AU 2023 Day 1: General Session Highlights and Top Construction Sessions

au 2023 day 1

Autodesk University (AU) is back at the Entertainment Capital of the World: Las Vegas. Day 1 has already lived up to the hype with thought-provoking sessions, including an engaging General Session led by Autodesk’s CEO, Andrew Anagnost.

This year, Andrew covered important topics that affect your everyday work, including how the future of work is shifting rapidly, the highly anticipated effects of AI on Design & Make, and the disruption that comes with these changes that will ultimately make your work life more efficient. 

Couldn’t come in person? Check out the General Session on demand here. 

Don’t forget to check out the Digital Builder podcast where you can listen to the AU Day 1 recap episode. 

You can also watch highlights from Day 1 from attendee Ariel Castillo, Innovation Director at Miller-Davis Company:

General Session Highlights

Andrew began this year’s General Session by addressing rapid changes within the workplace, how we are all working to prepare and navigate these changes, and the mile-high list of challenges we are already facing. Regardless of what field you work in, your field is more than likely changing around you. 

“Amidst all this disruption, one thing is clear. Though the uncertainty we’re all facing is accelerating, so is the technology available to us.”

Andrew goes on by discussing how AI is no longer a vision of the future but a reality in which we can now see real progress. The possibilities of AI are endless, and although it may have been unclear until now as to what it could achieve, we are all starting to believe that AI can truly transform the design and make landscape. 

“We are on the cusp of a new era. Technology is going to change the tools you use, but it will also disrupt the way you use them. Ignore the disruption and you risk getting left behind because the world is moving fast.” 

Andrew transitions by explaining how automating the non-creative work on a team can bring productivity up, and so being able to automate will be crucial in making you more agile and focused on creativity. This led him to announce the release of Autodesk AI. 

Learn more about Autodesk AI for construction in this blog post.

“You’re going to see how our AI-powered Design & Make Platform is connecting design and make from design to manufacturing, from script to screen, from concept to construction, and beyond. Enabling collaboration across the entire project lifecycle,” said Andrew. 

Want to see everything discussed during General Session Day 1? Watch on demand. 

Can’t Miss Sessions of AU Day 1

The General Session was only one of many informative sessions and Theater Talks that took place today. From Improving your workflows to learning how to become more inclusive with the people you work with, here are some of the top sessions that took place today. 

Constructing the Future Today: Tips to Improve and Streamline Your Projects

Lead by Fope Bademosi, Construction Researcher, Autodesk and Magdalena Kowalczyk, Senior Research Engineer, Autodesk, this session dove into important topics such as workforce adaptation, lack of standardization, and so much more. Joined by panelists Jami Cresser-Brown, Creative Technologies Director, Bryden Wood Tech LTD, Kelly Barber, Division Chief of the Engineering Automation and Services Division (EASD), PennDOT, Neil Meredith, Head of Technology, Assembly OSM, and Josh Lovel, Business Development Executive, Autodesk. We got to pick hear many interesting insights from this diverse group of panelists. 

The panelists were first asked to share their recommendations for fostering collaboration to ensure a unified approach toward maximizing opportunities for rapid industrialization.  

Kelly mentioned the importance of having everyone at the table; this means your business partners, and contractors. Having that buy-in from the beginning is fundamental and helps improve processes through digital transformation, and the area she has seen the most success. 

The panelists were then asked about how digital transformation reduces risk and boosts resilience, and the pitfalls that could arise during the process. 

Neil starts the conversation with how construction is very early in the digitization process compared to other industries, such as finance, which have been digitizing for quite some time. He clarifies that this actually a good thing since it enables us to learn from other industries. He then points out how the amount of technology available to the industry has changed dramatically over the last twenty years, so it’s important to know that it’s not just about getting the best technology–it’s about adopting the best technology to improve your workflows. 

Josh followed that by mentioning that most of his conversations with his colleagues aren’t technology conversations but business conversations. They ask questions such as, how do you up a new integration but ensure that your teams are following it? He also mentions how people struggle with adopting new apps and prefer to stick with what they are used to. Not every technology is the best technology, so it’s important to find something that will work best for your team.

Being Transgender in the Construction Industry

Led by Nicole Akin, VDC Manager, BW Design Group, and facilitator Julianne Ratliff, Electrical Superintendent, Burns and McDonnell, and Lilie Klar, Design Coordinator, Actalent. This thought-provoking and incredibly relevant discussion about the transgender experience in construction was attended by a diverse group of people, from attendees who were transgender themselves to attendees who simply wanted to learn more because they have people in their lives who are also transgender. 

This session focused on respecting the opinions of others, eliminating combative conversations, creating a safe space, and overall making the space fun and enjoyable for all who were attending. 

This conversation covered a range of different discussion topics, one of them defining what diversity meant in construction. 

Lilie started the conversation by sharing her experience in the construction industry and how when she started in the construction industry, there weren’t nearly as many women in the industry as there are now, so seeing that number meant the industry was becoming more diverse. 

One of the session attendees spoke on the subject and shared how there is value in hearing the input from somebody you have never heard from before, “They bring new tools to the toolbox that we can exchange.”  

Julianne then added to the conversation, mentioning that as a transwoman, they have experiences from both the perspective of a man and a woman and has learned that disparity still exists, and she would like to see that change. She also mentions how it’s not just a matter of gender, it’s also race and religion. These are things that she would like to see change. 

As the session continued, Nicole asked the question, “What are the challenges women, transgenders, and nonbinary people face in construction?”

Some session attendees mentioned that a lot of the challenges come from a fear of being judged. The concern is whether the people they interact with will either be allies and accept or absolutely despise them and possibly cause them harm. What they came to realize in the discussion is that most people don’t think about what your gender is or what clothes you wear; as long as you do your job and you do it well, it is likely that your team will begin to accept you as the construction professional that you are. 

Keys to Successful Cost-Management Implementation 

In this session, Brad Buckles, Vice President of Technology and Innovation, Charles Perry Partners, Inc (CPPI), and Staci (Webber) Elkhatib, Manager of Partner Consulting, Autodesk, talk about the process that construction teams may have to go through in order to have a successful cost-management implementation. 

They kick off the session by asking an important first question, “What is Implementation?” 

Brad states that implementation should be treated as a remodel of an entire organization. He explained how replacing cost management technology and processes is a major change to the organization, so in order to avoid failure, you need to be willing to do what it takes. 

Brad segways into talking about the three emotional stages of software implementation. The vision stage, the freakout stage, and the comfort zone stage. 

In the vision stage, you are excited about the new software you’re adopting, which then turns into action. Brad shares that in order to be successful in this stage, you need to have clear documentation and objectives, as this documentation will become your compass through your implementation process. Brad then goes on to share how this is where you develop your champions, your team of people who help the implementation come to life and track its development.  

The next stage is the freak out stage. Brad prefaces this section by saying, “I know this sounds dramatic, but the freakout stage always happens.” 

The freak out stage is when unexpected challenges emerge, causing the software’s envisioned ideal to conflict with reality, which leads to doubts and concerns. Another part of the freak out stage is that since users are unfamiliar with the new software, there will likely be moments of frustration, “The other software is better, my old company used “X”, It doesn’t work, etc.” 

Brad then goes on to explain ways to get around this, which is by understanding the root cause of the freak out. Is it resistance to change? Undefined workflows? Or possibly bug glitches? Being able to identify the issues and resolve them can then lead you into the next stage, the comfort stage. 

Brad and Staci explain that in the comfort stage, you can celebrate success but not become complacent. Complacency leads to stagnation, continuous improvement is key, and you should always optimize new ways to improve. 

What Else Should You Know About Day 1?

AU 2023 day 1 was truly a day to remember, and this recap is only a small portion of the day’s events. Make sure to check out our social channels to stay up to date with the latest and greatest that's going on at AU. You can also watch sessions on demand so you don't miss a thing.

Keep a look out for our day 2 recap – featuring the Construction Industry Forum!

Alexa De La Parra Ramirez

Content & Communications Coordinator, Autodesk Construction Solutions