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Catching Up with Mike Puckett – Senior Manager, Worldwide Certification Program, SOLIDWORKS – Part 1

Mike Puckett, Senior Manager, Worldwide Certification Program, SOLIDWORKS

Did you know that more than half of the DriveWorks team have achieved Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate or Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional status?

We even have a few members of our team that are at the Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert level!

Needless to say, the team at DriveWorks are a bunch of ‘power’ SOLIDWORKS users and have embraced the opportunity to achieve their certifications in SOLIDWORKS over the years.

It was great to have a chance to sit down recently with Mike Puckett, Senior Manager of the Worldwide Certification Program at SOLIDWORKS.

Let’s hear what Mike has to share about his path to SOLIDWORKS, the Certification Program, and of course – 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021!

Mike, it’s great to have you join us and share some of your story. It would be great if you could share a bit about yourself and your path to SOLIDWORKS.

“Thanks, happy to share. Believe it or not, when I graduated high school in 1990, I was interested in a career in criminal justice.

After taking some time off following high school, I completed 3 semesters at the local community college and had started looking at applying for work with local law enforcement in the area (Mike is from Southern California).

Unfortunately, around that time the economy shifted as we headed into a recession. This meant government budgets were trimmed, and jobs cut so there was not much opportunity.

My father worked in the Tool and Die industry and had worked for years in a local shop.

He suggested that I get together and speak with the owner of the shop to see about getting a job working there.

The owner, Don, had a firm belief that talent was inherent and because my father was so talented in this trade that I would also bring the same level of talent.

Starting around 1995 I was working in this shop and running EDM Machines. I learned a lot about the trade and most of what I know about plastics injection moulding – I stayed there for about 3 years.

After some time, my father (who I referred to as John while working) suggested that I should find work elsewhere to simply get more experience and learn more in the industry.”

“Taking my father’s advice – I went to work in another shop that was a competitor to the shop where I had been working.

My boss at this shop, George, would go on to be one of my professional mentors in life (my father being another).

George taught me so much about EDM and installed a strong work ethic in me.

It was during this time of working with George that I started to pay attention to the folks that worked in the design department. They worked in another part of the building, dressed differently, and had a different workday than those of us on the shop floor.

I’d had a bit of interest in computers and design myself, so I decided that I was going to take an 8-week course in AutoCAD (this was around 1999). The design department had SOLIDWORKS, and I remember sitting down one afternoon and working through some of the SOLIDWORKS tutorials and learning what I could do with this 3D technology.

Needless to say, I didn’t do any additional work in AutoCAD after learning SOLIDWORKS. In my efforts to learn even more about SOLIDWORKS, I took a weekend course in SOLIDWORKS – I also found a book on SOLIDWORKS written by Marie and David Planchard!”

“After learning SOLIDWORKS, I took on a few roles in my job that allowed me to put these new skills to work. At one point I was taking 2D drawings and converting them to 3D in order to inspect them in our CMM.

It was really great for me to watch the design to manufacturing process. Over time I took on more of a role in mould design after my boss George bought my former employer’s business (where my father worked).

Being such a fan of SOLIDWORKS, I started the Southern California SOLIDWORKS User Group after a discussion with Richard Doyle at a SWUG Summit event. As user group leader, I would also meet Jeremy Luchini, who was in charge of the SOLIDWORKS Certification Program at the time.

Jeremy was looking to hire someone for this team and when I applied for the position, I was forthcoming in that I had no ‘formal engineering education. Everything I had learned was from experience and taking a few weekend classes.

Not only was I hired, but I also started in January of 2009 and was able to attend my first SOLIDWORKS World as a member of the certification team.

I’m so proud to say that in 2021 I will be starting my 13th year with SOLIDWORKS!

Over my time at SOLIDWORKS, I’ve only been with the certification team (he says jokingly) – when I think about the only other roles that may be more fun, I think “perhaps Marie Planchard’s role, or of course CEO”

Mike, who’s currently part of the Certification Team?  

“I’ve got a great team that’s made of people that are the best at what they do in their respective product areas.

My team is made up of Avellino Rochino (CAD), Daniel Granillo (PDM), and Yannick Chaigneau (Simulation) – while I’d love to hire another person, this team is amazing and has built such a strong foundation for years to come!”

How many SOLIDWORKS World (3DEXPERIENCE World) events have you attended?

“This year will be the 16th year attending the event. The very first SOLIDWORKS World that I attended was held in Las Vegas in 2006 where I attended as a customer.

When I joined the certification team in January of 2009, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to attend as I had just been hired and most travel arrangements were already planned and in place.

When talking to Jeremy, I was ready to take time off and pay my own way (of course Jeremy made sure I was able to attend as part of the certification team!)

SOLIDWORKS World/3DEXPERIENCE World is the busiest week of the year for my team, but it’s also by far the most enjoyable.

The one thing about this event is that just a week after the event is over, we already start our planning for the next year.

I’m going to really miss the in-person event this year, but we are working to make the best of it with virtual 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021.”

Mike, having attended for so many years, do you have a favourite SOLIDWORKS World/3DEXPERIENCE World location?   

“There are two events that stand out for me over the years. My favourite location for this event has been San Diego for SOLIDWORKS World 2008 – it was a great location, and the block party was so much fun.

However, my most memorable event was SOLIDWORKS World 2010 which was held in Anaheim, California.

At the time, my boss (Jeremy Luchini) had both my colleague Avellino and I speak on the Main Stage during General Session for the very first time to talk about certification.

He told us ‘there are only about 10 people that will appear on the main stage this year, you will be 2 of them’. He then went on to tell us how it will help us grow in the company and to really embrace this opportunity.

Having grown up in Southern California, I invited my parents to attend the event on the day I was speaking.

My mother and father were seated in the front rows and it was a really proud moment for me to be speaking at this large industry event and to have my parents in the audience to see it.

Also – I’m still not sure if my mom was more excited to see me or Preston Hagman’s father (actor Larry Hagman) sitting in front of her!”

Do you have a favourite keynote speaker from any of these events you’ve attended?

“Yes, I’d have to say that my favourite speaker(s) were Gene Krantz and Jim Lovell, heroes of the Apollo 13 mission. They spoke during General Session at SOLIDWORKS World 2011, San Antonio, Texas.

It was great to hear them speak and to hear them tell the story of the history of the space race in their own words. To imagine what it must have been like to face the challenges they had and what they were able to do. To learn of the sacrifices that people made in order to move the program forward was inspiring.

What I came away with was the idea that in many parts of our lives, we do things because we are paid to do them; they did things because it was the right thing to do.

It was inspiring and I try to run my own team with the same idea that ‘we are not going to do the easy stuff, it’s going to be hard and we’re going to need imagination and creativity – but when we complete the work we will be glad we did it that way.’”

There’s More to Come

It was a pleasure speaking with Mike, to learn more about his background, the SOLIDWORKS Certifications Team and Mike’s experience at past SOLIDWORKS/3DEXPERIENCE Worlds.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Mike, where Mike will be sharing more about 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021 and the certification program.

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