If you stroll by Ian Baxter’s office, a life-size Austin Powers cut-out peers out through the window, the blue leisure suit and the toothy grin awaiting anyone rounding the corner. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a red ”Please Take A Number” ticket dispenser, similar to one you might use in the deli line at your local market (his team bought it for him). Tucked behind his desk is a poster in a shade of green you cannot miss reading “Restez Calmes Et Parlez Francais” (Keep Calm and Speak French). When you talk to Ian, this cheeky sense of humor carries through during conversations both professional and personal, all smiles with some witty humor mixed in. At the end of the day his personality parallels the message he likes to send; Ian wants to make engineering cool and fun.
Ian was introduced to the complexities of problem solving and basic engineering skills through his family at an early age. His father worked at the Cambridge University Engineering Lab as an electrical engineer, working with the earliest pieces of computer technology. Ian’s grandfather was a self-taught engineer. As a boy, Ian would help his grandfather build precision working models of steam engines on the lathe and milling machine he had in his workshop. All of those models were built with one hand, as his grandfather had lost the use of his right arm in an accident. This didn’t stop him from doing the things he loved–he simply found solutions for the issues, including having the ability to drive a right hand drive vehicle with a stick shift. Ian looked his family and found inspiration in both their work ethics and their collective love for problem solving.
Ian’s life changed when he started at a company that worked closely with the SolidWorks developers during the software’s earliest stages. Working with the incredibly talented SolidWorks folks, he quickly recognized the huge potential SolidWorks had to change the engineering and design industry. When the opportunity arose, he moved to the US in October, 1996 to join the SolidWorks team as a Technical Support Engineer. He described it as “…coming on board as employee number seventy something, when the company meetings were still held in the training room.” His job would be to assist resellers with issues they could not solve for customers on their own.
At this time SolidWorks was in its infancy. Many of the issues that the resellers and SolidWorks support team dealt with were ones that could be easily remedied by the users if they had access to more information. Ian’s team recognized this, and with the engineers’ eagerness to search search for solutions for themselves first, they started to develop a database of questions and answers that customers could access on their own 24×7.
Today this is called the Knowledge Base, which is accessible to all subscription customers through the Customer Portal and now My.SolidWorks.com. As SolidWorks has evolved over the years, the investment in the Knowledge Base has continued to grow, and it’s now available in 15 languages. What was once an empty space is now an expansive library of knowledge built by Ian and his team for SolidWorks customers.
Ian’s work has helped build the cult following that is the SolidWorks user community. In talking with him, he could not stop talking about SolidWorks World and the incredible experience it is. He explained that, even after attending 15 SolidWorks World events, it never gets old seeing so many engineers so excited over a tool. He is driven to make sure that if you’re using SolidWorks, you’re going to have the best possible user experience you can imagine, including both with software and services.