Jeff Walker is the Director of Solid Edge Products. He’s heavily involved in the development prcoess, and one of the guys who really knows the software inside out because he’s been involved in specifying a great deal of it. Before I was hired, most of my technical questions went through Jeff. He doesn’t get as much limelight as some other people in the company, but he is every bit as influential as anyone. If you are really on a mission to get a particular feature into Solid Edge, you need to come to Solid Edge University and buy Jeff a beer or three.
Jeff was promoted about a year ago, around the time when Dan Staples and Bill McClure moved up. Jeff is a busy guy, so let’s get right to the interview, and let Jeff tell the story.
You didn’t get as much fanfare, but after Dan got promoted, you also got promoted. Can you tell us about your new role, and what happened to your old role?
[JW] My new role is titled “Director of Solid Edge Products”. In this role I am responsible for design and development of all Solid Edge CAD products. My job will be to lead an outstanding team of very talented designers, developers and testers to produce high quality products that our customers value – basically business as usual for our organization.
My former position as Solid Edge Product Design Manager had been filled by Aditya Gurushankar. Aditya has over 20 years of experience working in the Engineering and CAD disciplines. I’m excited to see what fresh new ideas he will bring to the product.
Can you tell us how you came to work in Solid Edge development, particularly any civilian CAD jobs you had before you started with SE?
[JW] My interest in CAX began very early in my career. I entered the workforce as an analytical engineer with specific focus on Finite Element Analysis. In 1988 I joined Intergraph and worked as an instructor leading classes in teaching I/EMS and I/FEM (Intergraph’s CAD and FEA applications). I transferred to the Solid Edge planning team prior to the initial release in the early 90’s. I became manager of the planning team in 2000
How do you think that background helped shape the types of features or interface style you select to go into the software?
[JW] Software product design is not much different than traditional product design. It starts with an understanding of customers need and then leveraging technology in innovative ways to address those needs. My background using CAX products and training others to use these products was influential in keeping me focused on the customer.
Being in the seat where you decide which features get into the new software is kind of the dream job for serious CAD geeks. Which features that went into recent releases have been your favorites to research and develop?
[JW] The work on Synchronous Technology has been an extremely challenging and rewarding experience. As an engineer you have to love the challenge of being tasked with reinventing the wheel. Having the opportunity to work with an incredibly talented team and solving problems that had never been solved in our industry, well, it doesn’t get any better than that!
How often do you get to visit the Solid Edge Community? What sorts of things do you do there?
[JW] I visit the community on a regular basis. I like seeing the interaction and passion the user community has for Solid Edge. I mainly just lurk and monitor activity. I only jump in when I think there is a need for product development to intervene.
What were your favorite features in ST7?
[JW] Wow, ST7 had so many great enhancements it is difficult to pick just one. If forced, I would say the Auto-coordinate Dimensioning command. It is a clear productivity enhancer.
What sort of feedback have you had from users about ST7 with regard to suitability of new functions and quality?
[JW] ST7 has been very well received by the users. The community was quick to upgrade anticipating the productivity enhancements that were promised prior to release. So far all reports have been very positive.
I know you guys are deep into ST8 right now, and of course I’m not digging for secrets, but is there any hint or theme you can give us of what to look forward to?
[JW] It is no secret that the development of Solid Edge has been squarely focused on providing quality software with enhancements that have a direct impact on our customer’s productivity. Our focus for ST8 will remain consistent with that vision. Also know that we are paying close attention to the “pet peeves” thread that was initiated by Dan back in the fall.
Can you talk about either positive or negative lessons you’ve learned by studying competitive software in the last year or two?
[JW] As you might guess, we are constantly monitoring what our competitors are up to. There are a couple of lesson that have been reinforced with me recently. First, don’t take your eye off the ball. It is easy to get distracted chasing technological red herrings while losing focus on what really matters to customers – enhanced productivity of the things they do every day. And secondly, never take our customers for granted. We consistently strive to earn their business knowing that there are alternatives.
Who’s gonna take the SuperBowl this year?
[JW] I’m picking with the Patriots – with or without deflated footballs! J