Pillar of the CAD Community11 Apr, 2013 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin
Cadalyst's CAD Tips are made possible through the efforts of many readers — and one very hard-working reviewer, Brian Benton.
Many Cadalyst readers know you as the CAD Tips reviewer. What makes a good tip?
I absolutely love reviewing the Cadalyst CAD Tips — I have learned so much in that role. There are three types of tips, all of which are valuable. The first goes into detail about a command (or tool or system variable), making readers aware of options that they may not have known about. The second type of tip reduces picks and clicks, improving efficiency so that we can get more done in less time. The last category — and probably my favorite type — is the tip that shows you how to solve a problem. It may utilize one tool or command, or it may comprise a series of steps that takes the user from point A to point C.
You've worked in a variety of design fields. Where are you currently employed?
I started off as a drafter for a railroad tank car manufacturing company. I have also worked as a detailer, drafter, and designer in the mechanical, structural, civil, inspection, surveying, marine, and environmental industries, and I even spent some time at a large-format printer sales company. Now I am a senior CAD technician for a small civil engineering and land planning firm in Fort Meyers, Florida. I work in land development and typically do the design layout work for residential developments. I love it: The work is simple enough, but you still have to get everything just right — and my boss is the best. It may not be an exciting job, but it really is an important one.
How did you become interested in this field?
In my school, the seventh-grade boys had to take a semester of mechanical drafting. (The school administrators failed us all by not even considering that the girls should also take this class.) There, we learned the basics of drafting: How to make projection views, isometrics, cross sections, bills of materials, and general drafting. I totally killed it! I was so fast that the teacher ran out of things for me to draw, so he had me go back and ink the first set of drawings — that was fun. In eighth grade we took a slightly more advanced version of the class, and that's when I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
My dad worked as a supervisor at a production facility for railroad tank cars. Half of their drafting department was using Bentley MicroStation. He arranged for my brother and me to get a tour and watch the drafters; that was the first time I saw CAD software in use. He was trying to show us that if we stayed in school, we wouldn't have to work in a labor job like he did in the steel mills. It worked — we were shown the value of working with our minds.
My second look at CAD came in a drafting class my first year of college, where we were introduced to AutoCAD 9. Later that semester my dad once again opened a door for me, and I started working in the same CAD department that we had toured a few years earlier. By that time the entire department was using CAD, and my first assignment entailed using MicroStation to redraw many of their old board drawings into CAD. I worked there for about two years, then moved to a small engineering firm where I used AutoCAD 10.
Outside of the CAD world, what activities do you enjoy?
When I am not working on a CAD-related project, I am spending time with my wife and kids — they keep me busy. I also really enjoy tech trends and gadgets. If I had my way I would own every tablet, phone, computer, plotter, scanner, gizmo, and doodad that there is.
As for outdoor activities, I go kayaking occasionally, and I volunteer as a "turtle walker." From May through September, I get up early twice a week and walk a stretch of beach looking for loggerhead sea turtle tracks and nests.
We look for them for several reasons: One is to document how many nests there are in a season to help quantify their numbers. This data helps biologists evaluate what is going on in the seas. We also make sure that the lighting from nearby buildings won’t interfere with the hatchlings when they emerge from the nest. The baby turtles crawl to the brightest light in the sky, which is supposed to be the moon. If humans place lights too close to the nest, the turtles instinctively crawl toward them instead of toward the water. This means certain death for the hatchlings and harms the natural cycle of the species.
I have also been able to participate in a hatchling release. It's hard to believe that a baby turtle small enough to fit in my hand will grow to be so large. The adults can weigh up to 500 pounds, and they are majestic.
About the Author: Cyrena Respini-Irwin
In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!