The ultimate rookie’s survival guide to Autodesk University

The Ultimate Rookies Guide to AU art work Twibbon

Cadaroo sporting an #AU2014 Twibbon

A University? Just for CAD? I know – it sounds crazy, but it is a real thing! (Kinda).

Autodesk University is a conference for people who use Autodesk’s Computer aided design software.

The conference was born out of a collaborative event originally organised by AUGI, and it has now grown into the largest event of it’s kind in the world. in 2013 more than 9000 people attended – it’s kind of a big deal ;)

AU is all about learning new things, connecting with other CAD users and exploring new technology. There are so many classes for you to attend at AU, you will be disappointed the conference isn’t TWO weeks long ;)

Outside the classes there are opportunities to find out about the latest technology and network with other CAD users. And the event is held in Las Vegas, so there is – you know – drinking and gambling and stuff.

It’s my first time at Autodesk University. What advice can you give me?

It’s your first time at AU? Boy – I’m jealous. Your going to have a ball. You’ll learn so much about your CAD products that it’ll be leaking out of your ears for weeks!

My first piece of advice is to attend the Freshman orientation session.  You’ll meet plenty of other people who are attending for the first time, and you’ll be paired with a Mentor who will help you out if you get stuck (Not if you get stuck in jail for trying to scale the treasure island boat – this is Vegas).

Secondly – say ‘yes’! There are plenty of events going on around the periphery of AU. Volunteer to try out some new software, take in an Innovation forum or head down to the exhibition hall to see the latest tech on show.

Finally stay hydrated. The dry Nevada climate, coupled with the casino smokers and air conditioning will dry you out quicker than a shake of a rattler tail.

Drink plenty of water (not coffee and sodas) and remember that every beer will hit you about double, so drink plenty of water way into the evening as well.

Here’s Cadaroo with some more tips ;)The Ultimate Rookies Guide to AU

1. Prep your tech

Before you leave for AU, prep your smart phone with the AU app. This is your show guide, map, agenda and grapevine for the conference. I also recommend Twitter and Foursquare for keeping up with your buddy’s.

Wifi is free in the hotel and conference area, but you may not get coverage when you are between the two. Don’t forget to take your charger/batteries/SD cards e.t.c for your phone, camera and other gadgets – including an adapter if you’re coming from overseas.

For more handy tech tips for AU – check out the Geeks Gadget Guide to AU from the CAD Geek himself, Donnie Gladfelter.

2. Look after your badge – and check out those Ribbons

Your conference badge is your passport to all things AU. You’ll need it to check into your classes, and you will be able to use it to enter competitions and claim prizes on the show floor. DON’T loose it!

You’ll notice that some people have ribbons stuck to their conference badge. These Ribbons show the person’s various allegiances. Look out for people who are sporting a an AUGI, Autodesk Expert Elite or Autodesk Bloggers badge.  They are all lovely people who will be happy to help you.

Also keep your eyes peeled for people in white coats. These are Autodesk employees and they are charged with answering your CAD related questions – so think up a doozy!

 3. Old school backup

Paul Munford in Las vegasThere is a lot to take in at AU – so write it down! I know, I know. You are a tech savvy bunch. I’m sure that you will be dictating your class notes into Siri, and have them transcribed and backed up on Evernote before you get back to the office…

But – just in case – take a notebook and pencil. It won’t run out of charge. It boots instantly and you can drop it and it still works!

I also recommend that you pick up a paper copy of the hotel and conference area maps – for the same reason.

You don’t need to remember every little thing about what you’ve learned at AU. You just need to remember what is possible – you can look up the facts later!

4. Wear comfortable shoes

Wear comfortable shoes, wear comfortable shoes, wear comfortable shoes.

It’s possible  to walk a full mile to get from your hotel room to the conference – a full mile, without leaving the conference hotel. And that’s just to get to your class!

You will do a lot of walking (and a lot of sitting, but mostly a lot of walking). Don’t wear flip-flops. You have been warned.

5. Dress code – smart casual

The only people at AU who wear suits are the people who want to sell you something!

Leave the tie at the office. Dress comfortably (remember all that  sitting and walking), but pack shiny shoes, a shirt with a collar and a jacket if you want to go out anywhere posh in the evening.

Mark Kiker has more tips for Attending AU here.

6. Tote a big, empty bag

AU is a great place to pick up swag. A big bag is great for your ill-gotten gains. But remember, your hotel room could easily be a mile away. You may not be able to pop back up to your room for anything that you’ve forgotten.

Having said that, whatever you have with you when you leave your hotel room will be with you all day, so pack light. Don’t take your laptop if you have a tablet PC. Don’t take your tablet if you can make do with your phone.

Some useful things to have with you include water, lip balm, breath mints, business cards, a pencil and paper,  antibacterial hand wipes, your phone charger & adapter plug and a snack.

I also recommend that you keep band aids (for blisters), headache tablets, vitamin C and some of those fizzy hangover cure sachets in your hotel room (just for emergencies!).

Curt Moreno has some great advice for what to take (and what not to take) in his Beginner’s Guide to AU.

This is what a sit down breakfast for 9000 AU attendees looks like!

This is what a sit down breakfast for 9000 AU attendees looks like!

7. Behavior

Everyone is at AU because they have an interest in CAD. Everyone is there to have a good time, and some people can do both at once!

Take plenty of business cards, and say hi to everyone. Say hi to the person you sit next to at breakfast. Say hi to the person you sit next to in class. Say hi to the person you are standing next to in the queue for the gents.

Everyone at Autodesk University can offer you a great tip or insight into how you could use your CAD software more productively. Don’t forget to keep in touch with the people you meet after AU. These are the people that you will be able to turn too for CAD solutions long after the magic of AU fades…

Ok – is someone being a little over friendly? Ladies – get some great advice from Melanie Stone Perry on the Mistress of the Dorkness blog.

8. When it all gets too much

Go outside! This is harder than it sounds. Resort hotels in Las Vegas are built to make it hard to leave. You can find my secret path to fresh air at the Mandalay bay hotel here. Try and get some fresh air at least once a day. You will appreciate it it I assure you!


Coming to AU this year? Say hello @Cadsetterout or leave a comment :D


3 Responses to “The ultimate rookie’s survival guide to Autodesk University

  • Here’s a few great tips from Robert Green’s CAD Manager’s Facebook group:

    Todd Schuler
    ‘Bring lots of business cards and don’t be shy. Take every opportunity to meet people. You never know what that hand shake or business card will get you. Next: Follow up after AU send an email to those that you met and even drop a message to your instructors. NETWORK! There are people that I network with all year via email and see each year at AU.’

    R.k. McSwain
    ‘Great post. It’s always over before you know it. The one thing I would add is start prepping for the next AU in the 1Q of next year. Asking for the time off sounds a lot better in March than it does last minute in September’

    Robert Finch
    ‘Good shoes and spare socks. Fresh socks for the afternoon greatly improve my mental focus’

    Shawn Foster
    ‘Besides the ones listed….I would suggest
    1) get outside once a day. Get some real air. The pumped in aircon gets nasty and stale.
    2) Some may think this is a waste as you are paying to be there, but I try to schedule down time, and go decompress during the middle of the day. It helps for the evening. Especially if you have more than a 2 hours time difference change’

    Robert Green
    ‘Don’t drink too much the first day! I see way too many people hungover on Tuesday mornings!’

    Thanks very much to everyone for there great contributions :)

  • 9. Prepare for it like you would for a marathon. It is both very mentally as well as physically exhausting, and you’re tempted not to get enough sleep, stay up talking with friends into the early hours of the day. I have found that a quick 20-30 minute workout early each morning makes a big difference to make you stay alert longer.