I am a 29 year veteran of the high-tech software industry. My career has been spent with companies like McDonnell Douglas, Pratt & Whitney, PTC, and currently DS SolidWorks.
I was hired by Jon Hirschtick, the founder of SolidWorks, back in 1995 before we released our first product, SolidWorks 95. It was a very exciting time as our small company had to build a product, sales channel, and customer community from the ground up. During those early years, one of my major contributions was the invention of our eDrawings product. It turned out to be an innovative product that experienced success with customers for well over a decade.
In 2001, I scratched an entrepreneurial itch which I had for a long time. I left SolidWorks to start my own online 3D printing company called Xpress3D. It was best described as “the Expedia of the rapid prototyping industry”. I eventually sold the business to rapid prototyping leader, Stratasys, who later branded it as Redeye.
I then spent the next several months inventing and patenting a modeling technology that was acquired by SolidWorks. This technology became the SWIFT FeatureXpert, FilletXpert, and DraftXpert.
I returned to SolidWorks in my current role, which is the Director of Product Innovation. Projects included leading the team that launched the SolidWorks Sustainability product, which allows our users to design in a more environmentally responsible way.
My most recent project was the addition of Augmented Reality (AR) to our eDrawings product on iOS. I worked with the eDrawings team to add AR to the product in a way which makes it both compelling and relevant to mechanical design.
I have been very fortunate to have been involved in a number a very progressive customer research projects while at SolidWorks. It’s through this work that I grew to appreciate how a customer’s emotional considerations can be just as important as their functional needs.
I was intimately involved in the research and development of personas as a way to describe customers in our market. This includes not only a more natural way to describe customers, but also segmentation based on customer behavior rather than traditional demographics.
We also worked with Communispace who helped us to create a vibrant customer community for ongoing customer research. This was a great project in which I help with the community recruitment and ongoing facilitation.
I had a number of roles over the years such as software engineer, application engineer, and product manager. But my favorite role has been the conceptualizing, prototyping, and launching of new products. This is because I have a passion for great products, and the process for creating them.
It turns out that I went to school for mechanical engineering because I wanted to be an inventor. I now like to think of myself as an inventor of software products. I am fortunate to have five patents that have resulted from the product work that I have done over the years.
I have had a number of product success over the years, and just as many product failures. You learn a lot from these experiences, especially the failures. It is through these experiences that I have developed a product strategy which puts a lot of emphasis on how users emotionally experience products.
Successful products are the ones that transform a users feelings of frustration into feelings of empowerment. This requires product teams to consider how users will emotionally experience their products from start to finish. This includes how their emotions will evolve during the usage scenarios. We will discuss what types of emotions are appropriate given the type of product you provide and context in which it is used. These good and bad emotions can include frustration, helplessness, anger, confidence, popularity, respect, empowerment, and so on. We will break down these emotions and redefine them in a way that is actionable in our product work.
We will also look at many useful tools and processes that help you to generate ideas and to better understand your customers and their relevant needs and frustrations. Some include mind-mapping, brainstorming (done the right way), interviewing techniques, productizing technology by using a strategic retreat, and the "Absurdly Ideal".
It is important to know that the topics I will be covering are applicable to any type of product development, not just software. And it doesn't matter if your product is an iPhone app, a 3D CAD tool, a kitchen appliance, machine tool, or even a PowerPoint presentation. If you have a customer who needs to use something you produce, then these concepts are very relevant to your work.
I will try to provide just enough theory so that you understand my motivation for a particular strategy. But in the end, I always want to provide you with actionable tools that you can apply directly to the work that you do.
My hope is that you will find some of these topics thought provoking and the tools useful in your product work. And in the end, your customers find your products even more exciting to use.
Deliver good products, and do great things!