At Innova Systems, we take pride in the high standard of technical support our customers receive every day from our team of Applications Engineers, and one of the ways we ensure they are at the top of their game is to give them time to develop their skills with official training courses provided by SOLIDWORKS Corporation. We sat down with Elite Applications Engineer, Phil Downing, to find out more about what it takes to join the SOLIDWORKS elite.
Innova: Hi Phil, tell us a little about your design experience so far – how long have you been using SOLIDWORKS?
Phil: I started using SOLIDWORKS in 2008 at University where I was doing Mechatronics & Robotics. There was a lot of Electronics work, as you’d imagine, but I used SOLIDWORKS for the design focussed parts of the course, such as my fully automated Lobster feeding system.
After University, I started work in the agricultural industry, designing new and existing machines alongside other, more experienced SOLIDWORKS users, learning from them as I went. Fast forward three years and I was in charge of the design department, so I completely understand the pressures our customers are under when I speak to them on our technical support line!
Innova: How did you discover Innova Systems?
Phil: Innova Systems were our SOLIDWORKS reseller at the time and I’d been very impressed with the support I’d received. Whenever I hit a brick wall with my design, I would jump on the phone and they would not only explain in detail how to solve my conundrum, they would also explain best-practice techniques to help me avoid future issues. They often advised on completely unrelated subjects (I had no prior knowledge of) to help me get more out of the software, which was great.
During my time at that company, I took a few training courses at Innova Systems, such as the Weldments and Essentials courses. This gave me a decent level of knowledge on these subjects that I could put into practice.
I was made redundant in 2015, so I was looking for work and I remembered the friendliness and professionalism of the Innova team. I enjoyed time training there too, so I sent my CV through, asking if there were any openings in the technical support team. I came in for an interview a couple of days later and got the job. When I arrived I thought I was pretty good at SOLIDWORKS, “maybe an 8/10”, I said when asked, but the reality was a little different. I was really good at certain things that I did regularly in my old job, such as Sheet Metal etc, but as I progressed, experienced the full range of products and features and listened to advice from my new colleagues, I soon saw there was loads to learn.
Innova: How did you go about expanding your knowledge?
Phil: The only way to do that is to study, practice and take your certifications, so that’s what I did. First off I had to become a SOLIDWORKS Expert – just like the rest of the Innova support team. SOLIDWORKS experts have to show competency in SOLIDWORKS Standard and it’s functionality, meaning Weldments, Surfacing, Mould tools, Sheet Metal and Drawings. Finally, I had to take my exams which included all of the above and some more advanced techniques thrown in for good measure.
Innova: Did you pass?
Phil: Yes, but I still wanted more. I wanted to become a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer!
Innova: What is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer?
Phil: This is the highest accolade that can be achieved by only the best SOLIDWORKS users. Just 69 engineers in the UK have reached this status – hence the ‘Elite’ moniker. It’s an even bigger syllabus than the SOLIDWORKS Expert course. Every subject, every product and every feature is covered: FEA analysis, Flow simulation, Data management and loads more specialist certifications.
Not only did I have to pass various exams, I also had to prove to SOLIDWORKS Corporation that I was an active member of the SOLIDWORKS community. I did this by creating regular blog posts for the Innova site and the official SOLIDWORKS tech blog, video tutorials and also contributions to the official SOLIDWORKS forum.
I was presented with my SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer trophy at SOLIDWORKS World in Los Angeles. It was a great feeling to receive my award after all the hard work I’d put in and the after-party was something else!
Innova: So, how have things changed since you passed?
Phil: I am now able to field even the most obscure and complicated of questions from our customers. The skills I have learnt can benefit my colleagues and our customers on support or on our training courses, because I can share up to date, best practice techniques with them in every aspect of SOLIDWORKS. I’ve never felt more confident in my SOLIDWORKS abilities – perhaps now I can get that 8/10…
A word from our Technical Manager and Elite Application Engineer, Ed Hawkins:
“This is an exceptional achievement for Phil – and one that re-enforces his commitment to understanding all things SOLIDWORKS. An impressive 27 separate exams were passed across multiple areas of functionality highlighting Phil’s depth of understanding within the software. His Elite Applications Engineer status allows him to provide top quality expertise and support for our valued customers, which is what we strive for every day. Well done, Phil.”
FACT: The number of employed Applications Engineers worldwide is 3071 at the time of writing. The number of employed Elite Applications Engineers worldwide is 400, (69 in the UK).