Autodesk has lost some of its best people

If you follow certain people on social media this may not be news to you, but Autodesk has just suffered a shocking loss. People at SOLIDWORKS World were amazed to see Lynn Allen, probably the most famous person in CAD, and for decades the face of Autodesk, in attendance.


Image credit: Craig Black via Facebook

No, she wasn’t spying on the competition; she’s praised aspects of what Dassault is doing and has described the event as “pretty amazing”. In her own words, she’s now a free agent. Lynn, a highly professional and entertaining presenter, was undoubtedly Autodesk’s biggest drawcard. No more.

This story is much bigger than one person,though. Other highly competent long-term Adeskers to move on include docs and tips wiz Heidi Hewett, highly professional AU manager Joseph Wurcher, Inventor guru Jay Tedeschi, marketing manager Justin Hoey and PR director Noah Cole. Just the people I’ve mentioned here have well over a hundred years of experience and knowledge, but they are just a handful of the 13% of employees Autodesk is losing this time round. This cull is following on from another 10%, not that long ago.

The entire Neuchatel office in Switzerland has been closed, although Kean Walmsley survived (thankfully). I guess if you’re just holding station on improving your products and moving into rent-the-same-thing-every-year-and-jack-the-prices-up mode then there’s not much call for research and development.

I’m not going to speculate on whether any of the people I’ve mentioned were pushed out, took advantage of an attractive redundancy offer, or just decided it was an opportune moment to jump from a ship of questionable soundness. That’s a private matter between those people and their former employer. I will say that if Autodesk really wanted to retain these people it could probably have made that happen.

Why would Autodesk allow this much knowledge and skill to walk away? Same answer with everything Autodesk does these days that has people scratching their heads: money. Long-termers cost more money, so lopping them looks like an easy way to cut costs. If they’re competent and knowledgeable they’re worth every penny, though. Top people can be many times more productive and valuable than not-so-top people. Given Autodesk’s not-yet-successful attempt to be Adobe, the beancounters are desperate to make it look like the bottom line is about to improve.

While it’s true that the graveyard is full of indispensable people, my experience tells me that losing top people is almost always a false economy. Because the financial penalties of lost institutional knowledge often aren’t directly attributable and don’t show up on a spreadsheet in a handy “losing X cost us $Y” format, it’s easy to pretend those penalties don’t exist. They do, they’re real, and they’re coming Autodesk’s way.

I wish all of the people affected by these events all the best with their future. Onwards and upwards!

Edit: Principal User Experience Designer Bill Glennie, familiar to many pre-release testers of Autodesk products, has also gone.

14 Comments

  1. Disposable people. Disposable customers. Disposable products. We’re all unnecessary unrecoverable line-item expenses. Sad to see long time good people ‘in the bin.’ Just like the last ten times they’ve culled the flock. Zero payroll expenses is gonna look great on the next quarterly scam. At least the next dividend checks (if any) won’t bounce.
    They’re making Musk look reliable. Just sad. – Bill

  2. Mac'n'cheese

    With sales down, Autodesk ransoming its departing customers, consumer trust beyond critical limit, Hey lest get rid of the face of AutoCAD (Autodesk) Lynn Allen and Heidi Hewett. What are the board and management teams thinking! Maybe there planning to sell off parts of Autodesk?

    Andrew Anagnost is spineless for allowing this to happen a real leader would know better, the only way to fix Autodesk is bring back perpetual licenses and Lynn, Heidi etc. Remove all of the Board of directors and senior managers that kiss their ass and fix your substandard software also STOP killing of software packages that we use.

    Have you seen the current state of AutoCAD and Inventor! Most Autodesk software has been in a holding pattern for years, the lack of innovation and market leadership says it all.

    Mac’n’cheese

  3. Chris

    Its very telling that many of the people let go – myself included, in both rounds, (this one and the previous one) are technical in nature. They have vast hands on experience. They were the voice of the customer.

    When Carl left, the choice was a technologist (Amar) or a marketer (Anagnost). Marketing won. No one is left who actually knows how to use their own products. That’s what was great about Carl. Before I joined adsk – at AU – I met Carl and HE gave me a personal demo of Showcase. He did. I was blown away.

    If you want to find a company that’s going to win, find a company that employs craftsmen in their own software.

  4. Yet Another ExAutodesker

    And dozens (hundreds?) of amazing people who you never heard of were also let go. Half a dozen of the best software developers who I’ve ever worked with were let go.

    1. Steve Johnson

      I don’t doubt it. It’s not possible to slice ~23% from your workforce without losing a whole bunch of excellent people.

      Re-reading my post, I can see I may have given too much emphasis to the big names and only mentioned in passing the many other very talented people who have been lost. My apologies for that.

  5. Dave Byrnes

    Wow – just caught up with this. See what happens when you retire? Heidi is a huge loss to Autodesk and a gain for Bricsys. It’s certainly got me looking at Shape as a new toy – and so well priced too!

  6. Dave Byrnes

    Hey Steve! Long time! I’m home in Canada, retired from fulltime drafting last July (on my 70th!), now living in a paradaisical spot on Vancouver Island. And thinking about a visit to Perth for my brother-in-law’s 70th.

    Currently doing contract work, CAD standards checking for the company I retired from. Autocad 2017. What a long way down that software has gone. I’m still dabbling with Rhino and SketchUp but since catching up with Heidi’s doings, looking closely at Bricscad Shape.

    How are you doing? Still at WAWA?

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