Straight Talk with SWUGN Regional Director Mark Peters

During the 2006 SolidWorks World conference, I had a chance to talk to Mark Peters, regional director for the SolidWorks User Group Network (SWUGN) the Midwest territory. Marks is also the president/CEO of IMPACT Engineering, a 65-member engineering support and professional services firm with offices in Wisconsin and Illinois.

SWUGN is the official go-between for SolidWorks and the user group community. Mark has been with SWUGN for 12 years, so he has a long history with SolidWorks. What’s more, Mark has been to every SolidWorks World event.

Q. Why are user groups so important to a software company?

A. People look for more avenues to learn. If you only have other users in the same company to speak with, it becomes incestuous. You’re just passing around the same old information. In contrast, user groups provide extended exposure.

Q. What are some of the challenges the SolidWorks user groups are facing?

A. Getting the word out. A lot of people who use SolidWorks aren’t aware that there may be a user group in their area. Or if they want to start a user group, they don’t know how to get one going. We try to educate and pass the word around to the resellers because they’re the ones who talk to the users.

Q. How do the SolidWorks user groups compare to the Pro/E user groups?

A. Funny you ask that because my company also started a Pro/E user group in our area. We use both software, but I have a fondness for SolidWorks because I’ve been involved with SolidWorks for so long. I like the people, the message, and the products. PTC mainly sells Pro/E to existing accounts rather than new customers, so their user groups are more senior. Pro/E user group meetings are also better attended because there are fewer of them. Wisconsin, for example, has one Pro/E user group and four SolidWorks user groups. SolidWorks user groups are smaller, more new faces, and you generally don’t have to drive as far.

Q. Do you remember the first SolidWorks World?

A. Yes, the first SolidWorks World conference was in Waltham. It was much smaller than this, maybe 600-700 people. We were able to go to the off-site event in three or four buses. [Compared to the 60 buses it took to get everyone to the Los Vegas Speedway Tuesday night.]

Q. How do you compare the first SolidWorks World with this one?

A. Even though this event is clearly much bigger, John Hirschtick and John McEleney still continue to carry on the underlying spirit and values of SolidWorks. And that’s why I come here every year. I want to see if that changes. If it does, then I know this is going to become the next PTC. But so far, it hasn’t changed. SolidWorks is a byproduct of good people with good values who hire like-minded people. If you walk up to John Hirschtick, John McEleney, and Vic Levanthal at one of these events, they greet you like a long lost child. I’m very passionate about this company.

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.