Straight Talk with User Group Founder Rob Rodriguez

I had a nice chat at SolidWorks World with Rob Rodriguez, who is the president and founder of the Northern Vermont SolidWorks user group. Rob started the group just over a year ago. His day job is as CAD designer at Rock of Ages, a Vermont-based producer of granite products.

Q. What made you want to start your own user group?

A. I felt the users of the area needed more learning resources for SolidWorks. I had the idea to start the group and spoke with Richard Doyle, the user group coordinator for SolidWorks, and he helped me get going.

Q. How many members are in your group now and what are you doing to attract new members?

A. We have an email membership of about 60 and we draw 20-25 members to a meeting. To attract new members, we have a website and we use word of mouth. We also have a really good relationship with our VAR Computer-Aided Products, and they do a nice job promoting and supporting the group. They’ll send an applications engineer to come up and give a presentations at one of our meetings. And they provide different hardware, for example, they let us use their LCD projector for our meetings.

Q. What support does SWUGN provide?

A. I can list my meetings on the SWUGN website and they have a link to our website on theirs. They also give us $400 to spend at each of our meetings. I use that money if I have to rent a hotel room for a meeting or to provide food and beverages. We also have a deaf person in the group, so I use part of that money to hire a sign language interpreter.

Q. How often do you have meetings?

A. The third Thursday every two months, so six times a year.

Q. What do the meetings consist of?

Each meeting lasts three hours from 6-9 PM. We hold them in Waterbury, Vermont, at the Best Western hotel. The meeting basically consist of some general discussion where members bring up problems, issues, solutions, maybe job openings. Sometimes we serve pizza. We do networking, and then we have a 90-minute technical presentation. We haven’t done it yet, but we’ve talked about submitting enhancements requests as a group. SolidWorks gives priority to the enhancements asked for by the most people, so if we submit a request as a group, it’s likely to get more attention.

Q. What sort of technical presentations do you have?

A. That’s the hardest part of the meeting is finding someone to give a technical presentation. One time Mark Biasotti [product manager] from SolidWorks came up and gave a surfacing presentation and that was the highest attended meeting we had. Another time we had Keith Peterson from Computer-Aided Products give a top-down design presentation. Once we had a member of the group give a sheet metal presentation. And I also gave a PhotoWorks presentation.

Q. What advice would you give to someone else wanting to start a user group?

A. I’d give the same advice that Richard Doyle gave me. If starting a group is something you’ve thought about doing, you’re probably the right person for the job.

Q. Anything else you want people to know?

A. Our next meeting is February 16th!


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.