I have mentioned this story to many people who said I should put it in my blog. With recent and continuing downturn in the economy, and after a recent announcement from SolidWorks Corporation, I believe this is a great time to share my story with others.
In 1990, I was laid off from work due to cut backs after the company was recently purchased by another company. During this time of unemployment (about 5 months) and searching for a new job, I noticed a trend in decreasing drawing board based drafting/design jobs, and an increase in 2D CAD drafting/design jobs. Up until this time, all of my drafting and design experience has been with pushing the pencil on a drafting board. With this trend, I was seeing fewer opportunities for returning to work. I knew I needed to get training and experience on a CAD system to change my situation and improve my. But how can I get the training when I am not working, and where?
For a few weeks, I had noticed an advertisement in the newspaper “Learn 2D CAD in a week”. I wondered, “How someone can learn a CAD system in just one week?” I took the time to check it out. The course was offered by a local Engineering Consulting firm, and the training program was based on a self paced training manual with an instructor that was available to answer any questions you may have, and help you get past stumbling blocks in learning 2D CAD. No lectures, it was all hands-on training. I felt this was a good place to start.
My wife objected to my spending the money to take this class. Her objection was based on the statement “We cannot afford to spend any money on something that does not provide an immediate benefit for us.” My response was simply “I cannot afford to pass up an opportunity that could get me back to work and advance my career”.
To back up my stand on the issue, I had “3 Aces” in my back pocket.
- Back in 1981, while I was in college, I did take a 2D CAD course on a DataGrid III CAD system that the college received only 6 months earlier. Some years later, I also took a course at a local technical college that was based on a CAD system for the Apple IIe computer. With these earlier courses I had a good understanding in the concepts of CAD. Now I needed training on the CAD system that employers were using.
- As a hobby, I had been using computers for about 7 years prior to this period of unemployment. This experience has primarily been in getting comfortable with using the computer and in programming the computer to do tasks for me. At this point, learning how to use a computer was not an issue.
- The majority of the money I needed for this course came from winning a lottery pool just a few weeks after I was laid off. This drastically reduced the amount of money I needed to take out of the limited family budget.
It was off to training I go! I sat down in front of the computer and started going thru the training manual. I actually completed everything in the training manual in only 3 days. Because I completed everything so quickly, the instructor took the manual away and gave me a few test drawings to complete, to see how much I learned from the course. The drawings only took me a few hours to complete. After taking the training, I hung around to see what else I could learn and experience, and help the instructor out a bit.
Shortly after I took the training class, the instructor decided to leave the engineering firm for “bigger and better” things. The instructor then recommended me to be the new instructor for the CAD training classes. Here I was, I just learned how to use 2D CAD, and now I am helping others learn how to use 2D CAD. I definitely had to add this one to my resume and redistribute it to potential employers. For a few months, I carried on with providing a training environment so other individuals can learn how to use 2D CAD.
My resume was sent from an engineering contracting form and sent to a local manufacturing firm, who was looking for someone who was experienced in 2D CAD. The Engineering Manager was impressed to see that I was teaching other people how to use 2D CAD, shortly after I myself just learned how to use 2D CAD. I was called in for an interview and I was offered a job the contracting agency. This came at a good time because the consulting firm was phasing out the 2D CAD training. The 6 month contract job lasted for 9 months before the budget ran out. At this point, the Engineering Manager at the manufacturing firm already contacted the contracting agency, who lined up another contracting job for me. This was done so I would not have to experience any period of unemployment.
In 1992, after working 5 months on the second contracting job, I received a call from the first manufacturing firm. I was asked to come in for an interview with the Senior Engineer so he could get re-acquainted with who I was. I was then offered a full-time direct-hire job with the manufacturing firm. I notified the contracting agency and the Engineering Manager at the second contracting job, that I intended on leaving for the direct-hire job. The next day, I received a second offer for a full-time direct-hire position with the second contracting job. Here I was, about 1.5 years after learning 2D CAD, I had 2 direct-hire job offers.
Of course, I accepted one of the offers and have been employed with that company since. In 1998, the company implemented SolidWorks and 3D modeling as it’s primary design and engineering tool. While at this new position, I kept learning more about 2D CAD, other engineering applications, and I soon became the “go to” guy for questions that came up dealing with 2D CAD or 3D Modeling. This eventually led to me becoming the CAD Administrator and the PDM Administrator for the engineering department.
Because of the training I went for in 1990, and the continuous period of employment (17+ years) since then, I say that the money I spent for the 2D CAD training is “The best $500 I ever spent!”
How this may help you?
With recent and continuing downturn in the economy, I want my readers to realize that stories like mine do exist and they are real. Here a few lessons from this story.
- You need to improve your skills to make yourself more employable. A period of unemployment is a good time to go back to school and learn new skills that may make a difference in your employment status. These new skills will help you make yourself a better candidate for a new job.
- Don’t just stop at learning the basics. People who know the basics are a dime a dozen. You need to separate yourself from the rest of the pack by digging a little deeper into learning more about those new skills. Going beyond the basics helps make you a better candidate for a new job.
- Probably everyone has heard the phrase, "You have to spend money to make money." Yes, I did spend money to enhance your career, and you may also have to do the same. You need to evaluate your own skills and experience and be aware of the risks. There is risk in any decision you make. The risk I faced was not being able to learn the software and thus wasting the money on the training. This risk was reduced by the prior training I had on other CAD systems, and my own experiences on using different computer systems.
Here is an “Ace” in your back pocket!
At the recent SolidWorks World 2009 in Orlando Florida, SolidWorks Corporation and it’s Value Added Resellers (VAR’s) announced a new program to help engineers learn 3D Modeling skills called “Engineering Stimulus Package”. Quite simply, for displaced engineers, SolidWorks Corporation will provide a version of the SolidWorks software, and training that needed to enable engineers to achieve their Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) certification. This program will be publically announced by SolidWorks Corporation and it’s VAR’s in the very near future.