Contributing Editor Lynn Allen is a Cadalyst favorite — with readers who benefit from her prolific AutoCAD advice as well as the editors who work with her. Allen’s "Circles and Lines" AutoCAD tutorials are in their 23rd year of publication, and she is the creator of Cadalyst’s popular AutoCAD video tips.
But Allen’s day job is Technical Evangelist at Autodesk, where she advocates and instructs about AutoCAD and other technologies for the CAD software giant, speaking at events worldwide and authoring Lynn Allen's Blog. She also has written three AutoCAD books.
We wanted to learn more about this well-known Autodesk personality, and Allen was happy to accommodate us.
A lot of people might not know when and how you got started with CAD and how you became what could be described as the voice of AutoCAD for Autodesk. Can you share that story?
While I was working at American Honda, I was handed a very early copy of AutoCAD (1.4) and told it would be my job to learn it and teach it to others. Embarrassingly, they were using it for flowcharts. Talk about overkill! I fell in love with the program and eventually went to work at one of the first AutoCAD Training Centers as a teacher. I went on to teach at the corporate and collegiate level — eventually joining Autodesk in its training department.
I eventually switched jobs within Autodesk to become the Worldwide User Group manager (go AUGI!) and started presenting my AutoCAD tips at user group meetings to help increase attendance. I was STUNNED at how many people would show up to hear me present. People knew me from my Cadalyst articles and my books and were anxious for more AutoCAD tips and knowledge. Remember that these were the days before the Internet — so user groups were an essential means of finding out Autodesk product information.
Eventually Autodesk changed my role to Autodesk Evangelist and began to use me as a full time presenter and advocate for their technology.
What does your job today entail, and what do you enjoy about it most? Do you see the job changing at all down the road?
Today I spend most of my time traveling and speaking at various Autodesk events worldwide. I no longer focus on AutoCAD alone — my expertise has expanded to include BIM, cloud technology, Internet of Things, 3D printing, reality capture, etc.
What do I enjoy most? The people — hands down. I love meeting our enthusiastic customers around the world.
You, arguably, interact with more AutoCAD users than anyone else on the planet. What can you tell us about this crowd? Has it changed over the years?
The AutoCAD crowd is definitely more knowledgeable on the product — and it isn’t uncommon for them to have more than one Autodesk product under their belts. They have many resources to find their AutoCAD answers but still always crave more!
How did you get started writing your blog?
I was asked by Autodesk to start my blog and actually had to be talked into it! Once I got started, though, I was addicted.
You’re also a big fan of Twitter, correct? What is it about Twitter exactly that you like? (Any interesting Twitter stories to share?)
I do love Twitter. I like that it’s so easy to write a quick post to educate people. I think it’s perfect for those of us with short attention spans. You can very quickly see the topic of a twitter post — explore more if you’re interested or simply move on to the next!
Even though I don’t really know my nearly 17,000 followers, it actually feels like I know them in a way. I just find the whole process very interesting!
What are a few lesser-known AutoCAD functions that you're particularly fond of? And why should users dig into the depths of AutoCAD?
I'm fond of any tip in AutoCAD that helps my readers get their jobs done in fewer steps. The more options you know, the more likely you're going to get your jobs done faster! A personal favorite is changing the F1 key so it does an Escape (instead of launching Help). It always drives me crazy when I hit F1 by accident and then find myself in the Help function!
Users should learn to customize AutoCAD to create a comfy design program that works just the way they like to work.
How do you decide which tips to share and which don’t make the cut?
AutoCAD is used in so many different ways and in so many different industries. I often share even the most obscure tips because I believe that someone out there will benefit from them.
It seems there’s never a shortage of interesting developments at Autodesk. What are you particularly excited about lately?
I'm excited about the cloud — Autodesk A360 project-collaboration software — and the power that will bring to the design process. I am also very excited to see how 3D printing will develop and am anticipating the many steps forward we should progress as a result. I’m especially passionate about the future of bio-printing.
Why is it especially important that CAD engineers and offices stay as organized and efficient as possible?
A good design is an organized one and lends itself more to changes later on. And with project timelines getting shorter and shorter, efficiency will be the key to maintaining accounts. As you wrap in BIM [building information modeling] and digital prototyping, design projects can have many different pieces, and organization is essential.
Any parting words of advice for AutoCAD users? And where will you be appearing next?
You can check out my next speaking gig on my blog.
As for advice for AutoCAD users? Don’t get stuck using AutoCAD the exact same way every day. You might be working harder than you need to – always be willing to try other techniques, such as the ones you find on Cadalyst.com.