In 2008, we experienced an economic freefall that had not been seen since the Great Depression. Like many industries, architecture was hit pretty hard. Upon graduating with my master’s degree in architecture in 2008 I found myself in a good situation; I had lined up a job before the true impacts of the Great Recession ever gripped the firm’s management. They had a contracted backlog that spanned 2 years and money flowed freely, so I could attend Autodesk University.
AU 2008 was my first introduction to a professional conference experience. I got out of my comfortable desk and became a rookie AU attendee. I was blown away by the more than 5,000 multi-industry professionals attending sessions. I even had the chance to meet superstars like Burt Rutan and Daniel Simon at sessions that weren’t in my core curriculum. That’s 1 thing about AU that makes it great and where I discovered how to “hybrid learn” about other processes. Prior to AU, too often the dogmas of architecture led me to solve problems that were already solved in a specific way.
At AU, I saw how other professionals tackled challenges and thought about how I could apply their solutions to my work. I made a permanent mental note that day: change up your routine how you see fit, or your routine will change you without your consent.
My advice for other rookie AU attendees is to allow time to take in the experience and arrive a day early. There are thousands of people arriving for this event. Imagine the logjam at the hotel and conference check-in lines and you’ll instantly know why the extra hotel night is worth it. You don’t want to risk wasting an extra hour in line to miss a single session!
After having my mind blown during the first 2 days of learning at AU, I took a lot of notes and tried some of the lessons out on my laptop. It was as if my creativity had become turbocharged. I simply didn’t know what I was missing because I wasn’t aware of the world beyond my desk. I was the perfect age at the perfect time in my life to expand my skill set tenfold.
Little was I aware how much I would need those new skills as economic conditions worsened. The Great Recession had moved a little too fast for the firm where I worked and they subsequently folded. Everything turned out okay, right? The reality is I didn’t land a job for many months nor make the cut for AU 2011 or 2012; however, the skills I had acquired at AU 2008 were enough for me to make ends meet by freelancing and to submit a proposal to speak at AU.
Now, nearly 10 years later, what’s the plus delta? Sometimes it’s not about training yourself on a software. If that’s why you attend AU, great, you will go home a little smarter. You should also attend because you can discover unexpected things about the way you learn or the processes you use. You will meet interesting people who show you that there is another way that might be fundamentally different to how you approach things that will make you better.
Lastly, you should attend AU because you want to share your knowledge. Just like me, you will find yourself facing challenges that you will have to overcome. It took the power of only 1 year of attending AU for me to realize I could mix awareness, creativity, and a passion for learning to become something more.
Welcome to Autodesk University.
Ryan Cameron is a technology enthusiast and designer who loves all things architecture and engineering. Check out his AU classes: