Ever since I visited an architect’s house in Philadelphia in 1970 I have wanted to be an architect. I always knew that I wanted to create spaces for people, but recently I realised that creating spaces is also part of a bigger desire to help people. I really enjoy helping people.
After training as an architect and working on several projects, my wife and decided to travel through California and on to England to work. I was really fortunate to work for a large multidisciplinary practice in London during the boom. Because of the boom, architects got asked to work hard, we were given a lot of freedom to act, and we were given a lot of responsibility. I was asked to be responsible for some major parts of the building, which meant 100’s of drawings and managing staff. Part of this was managing the CAD work. This is the early days of CAD where we worked on large UNIX computer systems. These systems didn’t yet use a graphic user interface.
It turned out that I was very good at CAD. I did enjoy using it, and I enjoyed helping others. Over the years the CAD software become more sophisticated and the company I worked for were looking to change the CAD software. They looked at several different CAD packages, including MiniCAD (which later became Vectorworks), and finally settled on microstation.
This was really fortunate for me. I was given extensive training in MicroStation, I was made a CAD manager, and I was given the role of helping the new users to use it correctly. I was one of the top five users in the company (which employed over 600 people in London alone). This is where I started to train users. It was my role to take the new users from the foundation course and upskill them to use Microstation with the office system. I was heavily involved in developing the office system.
It was at this time that I was introduced to the Mac and MiniCAD. The first Mac I saw was the SE30, and the first Mac I bought was the LC2 and my first CAD software was Blueprint ( a 2D only version of MiniCAD). That was in 1992. Of course, a 2D only version had limited tools, but it was easy to learn. I soon upgraded to MiniCAD+3. This was the full version of MiniCAD and even in those days it was good for 3D and it had layers and classes. I was attending every function and user group meeting that I could, so that I could learn more about this software. I worked on several projects in my spare time to learn how to use it correctly.
London, and the whole of the UK, at this time had gone through a deep recession, but was now starting to get busy again. I really wanted to help offices to set up their systems and implement them. I loved working on Apple computers and I knew MiniCAD very well. I found a few contacts that helped me get started and I secured a long term contract with a fantastic interior design company DIN and Associates. They had tried to use MiniCAD before, but had totally failed to implement it, or get the users on board. My role was to teach MiniCAD, then work with the team to get up highly skilled. The people I taught are still using some of the skills 20 years later. At this time I also had a part time job teaching MiniCAD at the Kent Institute of Art and Design. I ran a course for them for two years. This was a great place to learn about teaching a class of people.
These projects allowed me to experience teaching. I found that I have a real passion for teaching, for helping people to understand.
Setting up my practice in NZ was not as easy as setting it up in London. I had no contacts and no work, but I still had my goal of setting up a support and training company like i had in London. I knew that when I worked in large companies I was useful to all the staff that needed training, so my aim was to provide the same support to small offices. It took me more than a year to find the NZ distributor of Vectorworks and show him what he had his hands on. Although he had been selling Vectorworks for several years, he didn’t know much about the software. Once I had shown him what it could do, he got really excited and this lead to a massive growth area for us. Dave would focus on selling and I would focus on training.
It took a few years, but this became our most productive time. He sold more Vectorworks than almost anyone else in the world, and I created some of my most powerful training resources. When I look back at my note books from this time, I can’t believe how many ideas I generated.
In 2008 I agreed with Vectorworks to sell and distribute some of my bigger manuals (Essentials, Architect, Landmark, and 3D Modeling). This gave my manuals a world wide distribution.
When I was in London most my time was spent working in a large company (BDP). In London alone this company employed 600 people. There was a combination of Architects, landscapers, Engineers, Project managers, and so on. In the early 1990s this company decided to implement MicroStation. I was one of the early users to be taught it, and it turned out that I was very good at using it. This was also at the time that there was a substantial recessionIn the UK.The company went from 600 people in London down to just 200. I was one of the contract staff. In the peak there were 35 contractors, but during the recession there were only five. Most of those five subcontractors were specialists in MicroStation, and I was one of them. One of my friends was David. He was a superb MicroStation user and he always had tips and tricks for me. If I had a problem I could always turn to him for help. If I wanted to improve what I was doing I could always turn to him and ask for a productivity technique. As well as being an architect, I was also the CAD manager on several large projects. On these projects I was the one that people would turn to for help, for techniques, and for training.
When I wanted to start up my company, after returning to New Zealand, I wanted to set up the company where I could be like him, I would be available to help develop office systems, to train users, and be there when people needed help.
When you need help, I’m here.