From Splitting Wood to Knowledge Executive

If you're an engineer in the realm of hydraulic modeling and design and you use Bentley software, you may know me from my interactions on the Hydraulics and Hydrology Community. I've enjoyed nearly a decade of helping other users in their success with our water modeling products and ultimately at sustaining infrastructure. With over 1700 forum posts going back to 2008 and over 10,000 support incidents handled, you might assume my previous job was a hydraulic modeler, site design engineer or perhaps a CAD Administrator.

Not quite. Picture this - late November of 2005 in New England, USA. It's 8 AM and where am I? Am I amongst the quiet tapping of keyboards, the glow of fluorescent lights, the murmur of phone conversations? No, I'm out in the woods, icy leaves crunching beneath my feet, breath visible in the 20 degree (F) late autumn morning air as I trudge up a hill. With paper bag lunch in hand, I'm ready to be immersed in the sounds of heavy machinery. I had joined my friend's father's tree service company. My day consisted of loading logs into a wood splitter, hauling the remains of downed tree trunks, shoving branches into an industrial wood chipper, and so forth.

Sure, having recently graduated with my degree in Computer Information Systems, this was a bit of a compromise and understandably temporary, but I quite enjoyed it.  On top of the endorphin rush from getting a good workout each day, each customer site presented a new and interesting situation and there was a feeling of satisfaction after completing each task.

This only lasted a few months. After joining Bentley Systems, I quickly found that the role of Technical Support Engineer kept me engaged in a similar way. Each incident from a user (a question or a problem) presented a new and interesting challenge and that same feeling of satisfaction upon resolution. Being able to figure out challenging engineering problems and hear the appreciation from the user was (and still is) a major driver for me to hone my skills and achieve a deeper and deeper level of knowledge.

My workstation as a Technical Support Engineer


My lack of engineering background didn't scare me away from the many new things I had to learn in the realm of hydraulics and hydrology. My father was an engineer and I had some interest in the subject. That addicting sense of accomplishment from solving a user's puzzle question kept me going, eventually leading to Bentley Communities.

When Bentley Communities was launched around 2008, it wasn't long before I started contributing there as well. If I saw a user's question and I knew I could contribute (if not answer it quickly), I pressed that shiny red button. Today as a manager of the same H&H technical support team, I still have the same desire to help out where I can, but I also work to motivate the rest of my team to also place emphasis on our growing Community.

I have also always been a big believer in the importance of documenting knowledge. Now, I'd like to think I still have a decent enough memory, but let's be honest, it's impossible to remember every answer, every solution and every facet of our products. I've always found that the mere act of writing something down gave me a much better chance of remembering it later, or more importantly, remembering that I had written *something* about that. So, before the age of Bentley Communities, I made it my personal mission to document as many knowledgebase articles as I could. When Communities came along, I seeded our Wiki with several articles on some popular topics. (Some examples of early articles) This is now the Support Solution section of the community and includes most of the relevant content from our legacy Knowledgebase.

Documenting the solution to problems and answers to questions presents a major efficiency benefit both to our users as well as the technical support team. Users of the software can search for and find answers without having to contact technical support. When questions do come to the Support team, that knowledge can similarly be harnessed and reused, often preventing unnecessary delays from having to research something that someone else had already spent time on.

Answers to questions and solutions to problems are one thing, but did you know that the H&H Community Wiki also has a library of articles detailing the changes and new features introduced with each major product release for the past five years? Even if you don’t currently have any questions about your H&H product, reading these articles can help you make the best use of your investment or help you decide if it’s time to upgrade. You can find links to these “What’s new?” articles from the main index here (scroll down to the product of interest).

This years-long culture of documenting knowledge has led us to a fairly mature collection of content. Very often I am asked to help with something and a ghost of a memory pops in my head, telling me "Check the wiki! It's documented there!". More often than not, this intuition proves true and low and behold, the information is right there in a Support Solution article.

So, I suppose this focus on knowledge has in part led me to the seemingly appropriate title of Knowledge Executive, bestowed upon me this year. Things have certainly come a long way since splitting logs!

If I had continued doing tree work, maybe I would have created a database of strategies for taking down a tree depending on its species, height, health and proximity to buildings and power lines?