SWUGN Group Leader Spotlight – Cindy Berend

Since 1996, SOLIDWORKS User Groups have been a valuable resource for SOLIDWORKS users all over the world.  The SWUGN Committee and DS SOLIDWORKS provide ample support, but the real stars are the SOLIDWORKS User Group Leaders. Every week or so we’ll spotlight one of our group leaders and the local user group chapter that they are responsible for leading.

Cindy Berend – New Hampshire SOLIDWORKS User Group


Before Cindy took control of the New Hampshire SOLIDWORKS User Group, meeting attendance was in the teens (16 was the largest meeting).  Cindy’s first meeting in 2008 saw 48 people show up, her second meeting 67, then 71, then 87.  Cindy’s group set their highest mark at 112 attendees in August of 2012.  The New Hampshire SOLIDWORKS User Group was named the SWUGN User Group of the Year in 2009 and 2011.  We’ll let Cindy tell you the rest of the story.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am an engineer, dog lover, yogini, outdoors woman, kayaker and camper, married and living in the woods in southern New Hampshire. The first 15+ years of my career I amassed valuable experience working for large companies like Magnetic Peripherals, Kodak and DuPont. 20 years ago I stepped off a cliff and began work as an independent mechanical engineer/designer contractor. I enjoy machine design from nuts and bolts to precision parts. I use SOLIDWORKS to bring my client’s ideas and dreams to life. I love my life and I love my work.

When did you first start learning/using SOLIDWORKS?

I took a contracting job in 2004 for a small company who used SOLIDWORKS. I had been using another software tool up to that point. I jumped into SOLIDWORKS and never looked back. It was intuitive to learn and I was using advanced features in no time. After that I bought my own seat of SOLIDWORKS because I loved using it and 99/100 of the ME jobs in my area required it.

Are you the founder of the group?

No, John Nolin founded the New Hampshire SOLIDWORKS User Group in 2004.

When did you assume leadership?

I started attending meetings in 2007 when about 11 people would show up in the basement of the Nashua Library, half of them were VARs. We weren’t allowed to have food in the library. I also attended meetings with the Central Mass. group which were well attended, had great presentations and FOOD. I went to SWW 2008 as a representative of the NH group, sat in on the big SWUG meeting and caught group leader fever! That was what inspired me to go back and make the New Hampshire user group something to be proud of.

How long have you been leading the group?

Since June of 2008, 7 1/2 years, 6 meetings/year. I am currently trying to step back and let my co-leaders (Paul Horn, Bob Edmonds, and Mike Burritt) take over management of the group and bring new life into it once again. It is difficult not micro-managing everything but I am working on it. Our biggest problem is getting people out of the all-you-can-eat school cafeteria and into the meeting auditorium 🙂

What as the best meeting you’ve had?

It wasn’t the “best” meeting but the first one I ran on my own was the most exciting. I was so nervous because I couldn’t get up in front of people to talk and had to read from a paper while my knees were wobbling. There were almost 50 attendees, we had catered food, good presenters and it worked! I was hooked after that.

What was the worst meeting you’ve had?

There aren’t any bad meetings but the “worst” meeting we had was also our biggest meeting, about 112 attendees. It was on the Rapid Sheet metal shop floor in July. They don’t have air conditioning so it was crazy hot and there were a lot of fans and machines running so you couldn’t hear. We had to lug ten tons of barbecue in from Smokey Bones and set it up in the heat. We didn’t have a microphone stand so I jury rigged one from some tubes and stuff I found on a shelf. I love Rapid Sheet Metal and it was fun but I don’t want to do that again.

What have you learned personally from your UG?

The biggest things I learned have nothing to do with SOLIDWORKS. If you talk in front of a group of people what’s the worst thing that can happen? They’re not going to kill you!  I don’t even have to write things down when I talk now; it is as easy as talking to a group of 3 friends. Things can and will go wrong! I forgot the name badges and reprinted them on site and used tape. We showed up and the cafeteria did not know we were coming. You name it, it will happen. I am still a crazy micro-manager but I know I can survive just about anything.

How many users are in the group?

I think we have about 500 names in our database. We usually have about 80 attendees; a mix of members, students, VARs, vendors, recruiters, SOLIDWORKS employees and SWUG leaders. We have many loyal members, vendor sponsors and recruiters who come to every meeting and I love them all!

Why should people attend a SOLIDWORKS User Group meeting?

Why doesn’t EVERYONE attend SOLIDWORKS User Group meetings!? I have basically learned how to use SOLIDWORKS by paying attention to the presentations. I can honestly say that I have learned at LEAST one thing at every single meeting even if the presentation is something I have seen before. It is always surprising the little tips and tricks you pick up watching someone else use the software.  It’s nice to get out once in a while and mingle with your peers and network, especially if you work in a vacuum like I do. Plus there’s FREE FOOD. Oh, and the bar afterwards of course.

What has your experience been like working in a predominately male industry?

This question always brings me back to my first day of my first engineering job in Oklahoma in 1979. A guy was in my cubicle installing my phone and asked me “what does a pretty little thing like you need a telephone for, to call your boyfriend?” I can’t remember if I said anything or stood there speechless but I have never forgotten that guy and it never got any worse than that. I found a terrific mentor in a machine technician named Ernie who taught me how to respect machines and tools and gave me a feel for the real world of metal and assembly techniques. In engineering school I was usually the only woman in my engineering, physics and math classes. I think that being a woman has been an asset in the working world because I stand out from the norm and when I do a good job it really opens doors.

Why do you think it is important for women to be encouraged to be engineers?

I believe Women are by nature creative and resourceful and that is the definition of an engineer. At home as a young girl I was never encouraged to have anything to do with machines or taking things apart but was taught to sew, clean and cook. The first time I made something I would follow the directions but after that I would make changes and improvements and go in my own direction, I’m still like that. School was where I found my passion and learned to apply that creativity and curiosity to physics and math. There is nothing about being a woman that keeps her from being a good engineer!

Do you have any advice for young women thinking about starting their career in Engineering?

If you love science and math and are curious about how things work then engineering is for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t do it because it is not feminine. You can do it all. Maybe I can’t have nice fingernails and most of the time I have nicks and cuts on my hands but other than that I can be as feminine as any woman. You can and will use your creative brain to think outside the box to come up with ways of doing things that a man might not think of. When I started university and work I was an anomaly. These days things have surely changed and there are infinite opportunities for young women in engineering. Go for it.

Thanks Cindy, and thank you for all that you do for the members of the user group.

Richard Doyle
My official title is Senior User Advocacy & SolidWorks User Groups - but most people just call me "The User Group Guy". I've been a SolidWorks user since 1997, and was one of the founding members of the SWUGN Committee. Since starting the Central Texas SolidWorks User Group in 1999, my career path has led me to DS SolidWorks and a dream job supporting the SolidWorks User Group Network worldwide.
Richard Doyle
Richard Doyle