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Level Up: Become a CAD Power User

1 Dec, 2015 By: Curt Moreno

All CAD users need a workplace guru they can rely on. With these ten simple tips — and some dedicated effort — you can become that person.


Look for Learning Opportunities

1. Take advantage of the tutorials. Professional CAD software typically comes with a set of very comprehensive tutorials. Developers incur significant costs in creating and updating these lessons, but most users never even look at them. As an aspiring power user, these excellent learning resources can be your secret weapon!

2. Tune in to YouTube. Admittedly, not every software program comes with top-notch tutorials, and sometimes the lessons may not address a topic in the way that you need. In that case, you'll need tutorial backup, and there is no better free source of video tutorials than YouTube. Don't overlook this incredible resource.

3. Turn to professionals. Learning more than the standard functions of any process means that you are going to go where few people tread. That also means that your level of knowledge will eventually surpass free resources such as user-created videos. Fortunately, the CAD industry is full of talented professional trainers and extensive paid resources, from online learning services such as Lynda.com and Global eTraining to in-person teachers. Don't shy away from enlisting the help of subject-matter experts, even if you have to use your own funds to do so.

Work Well with Others

4. Embrace challenges. Whether or not they are power users themselves, your coworkers are a great source of learning opportunities. When your coworkers need help it can often stretch the limits of your knowledge, forcing you to experiment and explore new solution avenues. Much like your muscles, your brain needs to be taxed to become stronger.

5. Ask questions. It is crucially important to keep asking questions — even in subject areas you think you've already mastered. There are multiple ways to accomplish any task, and asking questions is the key to learning these alternative techniques.

6. Become an expert volunteer. You can garner a good deal of experience by just doing your everyday job, but it takes more than that to be a power user. An excellent way to broaden your range of experience and learn new things is to volunteer for other projects. Whether at work, as a freelancer, or as part of a volunteer organization, look for opportunities to gain experience in your particular area of expertise. As an additional benefit, repeated volunteering will spread your reputation for being talented and helpful.

Keep Cool When the Pressure Is On

7. Make a note of it. In the organizational guide Getting Things Done, author David Allen explains that your brain is not a very good place to keep things, especially nuanced details like technical processes or tips. So make a habit of keeping notes, and don't be embarrassed to refer to them. Also, don't let pressure prevent you from making a note about a newly discovered tool or feature. Excellent, multiplatform note-taking apps such as Evernote, OneNote, and Google Keep are available at little or no cost.

8. When in doubt, click around. What if you look into another user's software problem and find that you are stumped also? It might sound silly, but when I find myself in this situation, I just start clicking on every tool that even vaguely tickles the "here is the answer" portion of my brain. In the absence of a definite answer, even a possible answer has merit. One thing is for sure: Not clicking is not going to solve anything!

9. Stay calm. If you panic in reaction to a problem, it will be difficult to draw on the deepest wells of your knowledge, and that will just make you even more anxious. A calm demeanor helps to keep your mind in working order. And if you can keep your composure, the person you are trying to help will be more likely to also remain calm as well.

10. Maintain a helpful attitude. Consider this scenario: You work hard for years to gain a level of expertise that no one else in your office can match. But every time someone asks you a question, you roll your eyes or make that person feel foolish. Who would want to work with you? No one, that's who. Instead, always be happy to help, even when you are busy. Explain things slowly, and never frown when you have to repeat yourself. By being both knowledgeable and ap­proachable, you will ensure that your coworkers can benefit from your position as the power user of the office.

In short, if you dedicate yourself to continued learning and help others as others have helped you, you will be on the path to becoming a power user. That will eventually translate into greater productivity for your office, improved camaraderie and morale for your production group, and increased recognition and better opportunities for you. With great power comes great responsibility — but also great rewards!

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About the Author: Curt Moreno


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