Interview with SolidWorks CEO John McEleney

John McEleney is the CEO of SolidWorks, a position handed down to him by company founded and former CEO John Hirschtick five years ago. This month McEleney celebrates his ten year anniversary at SolidWorks. Although his title may sound intimidating, McEleney is the sort of person you immediately feel at ease around. Although I wasn’t able to book a formal meeting on McEleney’s busy schedule, when I spotted him in the press room at SolidWorks World, he was more than happy to share a few minutes with me.

Q. How does this SolidWorks World event compare to others in the past?

A. I think it’s been the best one so far. For one thing, it’s the biggest with 3,500 attendees. But there’s also an energy, a buzz in the air; people are smiling and happy and there is a real sense of purpose. It’s different in other ways too. Big companies often spend too much time talking about themselves. It’s the old “enough about me now let me tell you about me” story and it’s too easy to do. This year, we deliberately pulled in the corporate focus, and put more emphasis on our customers and partners.

Q. Where are you taking the SolidWorks software?

A. We want the software to do the work for you. Take for example iTunes software. People don’t realize the brilliance of iTunes is digital rights management. The software tracks all of the music on your computer and knows where it comes from. Yet people use iTunes without thinking about what’s going on in the background. Similarly, we want SolidWorks to take care of what goes on in the background, so that the user can focus on making products. SWIFT [a new technology platform in SolidWorks 2007 that many new features are going to be built on] is an example of a technology that takes care of the details.

Q. As the company grows, how do you plan to keep it as the SolidWorks that we’ve all grown to know and love?

A. We as an executive team have to stay grounded. Our job revolves around our customers, the people who use our software everyday. We are here to serve them, not the other way around. As the company gets bigger, I can’t be involved in every decision. But no matter how big we get, we always need to keep our focus on the customer.

Amy Castor

Matthew West

SolidWorks alumnus. I like plate reverb, Rat pedals, Thai curry, New Weird fiction, my kids, Vespas, Jazzmasters, my wife & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not necessarily in that order.