Autodesk’s First Ever Maker CEO: Carl Bass

Autodesk’s First Ever Maker CEO: Carl Bass

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Carl Bass Ex-CEO AutodeskDisclaimers first: 1. This is not a career eulogy, he’s just spending time with robots. 2. No, I don’t have a selfie with Carl Bass. 3. Carl Bass follows me on twitter (you saw what I did there?)

Now, let’s get to the post.

I don’t know Carl personally. I have exchanged a few emails, I have seen Carl interact with customers and I have seen/read Carl’s: vision, and it being executed.

I am sad that he has to move away from Autodesk. I was at least 5 layers removed/away from Carl. But, I feel like I know him well.

This post is about what I observed, appreciated and learned from Autodesk’s Ex-CEO, Carl Bass.

So, here goes, not in any particular order:

Always Be Interacting

It was 2011, in Vegas airport, after 5 days of mind-blowing AU events, I was tired, jetlagged (even when I was RETURNING to Sydney), and walking around like a zombie.

In a distance, seated on many chairs, I see Autodesk customers, most of them I recognize because they are proudly sporting one or the other Autodesk giveaways (bags, t-shirts…). Stopping at each chair I see a towering Carl, asking the customer about their day, nodding at their feedback of AU/product they could be using, listening carefully, agreeing, disagreeing, making a joke, laughing, and then walking to the next chair, and repeating.

I had never seen a CEO this engaged, casual and comfortable with their customers.

Always Be Listening, Respond With Insight

This next one was in 2013, in New Delhi, India. I was invited to an Education Roundtable and Lunch, no, they didn’t need me. It was mostly by chance.

There must have been about 15 Chancellors, Deans and Vice Chancellors in the room. All of them complaining about how difficult it is to change STEM education in India, the burden of software license costs and government bureaucracy.

There, in a corner, Carl listened, silently, nodding his head, sometimes.

When it was time for lunch and he got an opportunity to speak, he picked each of their complaints and shred them to bits with his insight on (infinite) computing, economies of scale, design education and hope. HOPE, I repeat.

Always Be Courageous

Carl was stepping into the office of someone like Carol Bartz, who was always self-assured and confident. So, for him to do something that had not been done before, would have been hard (from my little experience breaking the status-quo, I know….I feel).

Five courageous things that Carl did at Autodesk, in my opinion, that is legendary:

  1. Switching on FREE for Education
  2. Stepping into hardware (and open sourcing it)
  3. Pushing into Cloud & Mobile (Collaboration, Easy access sketching & 3D, Education)
  4. Turning Autodesk Manufacturing from a design/documentation toolset into a full workflow suite
  5. Making UI uniform, multi-CAD data interoperable (I was copied on many emails where you could tell the guy is open to co-opetition)

Always Be Accessible

It was 2010, I was building a fresh set of playbooks and slides to sell Developer Programs. I saw a couple of slides with old quotes. The overall vision for having a developer community at Autodesk felt old. It didn’t lend too much value to partnering – with Cloud & Mobile first startups (that being the mission).

I reached out to Carl, asking him if he would take something I have written and sign off on it. I assumed that I should write something and feed him the vision – I knew that he would be busy, and secondly: assumed that he may not be aware of the value that we wanted to build.

His EA responded to the email. She said that he was traveling, and I should hear back from him in the next 3-4 days. It was a Sunday in Australia. I was not in a hurry.

In the next 10 minutes, I get an email from Carl. He said he understood what I was trying to do. He said what I had written was good. But, he wanted something that was his own. So, there it was about 300 words of what an Ecosystem and Partnering vision should be for Autodesk, in his words. Not mine, in a new edit.

Completely new, and with the ethos of what the program could be.

I have one more story here.

Another weekend while browsing, I chanced upon the launch of a web app called Foldify. An app to create folding of surfaces for sheet metal, origami and packaging applications – kid friendly app.

Knowing how Carl likes this kind of stuff, I forwarded it to him (many of you here know how I am about sending you links of great stuff, sometimes nice, most times annoying ;-))

I didn’t expect him to see it or reply to my email.

I was pleasantly surprised. I got 2 emails from him. The first one said, “Wow, cool!”. The second one said something about how they could improve a couple of features. He had seen my email. He had gone to the web app. He had tried it a bit. And, he had feedback for them. All for a little employee that was lazing on a weekend

I am also amazed by how much of his time he gives to kids at Maker Faires and GirlsGarage.

Always Be Making

Eating your own dog food? But, are you eating it with passion? Have you built a spa for dogs to taste that dog food? Are you making a new kind of dog (I think I’m taking this a bit too far now)?

Go to Berkeley, and watch this guy live his passions out in his workshop. And, if you haven’t seen his workflow, read this.

I have seen CEOs using a spreadsheet that the company makes, using a document manager or a piece of hardware that your company makes.

This is not using your own CRM.

Carl is a sculptor. Carl is a carpenter. Carl is a go-kart maker. This is not kool-aid drinking. This is a passion for making, creating, uplifting.

If an Autodesk Customer said Inventor was crappy, Carl knew exactly where it was crappy.

This is where I stop. As I said, I didn’t intend to write a career eulogy. This is a list of things we can all be.

Can you?

Carl, all the very best to you!

This post originally appeared on LinedIn Pulse as – Always Be That Bass

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Growth minded individual with experience of developing business, working with partners & customers – within sales and consulting groups. I have 17+ years’ experience in leading sales, marketing, customer acquisition programs, strategic alliances, partner development and user community development.

If you draw a Venn diagram of BD, Marketing, Alliances & Technology, there, that’s me.

It’s said you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practise to attain mastery, I have about 18,560 hours of building of platforms and partnerships. Drop mic?

If you have a thing, I will evangelize good design first, then I will plead you to connect it to the internet/cloud. Beg you. Like Kanye West.