One of the best aspects of SolidWorks World every year is the sense of community one feels. It starts in the airport when a bunch of people pile onto the plane and start up conversations based on a backpack or shirt from a prior event. Keeps going on the flight as those conversations span rows and aisles, while people compare experiences and share expertise. Once we arrive at the conference location, you can almost feel people’s excitement to be with people like them, part of a community. They may work alone in their companies, but here, for a week, they’re part of the majority.

After SolidWorks World this year I did something else that’s very community: I went to a  quick high school reunion. The first in 30 years. Why? Because one of my classmates is now a VIP in Washington DC, and this was our chance to tell her how proud we are of her. She works in a capacity that doesn’t let me actually tell you anything about our visit, but I think I can share this photo of my classmates, as we awaited her arrival:


In all, it was an intense round of community. And do you know what, it was AWESOME! Here’s what I learned:

  • Do it. Even if you’re not a joiner, go. Even if you don’t think you have anything to offer (you’re dead wrong, you do), go. Even if you didn’t organize it, go. Trust me. It’s very rarely not worth the effort and often you get out far more than you put in.
  • We learned at SolidWorks World how many people appreciated the contributions of SWUGN leader Wayne Tiffany, who passed away last year. His sons heard from many people how much their father meant to them. From the stories they told, it sounded as though a lot people valued his expertise, but also his ability to make someone feel not-stupid for asking a question. We all can do that!
  • The corollary, of course, is telling people that you are grateful for their help while they’re still around to hear it in person. Show appreciation.
  • Lurking is OK. Go and hang on the periphery until you’re comfortable interacting. Not creepily, mind you, but shyly.
  • Every group needs leaders and followers. As my high school BFF Grace said last week, sometimes the most important contributions are made by people who don’t argue about every little thing. [Imagine 70 people trying to turn those rows of chairs into one big semicircle. Definitely needed leaders and followers to get that done quickly.]
  • Your expertise may not be what you think it is. From talking to SWUGN participants, so much is learned in conversations — in “I never thought about it that way” moments — that you don’t need to be an expert to help someone.

OK. That’s probably enough since you’ve undoubtedly gotten the point: Communities are a valuable way of connecting, helping, and  sharing. For more information on the SolidWorks User Group Network (aka SWUGN), go here. For the AutoCAD community, sponsored by Autodesk, go here. The brand-new Solid Edge Social Community can be found here, on the SolidDNA website (with a tip of the hat to There are lots more user groups out there; a bit of Googling will help you find yours if I didn’t list it. Now walk away from the computer and interact with some human beings!