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Catching up with Marie Planchard – Senior Director, Education and Early Engagement, SOLIDWORKS Part 1

Marie Planchard – Senior Director, Education and Early Engagement, SOLIDWORKS

Many of us have heard the phrase “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, and we believe Marie Planchard is proving just that.

Anyone that spends time with Marie learns pretty quickly that she shares just as much passion for SOLIDWORKS as she does for education.

Starting with her early days of teaching CAD at Mass Bay College to being a ‘regular’ on the main stage at SOLIDWORKS World for almost 15 years, she has always considered herself to be an ‘engineering and education advocate.

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Marie (virtually of course) and get to know a bit more about her early years, education, being a woman in engineering and what brought her to work for SOLIDWORKS.

Marie, I’m sure many people reading this may already know you but can you please give us just a little background on where you are from and your education?

“I’m happy to share some of my story. Starting when I was a little girl on my grandfather’s farm (outside Buffalo) or in my dad’s automotive shop in upstate New York (Utica), I’ve always loved learning about how things work.

In that part of the country, winters can be quite long and there was lots of time to fix equipment, design new things, or think of ways to make things work better. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in an environment that was very supportive of my early dreams of becoming an engineer.

My education journey started in Massachusetts where I attended Northeastern University; that is where I met my husband David (Planchard). We moved to New Jersey and I attended Rutgers University where I received my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

We ended up back in Massachusetts and that’s where I attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute to complete my Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.”

Tell us about the path that lead you to SOLIDWORKS.

“While I was attending Rutgers, a new technology was being introduced called Computer-Aided Design – CAD.

As someone interested in design and engineering, this sparked my interest and imagination.

At the time, I was fortunate to work for a start-up that had roots in Massachusetts. Through this position, I had the chance to get to know folks working in CAD through tech support.

When I found my way back to Massachusetts, I worked for a company supporting customers in CAD and I loved it.

I loved helping customers learn and it was an integral part of the Medusa user group.

Over time and through working in different roles ranging from designing parts and equipment to working in Robotics and Laboratory Automation, I felt like something was missing.

It was at that point early on that I realized that I wanted to be an educator.

When I started teaching at Massachusetts Bay College, we were teaching students the CAD tool Pro/Engineer (Pro-E).

It was challenging for students to learn and pick up on quickly as it had a UNIX interface.

When we learned about SOLIDWORKS in 1997, there were several things that impressed me right away.”

“SOLIDWORKS had a Windows interface and it installed with just 1 CD. The key thing for me was how easy it was to teach and for students to understand.

At the end of my 1st lesson, students were already modelling in SOLIDWORKS with minimal instruction.

At a meeting with the dean of the department, I said, ‘we have to switch and teach this software more intensely – it may not be big yet, but we need to invest in this software solution’.

It was an exciting time, and I was really pleased to see students learning this new CAD.

It was during this time that I started the New England SOLIDWORKS User Group which I ran until I was hired by SOLIDWORKS in 2005.”

(The New England SWUG turned into the Western Mass SWUG, Boston SWUG and Connecticut SWUG)

How many years have you worked at SOLIDWORKS?

“By the year 2005, I had already worked with SOLIDWORKS as a customer, user group leader and a partner (with husband David, they created ‘hands-on test drive’ training materials and other SOLIDWORKS curriculum being used by customers to achieve certifications).

It was in 2005 that SOLIDWORKS hired me as the Director of Education. While many have moved on, there are several members of the team are still with me, namely Chris Morse.

Chris and I have worked together since the beginning.”

How many SOLIDWORKS Worlds have you attended?

“I’ve attended SOLIDWORKS World (and 3DEXPERIENCE World) a total of 17 times. My first 2 events were as a customer and the other 15 were as a SOLIDWORKS employee.”

You know what’s coming next, we have to ask – which event has been your favourite?

“Without a doubt, SOLIDWORKS World 2012 in San Diego was my favourite. While both times we have been in San Diego were great, the 1st time we were there in 2012 is by far the one that stands out the most.

It was the first time I’d attended a conference at a convention centre that was so beautifully set, with the harbour on one side and the gas lamp district on the other. The USS Midway is there and that really had a big impact on me to look out upon it in the harbour.

As a little girl, I remember my father talking about the USS Midway and the history of the battle. Recalling my father’s pride in telling me that story and now being here amongst design engineers and doing something that I love really bridged that connection back to him.”

Everyone has a favourite keynote speaker from SOLIDWORKS World, who is yours?

“There have been so many great speakers over the years, but for me, I would have to say that Leland Melvin was a speaker that really made an impact on me with his story.

At SOLIDWORKS World 2019 in Dallas, Texas, I had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with him ahead of the morning General Session.

Listening to his story and learning how he took life’s setbacks and tragedies and turned them into an opportunity was just amazing.

His message and personal efforts to promote the education of young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is admirable – but he also conveys a strong message to be a good human being!

As a dog person, I loved the story and photos of him posing with his dogs at NASA.

After meeting him and hearing him speak, I have made sure to follow his work and activities on social media.

He continues to be a great motivator and advocate for STEM and education in general.

It was truly an honour to have met him and listened to his words.”

Part 2

It was a pleasure speaking to Marie, learning more about her background and how she started her journey with SOLIDWORKS.

Learn more about Marie and her vision for the future of the SOLIDWORKS Education Community in Part 2 coming soon!

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