The Benefit of the CSWP – Part 2 with Mike Puckett

A lot of traffic to 3DEngr comes from people looking for information on the CSWP exam. It has been some time since I personally took the exam so I though it best to speak with a professional and keep things up to date. Mike Puckett, one of the Certification Specialists for Solidworks Corp. helped provide some insight.

In Part one of the conversation Mike spoke about updating the exam to keep it relevant and the role the CSWP has played in the Solidworks community. In addition to when the tests are put out I am constantly questioning who is using them and why. Mike was able to elaborate on when people first get turned on to the CSWP, what Solidworks is doing to help them and how it can be used to enhance a resume.

Mike: We see a lot of people who just got laid off. And we’ll send them a student edition they can use for 6 months and give them a test to take for free. With the CSWE we like to say, pay to take it the first time… really challenge yourself. If someone makes honest mistakes that are not at an expert level, we can give them a free re-test, but we’ll make them wait the 6 months.

3DEngr: So what is the certification, CSWP and CSWE, really used for?
Mike: It is changing all the time. Because of the economy we see many people using this as a resume enhancer. We have people writing in saying “I was just hired and the only reason was the CSWP”. Others had interviewers ask them what it was because they don’t know- and some people use that as an opportunity to explain what it is. There are others who are using it to stay at companies. The power users, that always want to excel. We also have instances of people testing 50 employees and we feedback the results and the reseller can go in and build 3 days of training around this.

CSWA is huge in education. When you’re a student, any certificate is helpful. They love that they can take a course over 1 semester and at the end will have a certification from the company that builds that software.

We have a program where Your school buys solidworks. If you’re on subscription we give a whole syllabus. You can teach a class in solidworks and it includes a free CSWA testing session. The teachers don’t have to write a final exam or anything. The education market drives sales down the road. Part of the big success of Solidworks has been seeding in the education market.

More details of the program are found on the Solidworks Education website.

3DEngr: I’ve seen 7th graders posting about using this in projects. How young does it go?
Mike: It’s its not uncommon for 7th and 8th grade students to be exposed to solidworks in school. Not on the scale of universities of course. High School is probably the biggest area though, we’re starting to sign up high schools that are using the whole program.

3DEngr: I wish I had more experience with it earlier.

Mike: I wish it would have been around when I was in school, it was a game changer… We saw drafting tables when I was in high school.

3DEngr: Do you have a lot of VARs teaching for the CSWP, or are they focusing on other training with certification as a secondary.

Mike: I think it’s weird for the VARs, they used to own the delivery before we put it online. They don’t promote it as much if they don’t get anything out of it. But the ones who are trying to do everything possible. They’re trying to use it to sell subscriptions. We offer free exams to subscription customers. The vars can set up exams for a company, see where they are strong or weak and then develop some custom training. They’re growing accustomed to the certification, but most of them are busy selling software and helping customers.

3DEngr: What about income from certifications. Is this helping Solidworks bottom line? You charge a nominal fee, but is it a revenue driver?
Mike: None of us are getting rich selling exams. It doesn’t even come close to covering the salaries of the 4 of us (on the certification team). Our group falls under post sales and customer service. We’re focused on serving our customers, so we don’t have to focus on sales goals. We look at that information, but VERY lightly. We’ll look at it like “wow look at how many exams we sold” but what we try to do is look at milestones when we get to 50k or 75k exams. We focus on the delivery of the content to the customers, the Solidworks mantra is if you have a good product to sell or give away people will take it.

This seems like a great mantra, but Mike also noted that growth for Solidworks was coming from developing markets. This meant I had to ask about people how much people “take”
3DEngr: What about Piracy?
Mike: Solidworks has an interesting policy for piracy. The team that leads the group. They offer them a 6 month free license before pursuing any legal options. This is more beneficial for Solidworks as it allows them to maximize sales even turning pirated customers into paying customers.

Check out the rest of my talk with Mike:

Part 1: The growth of the Certified Solidworks Professional certification.
Part 3: The New CSWE Event at Solidworks World 2013 in Orlando

Thanks to Mike Puckett for his time and insight!

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