What’s on Track: Looking Ahead to Autodesk University  

Every year, Autodesk University (AU) brings together thousands of attendees who want to learn, network, and have fun. After all, it’s happening in Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps and the place that I call home. 

For me, this year is extra special; the day after the event, Formula One Grand Prix is taking over the streets of Las Vegas. This is a first-of-its-kind race for the city and a project for the PENTA Building Group, which has been heavily involved in the design and construction of the racetrack, supporting infrastructure, viewing, and concession areas. And a lot of planning goes into ensuring that the 90-minute race goes off without a hitch – and it was a race to the finish line. 

The first step for Matthew Rodgers, VDC Manager and I was asking the question: “How do you build a 3.8-mile racetrack down the Las Vegas strip, the largest Pit Building, and the accompanying infrastructure to support more than 100,000 people a day without impacting day to day operations on the strip?” With a project of this magnitude, a lot could go wrong. We had to ensure that the entire project team was set up for success by having the best tools, processes, and methodologies to foster collaboration and communication to keep all stakeholders on the same page throughout the project.  

Interested in learning more about the challenges, approach, and if our team was successful? Join me on Wednesday, November 15 at 1:30 PM PT to hear about our project case study titled Racing to AU: Pushing Construction Boundaries with Autodesk Construction Cloud at Formula 1 Speed.  

Outside of sharing the exciting details for this high-stakes project, I will join in on one of my all-time favorite AU activities: networking.  

When I first started in the industry, I was a department of one and attended AU alone. While it was daunting—at times—to be the only person of color in a sea of construction professionals, getting out of my comfort zone helped to expand my network and, in a way, advance my career. As the industry evolved and became more diverse, it became easier to find people who looked like me, but in the beginning, I always asked myself, “How do you connect with people if you’re all the same?” And that’s by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable—the best advice that I can give anyone who may be attending AU by themselves or looking to expand their network. 

If you’re attending alone—or even if you’re attending with a team, here are my top tips for those looking to network: 

  1. Knowledge share: For the construction industry, AU is a place for general contractors, specialty contractors, owners, architects, and engineers to learn and help drive the industry forward by engaging in open discussions. Talk with others about what you’re working on, what challenges you’re seeing in the industry, and what solutions you’re finding to help overcome these obstacles. And don’t be afraid to share your opinions and engage in healthy dialogue in a constructive way. Who knows – maybe you’ll make a new connection that’ll change your industry perception. 
  1. Go to after-hours events: While AU is jam-packed with sessions during the day, there are a ton of activities—dinners, happy hours, and meetups—at night. Try not to retreat to your hotel room after the day sessions end and go to these events, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. Enjoying some food and libations after a long day is a nice way to unwind and decompress while giving you the opportunity to meet someone new.  
  1. Sit at random tables during lunch: Nobody likes to eat alone. If you see someone eating by themselves—regardless of if you’re alone or with a larger group—join them. It’s always nice to engage in some lunchtime conversation, either discussing information that was unveiled during the general session or from a class you attended.  
  1. Meet friends of friends: Although it has more than 7.9 million employees in the U.S., the construction industry is really a small world. Six degrees of separation rings true as you always run into someone you or someone who knows a connection, whether it’s on the floor at AU, on projects, or even at the airport! Be open to meeting friends of friends or introducing a new friend to someone new. 

I am looking forward to my time at AU and if you’re attending, I hope you are too! Make sure you make the most of your time in Las Vegas learning from peers, attending informative sessions, and meeting someone new. And if you see me around the Expo floor or halls of AU, be sure to say hi!

Cliff Cole

Director of Virtual Design and Construction at The PENTA Building Group