A Day in the life of a CAD dork

CAD Dork

Image credit David Castillo Dominici

This post is based on a great idea by Melanie Perry. What is a day in the life of a CAD dork like?

I’ve really enjoyed writing this post and reading the posts of other CAD dorks.

Check out #CADdork on Twitter, or follow the links at the end for more Dorkyness ;)

A day in the life of a CAD Dork

All is dark and quiet as I slip out of bed and pad downstairs. I don’t want to wake my sleeping wife and children.

I eat breakfast while I hunt through RSS feeds for the latest CAD news on my phone. My Dad used to read the newspaper, it’s kind of the same thing ;)

As I return upstairs to wash and dress, my family are waking. I help our two boys into their school clothes, sorting out their collars and trying to flatten down their hair. By the time I leave for work second breakfast is in full swing, ‘BYE DAD!’ they chant as I head out of the door.


Work is 35-40 mins away by car, through the beautiful countryside of Dorset. As the winding country roads take me from village to village I consider how lucky I am to have left the city. Getting stuck behind the occasional slow moving Tractor is nothing compared to my previous morning commute on the M25!

I arrive at work half an hour early. I don’t like being rushed in the morning, I like some quiet time to plan my day. I sip coffee while I skim through social media feeds and email newsletters. Next I plough into my mailbox.

Tasks that don’t need to be done today go into my diary. Everything else goes onto my to-do list. I consider who I should reply to via email and who I should speak to personally.

Everything is a negotiation, email is a terrible negotiation tool so I’ll try and keep it face to face as much as possible. I look for space in peoples diaries and send out meeting requests to let them know I’m coming.

If I have a busy day I’ll allocate time to each task, and send out some warnings if I think that I am overloaded and not able to get everything done. I prioritise my task list, if my action will allow someone else to get on with their tasks I’ll do it first. I’m naturally inclined to tackle the biggest ugliest tasks first thing while I have the energy. I’ll try and schedule meetings after in the afternoon.

Now for some CAD?

As a CAD manager for a bespoke furniture manufacturer, I have to balance many tasks. I am required to bill at least 50% of my time to projects. Of the remainder, about 25% is un-billable time (Holidays, lunch breaks e.t.c). On paper this gives 25% of my time left for CAD management tasks.

In practice the needs of the projects always come first. I’m currently the CAD resource for two project teams. The drawing work comes in clumps, it is always feast or famine.

I keep a strategy plan to keep on track with CAD management tasks. It encourages me to find time to keep the CAD management side of my job moving.

In the last two years we have replaced all our workstations, sourced a new supplier for paper and consumables, written standards for drawing, part modelling and CNC cut sheets and created content for our 2D and 3D libraries. We are now on V.5 of our company’s AutoCAD tool palettes, which are deployed on everyone’s machine – not just the CAD designers.

I am currently bringing on two new designers who haven’t used CAD before. We have a weekly half hour session, with ad-hoc support when they get stuck. I get a fair amount of support calls during a typical day. I can deal with most of them, occasionally I need to research the answer (i.e. Tweet @AutodeskHelp!). Every questions is a candidate for a future training session!

I love the start of new projects. So much potential, this time it will be perfect! I am currently the only one who can set up a sheet set with AutoCAD and Vault. I need to fix this so that I don’t become a blocker to new projects starting well.

All of these tasks have been planned, with budgets and timelines agreed before executing. No hour is spent at my company without it contributing to the bottom line!

This week our CAD vendor is coming up to help us deploy AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor Vault 2015 across the company. We’ve scheduled time for every install and set up alternative machines for people to use to minimize downtime. I hope that I won’t have to do much to keep this on track, I have a deadline to issue drawings looming on Friday.

Now for some CAD

Once I am happy that all niggling tasks and potential interruptions are dealt with I allow myself to enjoy some CAD time.

Creating a model or a drawing is an oasis of calm amongst a hectic schedule. I can concentrate and focus all my energy on one thing. It’s a familiar process. I’m very comfortable and I hum to myself as I lay down the work.

The rolling wave

I’ve had my fun. The waves keep rolling in. I can’t take my eyes of the bigger picture. My job isn’t simply to process the work, My job is to find ways of processing it quicker.

I have a regular weekly meeting with the CAD experts from the other project teams. It’s our time to work ON the business (rather than IN it). We examine our process. Are we delivering to our customers? (Internal and external). Are we double handling work with our colleagues? If we didn’t do a task at all, who would it effect? This week the head of our installations team visited our meeting to remind us of the dimensions they need for marking out on site.

I also represent the CAD experts when the other departments meet. Weaving networks, looking for the bigger picture. How does our process link into the other departments? Where is the waste? What could we eliminate? What could we optimise? What can we automate?

Why isn’t our process better already? What is stopping people? How do we, as managers, empower people to improve their own workflow?

Time to change gears

I try not to work late. the boys are young and go to bed early. I like to get back in time to read a bed time story. My youngest is learning to read. Listening to him read is like magic.

My boys put things into perspective. I am not a Doctor or a rocket scientist. My work won’t change the world. But I am a Dad. It’s a heavy responsibility, and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

I don’t know why I do it

After the boys are in bed, my wife and I do our chores – washing up, making pack lunches sorting clothes and uniforms for the next day.

When I’m all done I like to relax by firing up my laptop and DOING MORE CAD. I know, I know, it’s not healthy…

Over to you

This post has been the day in the life of a CAD dork. How about you? What does a typical day look like in your CAD office?

Leave a comment, or tweet with the hashtag  #CADdork :D

Find out what the other participants in #CADdork day have been up to!

Todd Shackelford – BIM Manager
Robert Green – Consultant / Trainer
Mark Kiker – Director of Information Technology 
Dean Saadallah – Associate Principal 
Luciana Klein – Consultant 
Brian Benton – Senior Engineering Technician 
Robin Capper – Retail Design Manager 
Melanie Perry – Sr. Facilities Management Systems Specialist
Thomas Rambach – Mechanical Designer


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