Farewell and best wishes to Jon Hirschtick

JonEarly last week, SolidWorks founder Jon Hirschtick let employees know that he has decided to step back from SolidWorks and begin the next phase of his career. From the first days of the company (when it was known as Winchester Design Systems), Jon has embodied the SolidWorks philosophy of focusing on the needs of engineers and designers, and creating an experience that is both powerful and simple. We at SolidWorks will miss Jon and his spirit, and wish him all the best in the future.

Earlier this week, I asked SolidWorks employees to share some of their favorite memories of Jon, which I have included below. I would also like to welcome any customers, partners, resellers or other members of the SolidWorks community to share their stories in the comments section below. I'll let Bertrand go first.

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When I came on to SolidWorks as a young territory sales manager, one of the first questions Jon asked me was "Bertrand, what is the most important thing we can measure at SolidWorks?" Being in sales, I answered that it must be something like quarterly sales numbers, or revenue. Jon replied that "the most important thing we can measure is how many users we're helping be productive every day." Jon has always been focused on the end user, and how we can help them turn their ideas into reality. And while Jon was always focused on the day-to-day business, he was always looking five, ten, fifteen years down the road, identifying the coming trends. Thanks again to Jon for leadership and vision. – Bertrand Sicot

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Dear Jon, thank you for allowing me to be part of the team that changed history. Working with you in the early days brings back memories of a lot of hard work, long hours, lots of fun and most importantly a long and lasting friendship. I miss it to this day. The people we surrounded ourselves with and the thrill of beating our completion will be things I while always remember. Just a few reminders, THE BELL we rang every time we got an order, Roberman’s booth bunnies at Autofact, and the nights we spent collating our Board presentations.

I remember our first big decision. The logo. You wanted something plain and I wanted something with and Icon. You thought I was mad at you when we chose the simple red square. It was then that I told you picking the logo was like music. You liking R&R and me liking Country and Western. Anyway what we did will never again be duplicated, unless we decide to do it again in a next life. All the best in wherever the future takes you.

Your former COO, Ex Board Member, but most of all your friend for life. – Vic Leventhal

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In May 1995 I was interviewing with SolidWorks.  The product was kind of cool, but very light on capability.  This was about six months before we released SolidWorks 95.  I was coming from PTC, so I had very high expectations for 3D CAD.  I told Jon that I was reluctant to take the job since I didn’t know how serious a product and company this was going to be.  Jon then said to me, in the way only Jon can, “We are going all the way! This is going to be the BEST 3D CAD available, and EVERY engineer will be using it as their design tool.” I joined the team because of that conviction.  And as we can all see now, Jon knew from day one, what kind of success SolidWorks was going to be. Thanks for everything Jon! – Rick Chin

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In 1998, I got to meet Jon again at a SolidWorks education advisory meeting in Concord.  When asked what I thought about SolidWorks as a college professor, I stated, “SolidWorks will change the way educators teach engineering graphics, it is not features like ProE or drafting like Autocad.  It is so easy, with SolidWorks you can teach design!”  Back then, it was my gut feel, now it is a reality.  SolidWorks has changed the way educators teach students of all ages about design, from 10 year olds to university students.  SolidWorks brings about a creative energy that students can develop amazing models and products.  2 million students know SolidWorks – just amazing.

Working with Jon over the past 6 years has been an amazing experience.  He has been such a great mentor to me and to the entire EDU team.  I learned that Jon was a teacher – what a background – this is probably why SolidWorks EDU program works for teachers.  Jon received so many requests over the years from robot teams, car teams, Rwanda, his alumni friends at MIT the list was endless.  But he handled every request himself, from Team Rabbi to the MIT FIRST Alumni event.

Jon, you will truly be missed; you are my mentor, my friend. – Marie Planchard

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In the first months of my work in Solidworks (it was called differently then) I got into a hospital with some serious condition. My first visitors were Jon and his wife, then carrying their first child! I will forever cherish the memories of the great friendship with Jon. – Vitaly Goldin

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We are very much proud to have SolidWorks that has Japanese version from the 1st release. And we love SolidWorks forever with your name as one of founders who made it possible to design better products for every engineers in the world. We are looking forward to talking with you on the 4D or 5D world. – Miho Ohsawa &  Nagahiro Sato

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We all know that you have given so much to the Japanese market. Japanese students are happy to learn engineering with SolidWorks. You have changed their future. I want to thank you for the outstanding contribution over the past 14 great years. – Junko Arai

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Working and getting to know Jon Hirschtick for 16 years has been a privilege and great learning experience.  Jon is unique in that he is incredibly smart but can take the complex and make it easy for everyone to understand.   He has said many times “Keep It Simple”.  He is incredibly passionate in everything he does and believes in.  Jon will give advice or share opinions that make significant impacts on the way others view challenges and successes.  I think he probably doesn’t realize this and that probably makes it that much more meaningful. – Sabine Gossart

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I was first introduced to Jon in the form of a product called DesignView. I was an engineer fresh out of school, and stumbled on this product as a way to more intuitively sketch out design concepts. DesignView  spoke to me, it was the first tool to elegantly bring power of the computer and conceptual engineering together. I was hooked. Well several years having moved from being a user, to working for a CAD company called ComputerVision. I was again introduced to DesignView when Premise was purchased by CV. This gave me an opportunity to meet the team Jon had put together. They were exceptional.  I was glad to have them as part of our team at CV. But one thing lead to another and Jon left CV.  However at the team I knew he was starting something new. All I knew at the time is I wanted to be part of whatever he was doing. I was convinced that given what Jon had done with Premise, he was again going to do something great.

At that time,  Jon did not know me that well. So I put together a plan. I knew that Jon frequented a coffee shop that I too went to. For over 6 months, I did my best to run into Jon” accidentally”, introduce myself and let him know I wanted to join his new team. I think at some point Jon got sick of “running” into me.  So finally to get me off his back, he referred me over to Vic Leventhal. And the rest is history.

Very few times in my life has something been this clear. It was never a question that SolidWorks and Jon was going to do something great. – Joe Dunne

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While we have all learned so much from Jon over the years, his focus on people is what defined the culture at SolidWorks.  At every meeting he emphasized that "hiring is the most important thing we do", and this philosophy resulted in a group of highly talented individuals that care deeply about our customers, our channel partners, and the way people design great products.  He's a genius, but his "people first" mentality is the cornerstone of our success.  Good luck Jon in your new adventures! – Brian Houle

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My first meeting with Jon was in the Fall of 1991 or so in a tiny, small cramped office somewhere in Bedford. ComputerVision had just purchased his company, Premise, and I went over to meet him and see the product and discuss how we could develop an Excel feed for driving input parameters to the models. Shortly after that I was made available to industry and lost touch, but reconnected through John McEleney 10 years later. – Eli Hauser

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My own favorite memory comes from SolidWorks World 2009 in Orlando. In a conversation with some customers at the bar Saturday night, someone asked Jon about some blackjack pointers (Jon was a member of the famous MIT blackjack team). On Sunday night, Jon posted to Twitter inviting anyone interested in lessons to come to his suite later that night. I watched as Jon sat at dining table for over an hour with 15 or so customers, sharing the knowledge he learned from his card-playing days. Some of those guys are long-time SolidWorks World attendees, and to this day, they tell me that's the best memory they have from any World they've attended. – Matt

Matthew West

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.