Celebrating 400 Issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter: An Interview with Robert Green

28 Feb, 2018 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Marking a major editorial milestone, Cadalyst editors interview the author for a behind-the-scenes look at the newsletter and how CAD management has evolved over the decades.

Do you recall any topics that you covered over the years that are not relevant today?

Only operating systems or CAD software programs that have gone extinct. But the general managerial framework is just as relevant today as it ever was.

In your role providing CAD management advice, you’ve been interacting with CAD managers for decades. Any memories that stand out?

There are two that come to mind, and both occurred at Autodesk University. A gentleman came up to me and said, “I took your class last year, followed your advice, and now I’ve received a promotion and have all the technical resources I’ve asked for.” Along similar lines, I had a woman say, “I’ve read your newsletters for years and wanted you to know my kids are going to college with the money from my raises over the years.” These things make me feel 10 feet tall.

Green circulates at Autodesk University, where his CAD management classes are perennial favorites.

What makes a great CAD manager? Has that changed?

Obviously, you must know CAD software really well and have a problem-solving attitude, but beyond that I think there’s no substitute for understanding the industry you work in. As an example, a mechanical engineer will be a better CAD manager in a manufacturing plant than an architect would be due to contextual experience. When you understand your user’s needs and how the company operates, you’ll be a better CAD manager, but you can only gain that perspective via experience. Knowledge of financial concepts such as budgeting or engineering economics is great to have coming into a CAD management position, but you also can learn those skills as you go. 

I think the type of person who makes a great CAD manager is no different today than it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago.

Is there what you would call a “general” approach to CAD management?

Sort of, yes. CAD management is simply the art of solving problems, then preventing them from happening again — usually by putting a standard in place so mistakes are removed from the CAD process. I’ve found that the key to success here is asking the right questions. So whenever a user comes to me with a complaint, I ask, “What is the problem?” then, “Why are you having the problem?” then, “What can we do to solve the problem?” before I let them walk away. This allows me to really understand technical problems and formulate solutions that will meet user needs. Then it is up to me to put them into standard operating procedures.

What is the greatest challenge you see for CAD managers?

I think it’s the broad skill set required to do the job well. A great CAD manager must be a technologist, troubleshooter, teacher, financial analyst, and evangelist, among other things. Add to all this that CAD managers must preside over personnel management issues such as CAD standards enforcement, and it is an almost overwhelming position. There’s a reason there are so few good CAD managers: The job is hard.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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