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Catching Up With: Kirby Downey and Jonny Harrison

Catching Up With Kirby Downey and Jonny Harrison

This year, 3DEXPERIENCE World was hosted as a virtual event. While we were not able to be physically together for the week-long event, the technical content was great, and we did get to see some familiar faces during some of the general sessions and break out rooms.

In the true essence of community, there were two creative and industrious SOLIDWORKS User Group Leaders that hosted a platform for folks to share, connect and network during the week.

We had a chance to sit down and have a catch up with Kirby Downey and Jonny Harrison to talk about The CORE PodcastHallway Hangouts …and eating really spicy chicken wings whilst CAD modelling!

Kirby and Jonny, thanks so much for getting together to have a catch up with us. We’ve been really having a lot of fun talking with members of the engineering and design community through these conversations.

Let’s get started by learning a little about each of you and how you came together to host the CORE Podcast.

KD – While growing up in Benoni, South Africa (Fun Fact: the town Benoni is also where Charlize Theron is from), I studied business and accounting while in high school.

My parents both worked in business, so they felt that having an education in this area was needed. Having more of a creative personality, I took classes in technical drawing at a technical college before I went on to University. It was here that I learned how to use a T-square and more of the “old school” drawing skills.

I decided to pursue a degree in industrial and product design at Tshwane University of Technology. This is where I first learned CAD – Unigraphics.

While living amongst other engineers, I was introduced to SOLIDWORKS and had a go with it. It was easy enough to install and I started making models fairly easy.

Shortly after, the university introduced SOLIDWORKS as their standard CAD software and many others starting using it as well.

Upon completing my degree, my wife and I moved to the UK in 2014 with just our bags and no real plan. After finding work at a local restaurant, I noticed it was across the street from an iMakr shop.

Shortly after, I took a position there and also with a place called MyMiniFactory – an online community platform where people can download and print 3D models.

While working there, I wanted to create some products for an online game called Destiny – the challenge was that they were guns and management didn’t favour the idea of this offering. Turns out, the models I created became the most downloaded on their site for months. From then on, I got to meet a lot of people – and that’s how I met Rachel York.

Rachel and I collaborated on some of the SOLIDWORKS blogs, and I also created a few tutorials. As a result of all of this work, I was able to attend SOLIDWORKS World. While at SOLIDWORKS World, I met both Richard Doyle and Adam Green and learned about the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network. In May of 2017, the London SOLIDWORKS User Group was formed.

JH – I’m born and raised in Newcastle, England.  While in high school, I had a chance to choose some engineering classes as part of my General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) options. My father is an engineer, so I had already had an interest in things like drawing, milling machines, lathes, etc. I attended Northumbria University where I received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

While in university, I learned SOLIDWORKS and picked up on the software really quickly and started doing projects on my own.

Like Kirby, I also got into doing designs and 3D printing. My side projects started turning into more of a business and as I do a lot of Star Wars movie props and such – this is how Kessel Run Creations started. While I now work full time as a design engineer with Ebac, I spend my free time doing designs with Kessel Run.

In doing this side work, it’s how I met Luke Daley and ultimately made it to my very first SOLIDWORKS World in 2019 (Dallas). That’s where I met Kirby (we were both named SWW Ambassadors by Rachel after a long night of ‘imbibing’) and we’ve been friends since.

Kirby and Jonny both agree that while the cost of travel to an event in the US like World may be a bit costly, it’s been 100% worth it to meet people and it has opened a lot of doors and opportunities for them.

Kirby and Jonny, you started a podcast – ‘The CORE Podcast’, tell us a bit more about this.

JH – It was a drunken idea that’s worked out great!

KD – It was just after 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020 in Nashville and we’d had a call set up to chat with Sean O’Neill. On the day of the call, it was a holiday in the UK and the weather was beautiful. We had both spent a few hours in our gardens having some drinks before the call.

Once we got talking with Sean and after a bit of us going back and forth together, Sean said “you guys should do a podcast and just chat, we could then get more people from the community involved”. We both said “ok, let’s do it!”

Within a day of that call, I ordered the equipment that we needed and let Rachel know what we were doing.

During our first podcast, we interviewed Rob Maldonado. He was celebrating his own success and had been gaining a large social media following.

JH – Things were done in a very Q&A format – it wasn’t as relaxed as we wanted it to be. It wasn’t us. We didn’t want it to be just a SOLIDWORKS podcast – we wanted to be able to have people explore multiple areas of creativity. So, we decided we needed to mix it up a bit!

KD – Our next podcast found us sitting and chatting with each other whilst building with Legos. We were just hanging out. On another episode, we had Eric Haddad join us and as we were chatting with him, we were building paper aeroplanes.

People that know us know that we like to have a laugh while doing things, so we definitely started having a lot more fun with our guests. Another fun idea that we have is to eat really hot chicken wings whilst trying to do some CAD modelling.

The CORE Podcast was broadcast live during 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021. What was it like live streaming Hallway Hangouts 7-8 hours per day?

KD – We thought it would be fun to host a live streaming version of the podcast throughout the week of 3DEXPERIENCE World this year. It was a great place to be throughout the week. It became a place where members of the community could come to and be with like-minded people. Lots of networking and connections were made during the week.

JH – We felt like we really made our mark this year at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021 and look forward to next year.

There are some members of the community discussing the idea of renting an RV to drive from Boston, Massachusetts to Atlanta, Georgia for 3DEXPERIENCE World 2022, so the podcast could end up going ‘on the road’!

It was a pleasure speaking with Kirby and Jonny to learn about their backgrounds, their experience at past World events and how they started the CORE podcast. 

Look out for Part 2 coming soon where we will be chatting about the Magic Wheelchair and the upcoming SWUG events Kirby and Jonny will be hosting.

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