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Catching Up With Jeff Setzer, Technology Evangelist at GSC

Following virtual 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021, we caught up with Jeff Setzer, Technology Evangelist at GSC.

Jeff shared a number of stories of his early days with GSC (formerly Graphic Systems Corporation) and also his experiences in attending ‘world’ events over the last 20+ years.

Within the SOLIDWORKS community, there are very few folks that can talk about being at the very FIRST SOLIDWORKS World event, Jeff is one of them.

Jeff also tells us what it means to be a Technology Evangelist and how it helps the community.

Jeff, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. First of all, I think it would be great if you could simply share some information on where you are from and some of your background.

Happy to share – first off, I’m born and raised in Monroe, Wisconsin. Monroe is in the South-central part of Wisconsin “Home of the Monroe High School Cheesemakers!”. My father was a local high school teacher as well as a sports coach, my father spent his life as an educator. Growing up, I had a twin brother John and a younger brother Tim.

After graduating high school, I looked at attending the University of Rochester (NY), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA) and University of Arizona. Early on in my life I had an interest in telescopes and thought I may go to Arizona to study Optical Engineering. I ended up attending the University of Rochester where I studied Cognitive Science.

During my time there, I took an interest in computers and had learned a bit about AutoCAD and I thought it was really cool technology. While I was in school, I took a summer job working for David Kasinskas – the owner of Graphic Systems Corporation (now GSC). I’d met Dave through an old high school drafting teacher.

Jeff, how many years have you been with GSC?

I’ve been with GSC now for 29 years. What started as a summer job has happily turned into my lifetime career.  I’ve known Dave for so long, one of my brothers was a coach for his kids when they were younger (those ‘kids’ now hold executive roles at GSC).

Can you share just a bit about your early days working in the community?

When I started working with Dave, there were only four of us and we were renting a space in an office suite. During that time, we all had to do different jobs as we were a small business. Honestly, one of my first jobs was to fix the doorknob – I knew how to do it, so I did.

As I had already learned a little bit about CAD, I was familiar enough with some of the technology. We were building hardware and workstations that would run a product called MicroStation. This was a CAD platform that was being used mostly for architecture and engineering. We also sold plotters.

The work that we were doing involved learning a number of different technologies. At the time, we were also working with a network system called Novell. I started reading a manual on this to learn more about technology and to increase my understanding of its use. That’s kind of where I started to really make efforts in learning about both hardware and software.

At one point, around 1993-1994, we did become one of the first resellers to sell the Intergraph Engineering Modelling System (EMS). As solid modelling started to gain more popularity, we started learning Solid Edge and the Jupiter Project.

We went down to Alabama to learn the software and found it challenging to create the designs that we had set out to do as part of the training.

During that week, we spent time with some other folks in the industry and learned about another solid modelling tool that was being developedSOLIDWORKS. Tim Preston showed us SOLIDWORKS and then put us in touch with Vic Leventhal to discuss becoming a reseller of the software. Vic was instrumental in the development of the SOLIDWORKS sales channel.

I remember the 1st version of SOLIDWORKS being sold in beta form for about $1,300.

Jeff, having worked at GSC for so long, please share with us some of the roles you’ve had.

Sure – early on in my career with GSC I worked in tech support. As we were a small company, we all held multiples roles and I was also the marketing person for a while. We created some promotional pamphlets about SOLIDWORKS to send out to customers. I also helped with logo creation, designing t-shirts, and miscellaneous marketing tasks. For a bit, I even worked as the internal IT person. We just did what we needed to do as a small company.

As our team grew, I took on the role of Technical Services Manager which I did for a long time. That was probably the longest role I’ve had with GSC. Over time, others started taking on other roles and I’ve now grown into the position of Technology Evangelist.

Jeff’s twin brother, John Setzer, started at GSC about 3 years after John, he had been an English teacher and developed an interest in CAD and technology. He now works as the Training Manager at GSC.

What does a Technology Evangelist do?

To be honest, I gave myself this title a few years back and it’s really defined what I like to do. In the role of Technology Evangelist, I take a lot of time to learn software products and then advise people on how new technology can help them. I’m not training them in how to use the software, but more providing counsel and advocacy in what they should be using.

Honestly, it really is more of a technology and marketing role combined. I spend a lot of time with both teams during my work week but find I’m working more with marketing. We help create messaging about software and technology for the community to learn about products. Creating content and promotions are really helpful to support things like our Technical Communications Week that we host. While I didn’t participate directly in the event, I worked with marketing to create some of the promotional content – it’s fun to create ways to talk about technology.

I love participating in the software rollout events and look forward to it every year. It’s at the rollout events and other events where I do more talking and ‘evangelizing’ of software.

While it’s my job to learn and stay updated on SOLIDWORKS software (including products such as Electrical PCB, Simulation, etc.) as well as what’s available through the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, I also keep an eye on competitive software so I can understand what else is being used out there.

I’m a huge advocate for thinking differently.

With respect to knowing and understanding technologies – I’ve been known to be the one to say, “I’m here to tell you what you may need to hear, not what you may want to hear”.

There’s More to Come

It was a pleasure speaking to Jeff, learning more about his background and his variety of roles working at GSC.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Jeff, where Jeff will be sharing his memories of previous SOLIDWORKS/3DEXPERIENCE World‘s and also telling us about his love of space and collection of telescopes.