Friday, June 27, 2008

Why I Am No Longer Breathing Into a Paper Bag

When Civil 3D first came around, you know I was excited about it. I remember sitting at Tech Camp, literally vibrating, and scribbling furiously in my journal. I was so itchy for an opportunity to use the software.

One of my very first implementation clients (back in June 2005) had a project to submit and asked if I'd be willing to come in on a Saturday morning. I happily went over there and worked for a few hours and on the drive home I daydreamed about going back into production and using Civil 3D for design every single day.

So when that client asked me if I'd like to come on board, I really had to think about it. It was a fun office with innovative people who liked to do smart, different design. It was near a Starbucks (!) and had gorgeous hardwood floors, great lighting and that relaxing aromatherapy smell I associate with day spas and over priced knickknack boutiques. It seemed to good to be true.

I do all of my serious thinking with pen in hand, so I wrote out a list of pros and cons for taking a job in design again.

PROS: Using Civil 3D in a design setting every single day, predictable hours, making great land projects, no travel, delicious coffee, relaxing aroma, natural light

CONS: dealing with county agencies, dealing with state agencies, dealing with production deadlines, spending all of my money on delicious coffee, having to put on makeup every single day, never getting to travel, never getting to show other people how Civil 3D can make their projects better....

WAIT. That last one was the kicker. I could influence one set of land development projects done in one office but what about everyone else? Who was going to show them how to use Civil 3D? Maybe... maybe my job wasn't so much to use Civil 3D one project at a time, but to get everyone excited about making better designs. To show the engineers, designers and Landscape Architects of my territory that they were finally free to design again. That they didn't have to be held hostage by annotation changes. They could now iterate, refine, rework and completely redesign their whole project without having to start from nothing with the hammer and chisel.

So I said thanks but no thanks and went on my way as a reseller AE doing the best I could to spread the word and give people the support they needed. I spread the word through my region, but I always wished I could spread the word to the whole country, or maybe the whole world. And that is how Civil 3D Rocks was born, and why I jumped at the chance to work with EE and write for

While I loved my work and I loved my clients, I was always very sad that I couldn't help them more. While I made our sessions as productive as possible, the truth is that any time I was doing training with a group, they weren't actively designing their project. Even when I was embedded during pilot work, if they got a phone call or an emergency came up, they had to miss out on some mentoring and then my time was up and I packed up and left. Unless their office was right down the street, I couldn't just pop over for an hour.

When learning Civil 3D, you need more than that. You need to have more interaction. You need flexibility in getting your training, you might need to see things more than once. You might need to go faster or slower than the instructor or the rest of the class. You need ongoing support from people that are excited to help. You need better tools. You just plain need more than I could ever have given you under the traditional model. Trust me, I put heart, soul and personal sanity on the line trying to give you want you needed and never felt like I was giving enough. I'd look at the reseller prospect list and have to grab Panorama's lunch bag, dump out the contents and breathe in the smell of baloney and cheese.

Until now.

When the guys at EE first told me that we were becoming an ISV and that we would be able to sell software to our clients, I was skeptical. Everyone who buys Civil 3D needs help, and if we sold software, could I help everybody? Could I make everyone successful? Since we can sell to all of North America, how do I get there? How do I interact with them? WHERE IS THAT PAPER BAG AGAIN?

My fears were unfounded, because we came up with a great plan for getting you the training you need. Our subscription clients are enrolled in a program called CivilAccess which provides them with unlimited instructor lead training, 24/7 access to recorded versions of each class, access to a clients-only knowledge base, support, and even more.

The classes are all done over the web, so you don't have to drive anywhere. You can work at your computer, or move a group into the conference room for a shared experience. You can ask us questions, and interact. You can tune in only for the portions you need, or come back again and again. I have taught about 20 days of web classes in the past few months, and I have been very impressed with how well it works, and how everyone involved is more relaxed and focused on LEARNING instead of logistics.

I'll be writing more about CivilAccess over on Just like static drafting made life as an engineer frustrating, wanting to do more for my clients made consulting difficult. Civil 3D changed my mind about design forever. CivilAccess has changed the way I feel about giving clients what they need to be successful.

I hope you will let me help you be successful! Find out more about CivilAccess here, and preview live webtraining through our weekly, free EECasts. Sign up of upcoming EECasts and watch recorded EECasts here.


Anonymous said...

I found your post very interesting, and it seems so similair to how I feel, even though I'm in a position like you spoke of, only being able to help a few people at one company at a time, as there are no resellers in my area, and I don't want to move. I would love to be an AE, and have had to turn down such a position, simply because my family and I didn't want to move. I'm reminded almost daily that I could be helping more users and maybe I would be happier, if only there was a company in Myrtle Beach to work for.
Anyways, keep it up, you and your peers already done a lot for C3D, and I'm sure you'll do much more in the future.
Christian Barrett

J. Thomas said...

Reading this was like a breath of fresh air. But it brung up a question in my mind as to who we are, and why we do this. Why care how the others designs are subpar. Maybe its a self fullfilling job we've tasked ourselves with, only to see ourselves grow. I really like to share techniques but not at the expense of my job. If I tell everyone I work with, the way I do things and they start doing it my way. What is left for me? What use am I to the company.?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dana
Your post hits true to the heart. After 20yrs in the consulting engineering industry, I accepted a position with a reseller, for a 30% cut in pay.
Yes some say it is foolish and they may be right. I truly enjoyed doing what I did ..project managing and working on designs. However, like you I could do away with all the stress dealing with all the politics of the industry. Had I had the luxury of using Civil 3D on my projects I may have lasted a little longer.
I enjoy my new position, where like you I have a captive audience (sometimes it feels like at a gun point) and I am able to impart my so called views (don’t know if that is a good thing).
The one problem (other than then $) are the emotional highs and lows. One year you are at AU just humming, pats on the back, great reviews etc etc and the next year, denied…and I am not just talking about a river in Egypt.
I guess I will just have to work my way to gain the respect and reputation as you and others have. It is difficult thing, staying the course when there is a constant lure and temptation to go back to engineering.
For now I will keep making that Pro and Cons list.


Hey Christian/J
Been there done that. I feel for you guys.
Christian It took me years to get where I want to be, best of luck to you.
J, your part of a team. If someone uses your process, that empowers you.
Hey, I hope I am not out of line here, I mean the best. I hope it doesn’t sound like I am preaching