Digital Builder Ep 83: The Talent Gap, Sustainability, and Business Resilience in the AEC Industry

Dara treseder digital builder podcast

At Autodesk, we're proud to power the innovative initiatives of designers and builders everywhere. We also love telling their stories and showcasing how they're using technology to transform the world around us.

At the forefront of these initiatives is Dara Treseder, Autodesk's Chief Marketing Officer. 

As our CMO, Dara oversees all things marketing at Autodesk. She leads the company’s efforts to highlight our platform's uses in the AEC industry and beyond.

That’s why we’re thrilled to have Dara as a guest on the show. In this latest Digital Builder episode, we discuss what the "design and make" category means. We also touch on how we can solve the toughest challenges the AEC industry faces and what we can do to build a better future for everyone.

Watch the episode now

You can also listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

On this episode

We discuss:

  • How companies across the AEC industry are experiencing the benefits of converging technologies
  • Why companies focusing on Digital Maturity are maintaining a statistically significant competitive advantage
  • How to engage the next generation of talent
  • Why the future of AEC innovation is going to focus on augmentation in our workforce

Autodesk as a design and make platform

While many know Autodesk primarily as software for architects, contractors, and engineers, our solutions transcend the AEC industry. 

Dara explains that Autodesk spans a range of sectors, including product design, manufacturing, and media & entertainment.

"The one thread that runs through all these industries is that we empower everyone everywhere to design and make anything, whether it's a car, bridge, building, or game. We are a platform for designing and making anything."

Dara also highlights customers' enthusiasm for Autodesk's wide range of solutions, emphasizing how our solutions intersect across different industries.  

"There's the convergence of technologies. Some of the technology that we're using in media and entertainment (M&E) to design digital worlds in movies and games is also utilized in AEC with visualization," she explains. 

"And that convergence is a unique thing that our customers benefit from. I've been hearing how excited they are about this power of convergence and how the platform will enable them to do that and more."

The state of design and make—according to 2,500 industry pros

Autodesk published the first State of Design and Make report in 2023, which sheds light on how digital transformation enables firms to navigate and adapt to industry challenges.

Dara recalls discussing the project with the team, saying that she immediately recognized the transformative potential of the findings.

"I was like, 'This is gold. This isn't just a regular report. This is an industry-breaking report.' What is exciting is we're talking about the trends and insights that are critical for business leaders and practitioners across all these different industries.

The report draws from the responses of 2,500 leaders and experts across the globe. It highlights how various industries and firms adapt to change, particularly in three key areas: digital maturity, talent, and sustainability. 

Let's unpack each of these components below. 

Digital transformation isn't the same as digital maturity

Dara emphasizes that digital transformation is a foundational step, but achieving digital maturity is what truly sets companies apart.

"You can pick any Joe, Jane, or Tyler on the street, and they're going to tell you digital transformation is important. That's not news. Digital transformation is table stakes."

She continues, "What we started to hear customers talk about is digital maturity. And this is a unique difference because it's not enough just to transform your business digitally. The difference is palpable because companies who are able to be more digitally mature retain employees a lot better than companies who aren't."

Dara points out that 68% of digitally mature companies are better able to retain workers versus 48% of those who aren't digitally mature.

Beyond employee retention, digitally mature companies are optimally positioned to navigate economic and logistical challenges.

"When you're more digitally mature, you have the capabilities to be more efficient, to be more effective, you can manage that supply chain process much better," remarks Dara. 

How to improve digital maturity

Being a digitally mature organization isn't just about the technologies you adopt; it's about the firm's mindset around change. 

"One of the things that stood out to me is the importance of embracing change. The only thing constant is change, and all companies experience change in some way, shape, or form," remarks Dara. 

"When you think about your digital journey, you need to think about how you're embracing new technologies. Companies that were resistant to embracing new technologies were experiencing a significant competitive disadvantage compared to companies that were."

Embracing change doesn't always have to be about jumping all in on a new direction. Dara says it's about being open to experimentation and incremental shifts.

"Companies willing to embrace change are okay with starting a pilot. You don't immediately have to start something and go all the way. It's okay to start a few pilots, to build that muscle within your organization, and then scale."

Attracting more talent and solving the labor gap

Talent is another central focus area of the report, and for good reason: the labor gap keeps many of us up at night. 

"People are feeling the gap. People are standing in the gap, people are falling in the gap. People are watching the gap," Dara quips. 

But she also points out that within that gap is hope.

"There is hope because there is that next generation of talent who are trying to figure out what to focus on," she says. "This is a huge opportunity for the AEC industry to lean into education."

It's for this reason that Autodesk is deeply committed to supporting students and educational institutions. 

"Not only do we make our software available for free to all accredited educational institutions in the many, many markets we serve all around the world, but we lean into working with faculty. We lean into engaging students."

Bridging the talent gap

One of the ways to overcome the talent gap is to "meet people where they are." 

If we consider the situation from the context of "bridging" the gap, we need to cross that bridge and connect with the next generation on the other side. 

"Many times, people are standing and looking at the talent gap but are unwilling to go and meet the next generation where they are. I think it's vital that we do the work to show them why there's meaningful excitement in our industry. We're going to continue to see that pipeline of talent coming, but we've got to be willing to do the work."

Building more sustainably

Sustainability is the third major theme to come out of the report. 

"Customers are demanding that we be more sustainable. Everyone wants to know not just how you are going to get this job done, but they want to know how you will get it done more sustainably.”

Dara adds, "Even with all the uncertainty in the world, I was actually surprised by this because sometimes you might wonder if sustainability is still top of mind. The answer is clear. Sustainability is still very important."

How designers and builders can be more sustainable

The right sustainability initiatives depend on the firm. According to Autodesk's State of Design & Make report, some of the top initiatives that companies are implementing include:

  • Decreasing waste from production and/or using more recycled materials 
  • Designing products considering environmental impacts
  • Applying sustainable design principles

Beyond that, Dara states that engaging the next generation of builders would go a long way in creating a more sustainable industry. 

"We have never had a more conscious generation than the generation that's coming up. They care so deeply about purpose, meaning, and impact, and I think there's a huge opportunity to drive that in the AEC space and change how things are made to make things more sustainable.

Dara continues, "We can restore buildings that existed. We can create and design and make a better world for everyone."

Finally, Dara brings the conversation back to digital maturity, underscoring that technology helps firms be more sustainable.

"We're starting to talk about digital maturity and anchoring this in our design and make platform. When I think about the next few years and where we can lean into, we need to discuss how we're augmenting human ingenuity by leveraging AI and automating repetitive tasks so our talented people can focus on what matters most."

With technology, teams can streamline repetitive workflows and data analysis to complete the job faster, build more sustainably, and drive impactful outcomes.

New podcast episode every week

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. Hear more from Dara Treseder, Autodesk's dynamic CMO, by catching the full episode! 

Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.