Interview with Matt Johnson, All-around Solid Edge Powerhouse

By MLombard

Matt Johnson.JPGMatt Johnson, or “Big Matt” as he is known, as you’ll see from this interview, has a ton of passion for learning, helping people, and helping Solid Edge to improve their software where he can. Matt is one of the most highly driven guys I know, and one of the guys you can turn to when you have questions of any type. Read through this interview, and I think you’ll agree that Matt improves whatever he touches. The Solid Edge community is lucky to have people like this in its ranks.

You were the first person to introduce yourself to me at my first Solid Edge University event. I still remember the enthusiasm that you exuded, and how contagious it was. What is it that gives you so much enthusiasm for Solid Edge?

Solid Edge has been good to me, as a product and as a people.  I was given an opportunity early in my career, I was afforded 2 weeks to teach myself Solid Edge, and if I could become proficient then I would be given more design work and less Engineering Clerk work.  I succeeded in teaching myself Solid Edge and have not looked back since.  In time I discovered GTAC and BBSNotes (the SE Community of old).   These two things completely changed my use and perspective of Solid Edge.  

Here is what I mean by Solid Edge “as a people”.  Calling GTAC for support and getting to know the support team over time. Knowing that I was not alone as a user, that those at GTAC folks are truly passionate about Solid Edge and helping users.  I’ve also had opportunities during beta testing and at SEU to interact with those who plan and develop Solid Edge as a Product.  It really is something to see 1st hand how Solid Edge as a people truly want each of us to succeed.  The focused effort that goes into planning Solid Edge, adding functionality, responding to ERs, and providing users a stable product is evident and once you have experienced this 1st hand it’s easy to be so passionate. 

I use Solid Edge day in and day out in my career, and at the end of the day this is what pays my bills and puts food on the table.  I’m confident in Solid Edge as a product because I’m confident in Solid Edge as a People. 

The other aspect to Solid Edge as a people is the community, the community of users.  The SE Community, formerly BBSNotes, has been a great place for me to learn over the years and also a place to give back to other users as I have become a more advanced user.  The community is a great place to find information, tips, tricks, pros and cons of Solid Edge features and functionality and to ask specific question of design approach.  I’ve met users online in the community that I later met in person at SEU or other Solid Edge events.  The sense of camaraderie that grows from participation in the Solid Edge community is very tangible and I encourage all to get engaged.  …if not for the camaraderie, for the knowledge sharing that takes place.  These are the things that make me enthusiastic and passionate about Solid Edge.

You have had a number of roles in the short time that I’ve known you. Power User, community icon, application engineer, trusted voice for the community, and others. Can you talk about how your career has lead you through these various incarnations, and what you learned from the various roles?

For a number of years I was only self-taught.  I began using Solid Edge on V9 in about 2000.  Over time I engaged in the community and began to learn different techniques.  I attended local Solid Edge meeting where tips and tricks would be presented and finally had some structured training offered from my employers.  I’ve used Solid Edge at very opposite ends of the spectrum.  On one end I was the one and only CAD guy using Solid Edge to do all the design work in an unmanaged environment. On the other end I worked with over 100 seats of Solid Edge in a Teamcenter data managed environment. 

I know that each end of the spectrum, as well as all throughout, there are different and unique challenges and uniqueness in the use of Solid edge.  I’ve also had the opportunity to be a beta user. For ST4 and ST5 I traveled to Huntsville, AL and spent a week in-house with the Solid Edge team testing the software.  This is where I feel a good portion of my passion has come from.  You cannot work with the team in Huntsville and not leave knowing that everyone involved with Solid Edge is 110% passionate about the product. 

As I became more confident in my skills I began to give back.  Initially on BBSNotes (SE Community of old).  I would answer questions I knew the answers to.   In time though I found that there was value in answering or giving some input to scenario that I may not have a direct answer to but just some insight or a thought.   This is how I saw the community begin to grow.  We would have long threads instead of just Q and A.  Many users would have input and we could discuss many approaches. 

In participating in the community I learned that for each problem there are many solutions.   There are multiple approaches in Solid Edge to solve a problem… over time some approaches proved to be better than others but all in all this sort of thinking of not just my work but from other’s challenges as well allowed me to learn so much about Solid Edge that I would not have otherwise.   In time I also became a “go to” guy in the office for support.  Helping others desk side in basic learning of Solid Edge or more in depth problem solving. 

I really enjoy the challenges that engineering in general presents but more specifically I enjoy working with others to find solutions in Solid Edge.   For most of my career I have had some sort of title including Designer.  I really enjoy problem solving engineering solutions by designing in Solid Edge.  

Some of you know that I left the design industry for a time to work as an AE with a Solid Edge VAR.  I very much enjoyed the opportunity to give back to users.  As an AE I offered support, hosted demos and webinars and also taught is structured classroom setting.  I’m now back in the designer chair.  I’m using Solid Edge every minute of every day.   I am busier in my current role, in this season for our business than I think I may every have been in my career.   This has not allowed me to participate in the SE Community as much as I would like but as we enter 2015 our busy season should begin to normalize and I hope to contribute where I can.  I very much enjoy giving back to the community and hope long term to find a role as an AE either directly for a large SE company or back with a VAR.  For now however I continue to practice our craft as I use Solid Edge for my daily designs.

The scope of Solid Edge is huge, and I know that they don’t write or teach courses on some of the topics that you know in depth. How did you acquire such in-depth knowledge on such a wide range of Solid Edge related topics?

I think in the community and by helping others.  From any one users’ work tasks one will only be exposed to certain usages of Solid Edge.  By offering to help others and by reading others responses in the community we can all collectively share and learn from one another.  I really think it’s that simple and without a doubt is how I’ve learned so much of Solid Edge.  Even outside of Solid Edge.  I’ve learned much from others in certain fields of expertise; such as plastics, sheet metal, mold design, Etc…  there are subject matter experts among the Solid Edge community that can help us not just learn how to best leverage Solid Edge but also know what their specific industry defines as best practices.

Tell us a little about the position you’re in now.

I’m back in the design seat.  I’m a Design Engineer designing machines that produce bubble film and convert it into custom packaging.We design our own proprietary machines and design modification as needed for speed, efficiency, ergonomics, safety… etc.

What are some of your favorite enhancements in the last two releases of Solid Edge?

I have found and still find myself doing a lot of assembly level top-down design with Solid Edge; therefore my favorite enhancements are those that are streamlining our part level work while still within the assembly environment.  Assembly feature upgrades, peer relations enhancements, sync edits, face relates…  all these tools that allow part manipulation while still at the assembly.

“Boxers or briefs” might be a little too personal for a CAD interview, so I’ll rephrase – “Synchronous or Ordered”? Why?

Synchronous without a doubt, and as needed hybrid.  It’s hard to explain why in words to someone who has not tried or seen Sync.  But for the same reasons I answered above…  I do a lot of assembly level Top-Down designing…  Synchronous is much more than a part modeling tool. Once embraced at the part level it opens up so many opportunities at the assembly level.  The things I can do with synchronous models in context of an assembly are like cheating compared to the long drawn way that I used to design and still see others doing it. 

What is your favorite thing about Solid Edge University?

Camaraderie and time with Solid Edge as a people as I referred to in my 1st response,  Plain and simple… People

If you could wave your magic wand and add one new feature/function to Solid Edge, what would that be?

I’m currently using ST6 in production so just getting to ST7 would be very nice for me.We are upgrading in January, but my magic wand feature???  Always a good question and based on the project or work at hand this can be a dynamic target.  But for me it’s more Part modeling and editing at the assembly…  I see this line blurring between environments and as a designer would like to continue to see this trend.  I want to design,  I don’t want to switch between environments and have to remember where I need to be within the software in order to access different tools. 

If you were able to give one piece of advice to a young engineer who wanted to get started on a career in mechanical engineering, working close to the CAD software, what would that advice be?

Get involved with others in your desired areas of expertise.  Don’t be afraid to try new things. Stay involved in your career field at large.  Be aware of industry trends.  Always be hungry to learn and put new techniques to task.  Get hands on…  Both in the 3D CAD software but also on the shop floor or in the tool room or prototype shop.Just do it! 

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