How do you see the virtual component influencing the future of meetings?

I am so down for using the virtual tools we have – I can’t see going back and turning away from this new method once we can go back to ‘in person’ events and it’s safe to gather again. You can count on me that I am going to have a webcam on a tripod so that people can tune in to the meeting from anywhere.

There are things even like traffic that deter people from getting to a meeting – this will help more people stay connected and attend when they can’t get here in person.

How do you see user groups getting more students involved?

Inviting students to participate in user group meetings is important to the long-term success and sustainability of the network. By leveraging the virtual technology, we have and hosting a ‘hybrid’ meeting – it may break down the barriers of attending a SWUG meeting.

Students and younger adults may be more comfortable logging into a virtual meeting initially to get to know what it’s all about. This may help them be more comfortable and want to physically attend a meeting when they are ready. Reaching out to the students is definitely an important step in the long-term growth of the user group network.

As you know, DriveWorks is celebrating its 20th birthday this year! We heard you have a story to share with us about DriveWorks presenting at your user group?

The Seattle Area SOLIDWORKS Power User Group hosts our meetings on Tuesday evenings. Many years ago, we had a SASPUG meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

We woke that morning to the horrible news coming out of both New York City and the Pentagon about the terror attacks on our country. Both myself and Michelle Pillers spent a lot of time that morning discussing whether or not we should host the meeting – at the time meetings were still being held on the community college campus.

We decided that we were going to host the meeting as a way to give people a place to come and be together.

Having everyone come together as a community to support each other and share in our grief was important; we didn’t want anyone to feel alone or otherwise isolated. People needed something – we had already ordered the food, so it made sense to come together that night.

Our planned presenter that night was Braxton Carter from Reverse Engineering (Hi-res). Braxton was unable to join us that evening as all flights were grounded and he was in San Diego.

The folks from CAE Northwest (now Hawk Ridge Systems) had someone visiting them from England and offered to bring them along to present on a new automation software called ‘DriveWorks’. It sounded like a great idea so that’s how I met Glen Smith. Glen came up to the meeting with the CAE guys and did a presentation on DriveWorks.

If I remember correctly, the demo given was an example of a ‘bespoke’ truck. I’ll always remember that demo as I had to go look up what the word ‘bespoke’ meant – which of course means ‘custom made’. Glen was showing how you could custom design a truck in SOLIDWORKS by using rules built in DriveWorks.

That meeting will always hold a place in memory as it was on that fateful day – but we also had close to 75 people there. Everyone needed a place to be that evening and hang out together – we provided that.

It was a pleasure speaking to Eric, learning more about his role as Seattle Area SOLIDWORKS Power User Group Leader, his experiences at ‘World’ events, and his vision for future events and user group meetings.

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