SolidWorks hasn’t issued any statement about the staff changes that took place in the company last week, but the news is traveling so fast in Twitter-sphere and blog-land that a press release might be a moot point at this point.
As the company gets ready to launch SolidWorks 2012 (now in pre-release code), Jon Hirschtick, the company’s cofounder and former CEO, resigned from the board. He announced his decision to employees by email, followed by an update on Twitter: “Today [October 4] was my last day at SolidWorks and [Dassault Systemes]. A tough decision for me but one I feel is right,” he wrote.
Hirschtick, an MIT graduate, was among the visionaries who believed in and pioneered Windows-based CAD in the early 90s. At the time, the use of 3D modeling technology was largely confined to expensive hardware and mainframes. After serving as CEO, he continued to influence the company’s technology development, culture, and vision as a member of the executive board. For many loyal users, Hirschtick’s down-to-earth, approachable character was the personification of SolidWorks.
Hirschtick’s departure coincided with that of Austin O’Malley, one of the original developers of SolidWorks (dating back to version 95) who become executive VP of R&D. O’Malley shepherded the company through eight major product releases. The post vacated by O’Malley will be filled by Gian Paolo Bassi, founder and CTO of RIWEBB. Bassi’s past roles included VP and CTO of ImpactXoft, director of think3, and program manager at Computervision.
Kristen Wilson, SolidWorks public relations manager, clarified that Hirschtick’s resignation and O’Malley’s departure were “completely unrelated.” Wilson noted, “We were fortunate that [Hirschtick] stuck around for much longer than most founders typically do.”
No matter the cause, the sudden and simultaneous departure of two SolidWorks veterans is bound to fuel speculations about the company’s new direction and culture. As the new captain charting the company’s course, O’Malley’s successor Bassi will have to negotiate between loyal users’ proud legacy and proficiency in parametric CAD, and parent company Dassault Systemes’ desire to explore cloud-hosted data sharing, social media-powered collaboration, mobile apps, and other emerging trends.
Q&A with SolidWorks’ incoming exec VP of R&D, Gian Paolo Bassi
Responding to questions submitted via email, Bassi offered some clues to how he would reshape SolidWorks:
Question: When do you officially come on board? What is your plan for the transition from Austin O’Malley?
Answer: I officially came on board on October 7th. I have spent time with Austin O’Malley and recognize the SolidWorks R&D group has a clear vision and strong management team that Austin helped to establish. They will continue to deliver an exceptional user experience for our customers.
Q: What is your vision for SolidWorks for the near future and for long term?
A: My vision is to provide a solution with more performance and modeling flexibility and to elevate the design process to be more conceptual. Models need have more freedom in the way they are designed, modified, and behave. I will bring hybrid methodologies beyond geometric parameters to functional design.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important technology trends reshaping the future of engineering and design software? Mobile computing? Cloud computing? The resurgence of Mac? Sustainability? Social media-driven collaboration? Something else not listed here?
A: I think the biggest trend is availability of massive computational and data transmission capabilities. Everything else is enabled by such technological advances. For example, we couldn’t have cloud computing without scalable access to computing power and IBM’s Watson is also made possible by these capabilities.
Q: What is your personal philosophy on technology?
A: To think outside the box and stay open to any wonder. One needs to keep looking around without preconceptions. Your mental structure can limit you.