Kung Fu Drafter18 Mar, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
User Profile: Curt Moreno’s complex pursuits feed his simple desire to better the drafting profession.
Curt Moreno is many things, just a sampling of which include CAD manager at a civil engineering firm in Houston, Texas; CAD industry writer; voracious reader; and the personality behind the Kung Fu Drafter blog. Beneath all that is an uncommon devotion to drafting.
Tell us about life in Texas.
I grew up and went to school in Houston. Over the years I’ve had a lot of jobs — I often worked two or more jobs at once — and I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the Gulf Coast to work and meet people and have adventures. But in the end, I’ve never known a place as diverse and beautiful as Texas. I can’t think of another state where you have tropical heat conditions in the south and snow in the north or where you can drive for more than 12 hours in one direction, and still be in the same state. To me, Texas is just home.
How did you get into CAD?
It’s an odd story, but when I was in the eighth grade my family moved near the end of the school year. At my new school they made a scheduling error and I had a computer science class first and last periods. So I would normally skip the second class. But one day I stayed for the second class. In that class the teacher pulled out an old four-color plot of St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was fascinated by the plot and decided that I wanted to get into drafting the following year at the high school.
When I arrived at high school, I took Drafting I as a freshman elective. My teacher’s name was Tommie Montgomery, and she would prove to be the first of several people who helped discover and shape my passion for our craft. It was 1989, and I had never used a computer. The following year our drafting class received two 286 IBMs, and she sat me down with a copy of Mastering AutoCAD and told me, “I think this is something you will like. I don’t know much about it so you will have to learn from the book. See me at the end of the semester.” That was 22 years ago.
Tell us about your current job.
Like most CAD managers, I started as a CAD drafter who was the go-to person. I left Houston to work in East Texas for a while for my current employer, and after I returned to Houston we had hired enough people in our local office that I just sort of assumed the CAD manager role. Which, by the way, is the worst way in the world to choose a manager.
A lot of people know you through your blog, Kung Fu Drafter. Tell us about that pursuit — and how you came up with the name.
I’ve been a constant Internet user since the mid-90s and had been actively involved on discussion forums for a long time. Forums were the blogs before blogs. I had a few web sites previously, including RetardedSeal.com, but when the recession began in 2009 I decided to create a CAD-centric blog. I had met CAD bloggers at Autodesk University 2008 and was interested [in blogging]. With the economy down, I decided I wanted a site to use as a body of work to show any would-be employer.
I had always enjoyed writing and thought the blog would serve as a CAD resource, a résumé, and something fun to do. I wanted it to be a “CAD lifestyle” blog for geeks featuring the sort of topics I found interesting. So from the beginning it was more than just CAD because I am about more than just CAD. Now, three years later the blog has really come into its own. We have some contributing writers, we try to post content regularly, and we really strive to make it a place where CAD users can come to find links and news about the latest releases, updates, and content for their application.
As for the name, it was a matter of chance. The blog was born on Easter 2009, and there happened to be an X-Files marathon running on TV. In one of my favorite episodes, one character asks for the help of another, but first he has to admit something. So he says to the second character, “Your kung fu is the best.” Combine that with a love of old kung fu movies and the name was obvious.
You're also very involved in social media. What are your thoughts about the role of social media in the professional world — and in particular, the CAD world?
It’s true, I probably spend too much time planting stakes in the social media world. But the up side is that I have met some great people. When you get down to it, the real role of social media is to act as a megaphone and spread your reach. Along those lines I think that every CAD professional can benefit from these sorts of friendships. It’s like having hundreds of CAD users who you can ask a question, commiserate with, or offer to help.
However, these sorts of relationships are simple extensions of traditional socializing. I feel there will come a time in the not-so-distant future when technology will facilitate a much more intense sense of collaboration than we currently know. I think that’s the next logical step and evolution of the fledgling social and collaborative services we have today.
How do you stay engaged in social media and still get your job done?
The key is to properly manage your signal-to-noise ratio. For example, by limiting the people that I follow, my incoming messages are both meaningful and manageable. So taking 30 seconds to type a reply to a limited number of select messages is an easy task. In terms of creating content, as on Google+, I try to plan posts ahead of time so as to minimize the time taken to actually write a post. Those two techniques, combined with services that repost content from one social media platform to another, make social media a simple addition to any work day.
You're also an avid reader of nonfiction books (and, as I like to kid you about, everything on the Internet). What motivates you to read so much? What interests you most?
Ever since I was a child I have been a ravenous aggregator of information, long before I knew what that meant. To me, it was just natural to go through the day noticing and retaining all sorts of information. As I grew older I realized that nonfiction, and then the Internet, were wonderful sources of information. Even the fiction that I read tends to be fact-filled since it is mostly historical fiction.
Today the content I read, online and off, tends to be business-management concepts and books on human psychology. I tend to gravitate to any book that is focused on human behavior. All of that aggregation has come together to help me form a concept of career and business management that is nontraditional and in conflict with the current state of management in most drafting rooms.
You have an interest in protecting the profession of drafting. Tell us about that.
I am passionate about our professional careers and the craft we practice. I am sure there are ways we can improve how we view ourselves and our work. But first we have to realize the value of the work we create and the deep, rich heritage prepared for us by the millions of drafters who came before us.
The CAD world seems to be so divided as of late. PLM, IPD, BIM, and CAD all seem to have diverged, and their respective populations seem to be exclusionary of one another. I think that there must be a sense of inclusion in order for drafters of all flavors and disciplines to ensure the best benefits and working environments for the industry as a whole. Being divisive and excluding “2D drafters” from the world of BIM doesn’t solve that goal. I believe we’ve all got so much to offer one another.
Any other personal philosophies or interests related to the CAD profession?
I think that too many architecture, engineering, and design offices operate their drafting rooms as factories. There is a plague of poor project management, unrealistic or undefined goals and responsibilities, and a 19th-century mentality in regard to doing business. All this serves to reduce the drafting department to a factory that’s sole purpose is to churn out plan sets as if they were widgets on an assembly line. I think once these companies realize that their business is based on relationships and innovation, these mentalities will stop.
What do you do when you're not working, blogging, or tweeting?
Wow. I like to spend time with my dog, horses, and family. I love going to see a good movie at the theater or watching a really corny movie at home with friends. My interests range from learning to make wine to wanting to build a 3,000-piece Lego set to a desire to learn to speak Chinese. I’m a recovering photography enthusiast who has spent way too much on cameras over the years.
What have I missed?
I guess all that is left is just a sort of life-outlook statement: I’ve been plenty of places and met plenty of people, and I’ve discovered so many things that captivate me. But, in the end, the one constant in my life has been this profession of drawing and documenting the world as it is and as it will be. I’ve come to realize that CAD is not my job; drafting is my profession, and it has a wonderfully diverse ecosystem of variants and specializations. Regardless of the skills that I learn, whether they be graphic arts, web design, writing, or photography, they have always been subsidiary and in support of my drafting profession.
From the age of 14 this is who I am, and if there is one thing I have learned it is that you have to be true to who you are.
Read more about Curt Moreno’s workplace philosophies at www.cadalyst.com/iamdrafter and www.cadalyst.com/hireme.
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About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson
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!