CAD Leadership - Part 3 - Career Stages
“Strategies for Career Management” by Dalton and Thompson
We go through many career stages as we advance in our chosen
field. They can be categorized in many ways. I have
adapted one such definition as it might apply to CAD.
Stage I –
Depending on Others – CAD Drafter
The first stage in your career. You are fresh and most
likely young. You are hungry for knowledge and seek out
tech tips from those around you. You absorb information
quickly and start reading books and talked to anyone you could
find. You searched the web for tricks and help files.
You may be hot on the hardware, smooth with the software, quick,
sharp, dedicated and eager, but you are dependant upon others to
get information. As you near the end of this stage you are
doing a lot more independent research and less asking others
around you. You begin asking fewer questions and start to
provide answers to others.
Stage II –
Independent Contributor – CAD Super User
You press yourself ahead and others have determined that you are
a source for information about using the software. You now
begin to gather others around you as you provide short demos of
tools that you have mastered. You have influence over some
of the areas of CAD Standards development and methods of CAD
production in your department or project team. You suggest
new software tools and hardware needs. You help out with
training of new users.
more than before you have started to contribute to the CAD
environment of the firm. You may be part of a committee
that decides CAD issues and sets up training. You may have
started programming and developing tools of your own.
Learning LISP or VBA to create the small tools that you need to
get the job done. Others may desire to use your creations
and they soon become standard tools. You create menus and
scripts or decide which shareware or software to purchase.
You are now considered a "super user" or "power user" by others
and possibly officially. If you are not part of the CAD
Support staff, you may be asked to make a career shift and hire
onto the team. You may get a new job actually supporting
others as part of your job description.
Stage III –
Contributing thru Others – CAD Manager
You now have the title of CAD Manager or CAD Coordinator or CAD
Supervisor. You may still be involved in production, but
spend more time making sure that the office CAD flow is working
effectively. This is the stage that allows you to impact
the company by overseeing such things as the CAD Standard,
purchasing software and hardware, training, vendor negotiations,
budgets, productivity and more. You spend more time
programming and developing. You interact with Project
Manager to prep for CAD work on new projects.
You no longer are hands on CAD production. You may not
actually create any CAD design files at all now. You do
use CAD, but it is mostly in a support role. You create
project border files and customize content for project use.
You have a solid CAD Standard is place and spend a lot of time
policing the users for compliance.
As you progress in this position, you now have staff under you
(or not) and you have made the transition to management.
You now get things done through other people. Mostly this
is done by assigning tasks and managing the work efforts of
others. You devise plans for new software rollout and
others complete the individual tasks. It is difficult for
you to not be so hands on, since your hands-on skills are what
got you here.
Stage IV –
Leading thru Vision – CAD Leader
The final, and I think, prime place for you to be. You
have done this for so many years you are now a leader of others
and not just a Manager. Now you inspire others on to great
things. You still perform all of the duties of Manager,
since that is what your expected (and paid) to do.
But now you think differently, you are motivating others to
think globally about CAD. How it is pivotal to the
operations of the company. How it is interwoven into the
fabric of your design process. If CAD is ignored it cost
money and reduces the project bottom line. Ignoring CAD
may include not setting up for a new project, not reviewing
contracts for CAD catchwords that may require additional
You lead others by casting a vision and telling the story of how
CAD should work and what is important to the proper use of the
tool. You speak in conceptual terms and coach others to
develop the step by step plans of making things happen.
You spend more time in mentoring others than you have before.
You interact with upper management when creating a CAD budget.
You are now planning for CAD expansions looking 1-3 years ahead.
You have selected the next tool to buy before you have the
dollars to buy it. You are creating teams of people to
help get the job done. CAD Committees, internal user
groups, Standards teams, you are in the team building mode.
Not that you could not do it alone, but by creating teams of
people, you extend your influence by interacting with them
consistently. You may even be involved in outside user
groups and teaching events.
This is where you want to be. A Leader. It does not
really matter what your title is, how big your company is, or
even if you are directly involved with CAD Support. By
becoming a leader, you are having maximum impact on your firm
and the industry at large.