Interview with Rick Stavanja

By Dora Smith

I blogged yesterday about tapping the knowledge of long-time PLM Connection attendees at the event next week. Rick Stavanja is another long-time attendee and presenter.

Rick Stavanja

You can find out if he really looks like his Twitter profile pic above during his presentation a week from today on “Adopting & Managing Teamcenter 8 at Wagstaff” – in the afternoon Teamcenter session

I’ve known Rick online for some time but we finally go the chance to meet in person last year at PLM Connection. When he’s not adopting and managing PLM, he’s engaging in social networks as well as aggregating and publishing industry news. So I think you’ll find this Q&A interesting.

Q: So you’re from Montana but like the Packers (as seen on your Twitter profile)?

A: Growing up in Montana in the 60s, there really weren’t any pro football teams nearby. To us, the NFL only existed on television. As a result, everyone had a different favorite team.

I was 8 years old when I started following football. That’s when my grandpa, an avid football fan, started a weekly tradition where he would let me pick the teams I thought would win, and he’d take their opponents. Whoever got the most right would win a quarter. I always picked the Packers. Honestly, I really don’t know why though. Certainly a lot of it was because I liked their name. But it may have also been that it was just the only team I remembered consistently. Later, after my grandpa passed, my uncle (a Cowboy fan), picked up the traditional quarter bet, but with a small twist. The difference was that we would each only be concerned with two teams each week. I would root for the Packers and whoever the Cowboys played against, and he would root for the Cowboys and whoever the Packers played against. Even though I didn’t win many quarters back then, it certainly seeded a fierce loyalty that has stuck with me for years, even after I moved into Seahawk country.

Q: Tell us about what you do at Wagstaff.
A: I’m the CAD/PLM Manager here. I’m essentially an IT guy working exclusively for the engineering department. I focus solely on the hardware and software tools we use here to design the custom aluminum casting equipment we produce. The primary software we use in those processes are NX CAD & CAM, Teamcenter, and JD Edwards ERP. Specifically, this means lots of customization to those tools, or development of add-in tools or middleware for them. Since staff spends most of their time in CAD, our add-ins are most often based there, and will increasingly pull together information from Teamcenter or JDE.

Q: What’s a day in the life like for you?
A: Because the circumstances have evolved so much in the time I’ve been here, my days now are much different than when I first came aboard.I started here at Wagstaff in late 2007, shortly after they’d changed engineering managers and standardized on a single 3D CAD platform: NX 5.

My early days here were spent both learning their processes and providing direct support to staff. Certainly there was plenty to learn here, but the bigger challenge was supporting the users in learning both a new CAD system and the new 3D model-based design philosophy. I had to wear my diplomat hat often then. Those were diverse and hectic days indeed.

Lately though my days are much different. In 2009 they asked me to turn more of my attention to implementing Teamcenter and a broader PLM-centric vision here. To facilitate that, they gave me help on the CAD support and automation side of things. I now mentor a young designer here that wanted to learn programming. He also happens to be one of the most proficient NX users we have on staff. It’s a strategy that has yielded many new tools in our NX toolbox, with even more in the works. Likewise we’ve taken significant steps in our Teamcenter implementation.

Q: What is your favorite part of that gig?
A: I really enjoy engineering and manufacturing environments, as well as the fundamental processes of design itself. But the thing I enjoy most about my job, is the same thing I liked about consulting – making the right way the easy way. When you can do that, you make everyone happy.

Q: Was CAD administrator what you wanted to be when you grew up? If not, what was?
A: Very funny Dora… Uh, no. Not even close. Computers weren’t even around when I was a kid.

When I was about 11 or so, being a cartoonist was my goal. Then that summer, the local art museum had an exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright renderings. I liked to draw, so I went to see the show with a friend. I was amazed at what I saw. The designs in that show were from the turn of the early 1900s. They looked nothing like anything else I’d ever seen. To me his work seemed 100 years ahead of his time. I went back to see that exhibit 2 or 3 times a week just to stare at his work. From that point forward, I had a new goal – I wanted to be an architect. But that’s another story.

Q: What job(s), role(s) led you to where you are today?
A: After the money ran out for architecture school, I worked my way into a drafting job in the big city of Spokane, Washington. I was really fortunate that they me pushed into CAD on a PC back in 1984 though. It was that early exposure to computers and CAD that eventually led me to start moonlighting in the late 80s doing CAD programming. In the early 90s, I started a couple different CAD businesses providing services such as consulting, programming and systems integration. I even dabbled in being a reseller back then. Overall, the 90s were a fun time for me.

The end of the 90s took me a different direction with Just after that, I met Brad Holtz and Cyon Research. They purchased in 2001 and brought me along. I jumped at the opportunity to join them and be a part of COFES. It showed me the industry from a whole new perspective and has been invaluable to me.

I eventually left Cyon Research at the end of 2006 and bought back to focus on the web opportunities the industry presented. Unfortunately, a negative health event at the end of January 2007 forced me to again veer my career course. That’s when the position at Wagstaff popped up. I guess I’ve sort of come full circle in the past 25+ years. I’ve seen the industry from many perspectives. As a designer, a consultant, an entrepreneur, an analyst, and the press. I draw on all those experiences at Wagstaff now.

Q: I saw on your tweets that you think the airplane is the coolest invention ever. Why? And what invention comes in second in your book?
A: I favor the airplane for two very different reasons…First of all because I think it’s one of the great examples of thinking outside the box. Most that tried to fly back then tried to emulate birds and their flapping wings. The concept of an airfoil is amazingly simple by comparison. Second, because of how much the airplane has affected the world we live in. The airplane has made the world a much smaller place and has exposed more people to more of the world around them. Because of that, I have to believe the world’s a better place than it would have been otherwise.

As for my second favorite invention? Easy… Legos and their classic simplicity. I loved all the old-school classic building toys as a kid: lincoln logs. tinkertoys, erector sets. But to me, Legos were the best.

Q: Tell us about your work in web development. How did you get involved with What’s happening with – where are things headed?
A: was spawned from my consulting business back in 1997. A potential project back then led us to experiment with a variety of client/server programming techniques. Some of those experiments were in trying to post information from a database onto the home page of our company web site. The database we chose was one we used internally to track technical articles from CAD trade magazines. To make a long story short, the popularity of that content eventually led us to launch two years later. It completely changed the direction of that consulting business entirely.That’s what got me into web development and

As for what’s up now…I alluded to the circumstances that led me to Wagstaff a couple years ago, and although that took its toll on, it is still alive and well, but on a smaller scale than in its heyday in 2005-06. I still update the site content each and every day. And I appreciate Wagstaff being so accommodating with my schedule with regard to editing the site.

In my rare free time I’ve been working on a completely revamped version of that I plan to launch soon. It will feature a much needed overhaul of the user interface, and modernized content schemas to accommodate the wider array of content sources available today. The biggest departure is that there will also be a small set of sister-sites coming later this year as well. So will actually be evolving into a small network of sites. I’ll stay away from projecting a date, but I may invite a few people to see preliminary versions at some point soon.

Wagstaff keeps me pretty busy these days, so we’ll see what happens.

Q: When I last saw you at PLM Connection last year, you introduced me to Pearl & Ollie. Have they been replaced by DoorKnob & Chin Chin? Tell the folks why these cats keep following you around.
A: I never have the same travel companions twice. Pearl and Ollie went to PLM Connection with me last year. DoorKnob and ChinChin went to a Teamcenter class with me later that fall. And this year at COFES I had Paka and Rosie along for the ride.

This came about because my nieces (now ages 4 & 11) have always been concerned about me being lonely when I travel to strange, exotic lands like Nashville, Green Bay, or Scottsdale. For each of my trips the past few years they’ve each given me one of their Pet Shop toys to keep me company. I’d email pictures from my cell phone to document the trip, and they would enjoy the tales of our adventures, and the drama that ensued. These days I use Twitter instead.

I will say though, my travel companions have taken on a different status since I started posting the pictures to Twitter last year. When I meet someone on a trip now, often times they ask me about my companions because they’ve already read about them on Twitter. It turns out that the little thing I started to entertain my nieces has turned out to be just as beneficial for me on lots of levels.

Q: What value do you get by using social media tools like Twitter?
A: Twitter is actually the tool that changed my perspective on social media in general. In recent years, I’ve found maintaining my blog became increasingly challenging as my schedule become more and more burdened. I wondered if Twitter, this new micro-blogging service I’d been hearing about might be an answer to that. In summer of 2008 I decided to find out. I began by following individuals I either knew personally, or found interesting on some level.

After the first few weeks, despite falling short addressing my blog maintenance problem, I found it strangely satisfying. At that point I thought it seemed like an interesting alternative to instant messaging with broader reach yet without the limited access. But as time moved on into the winter of 2008, and I’d started following more people, I started to see Twitter in a different light. It became clear that it was a great way to tap into the pulse of a community in real time. My interests broadened beyond the individuals, but rather in the communities as a whole. It also led me beyond Twitter itself.

Now I find that using tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Delicious allow me to mine the collective knowledge of the industries I pay attention to and better understand and leverage them. It’s that deeper understanding that helps guide the decisions I face everyday both at Wagstaff and

Rick, thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions. See you next week in Dallas with your next set of Pet Shop toys.

If you liked hearing about Rick and his work, you might want to check out Jerry Sarfati’s interview with one of Rick’s colleagues – Mike Thompson.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at