Autodesk University 2022 - My Personal Journey Down A New, Yet Familiar Road

I am taking a different road with this post, not my usual tips or best practices article. This is my takeaway from AU2022. If this does not interest you, I fully understand. Feel free to skip this post if you so desire.


A bit of background on me before I begin. My experience with Autodesk goes back to version 1.4 (40 years ago). I have attended Autodesk University every year for 15 years, many of which I paid for out of pocket. I do not regret having had to pay my way when necessary to attend such a fantastic event. I had also been accepted into the Expert Elite group in 2020, 


As a hermit by nature, one would not think I looked forward to attending an event with 10k plus people, most of whom I have never met. However, the Autodesk community I have been part of for so long has always been open and welcoming. I have never felt that I did not belong or that I was not part of the community. I have always had people recognize me based on my activity within the Autodesk community (to my surprise).


My experience at Autodesk University 2022 was different than I expected. I have been to AU's in Las Vegas from the beginning and enjoyed every one. People may take some of my observations about this year's Autodesk University as negative. However, I feel that some critical takeaways are necessary to discuss, even though they may not be glowing reflections on Autodesk.


My first reaction to a new location was excitement, especially in a city I have always wanted to see. I am part of a chat group that has been active since we attended AU2019. Plans were made to see the city’s highlights and set up events for us all to meet, having not seen each other in person for so long. We planned meetups and activities for months ahead of time, and excitement built up as AU2022 got closer.


There were some concerns with the location, based on what I read about the city (I researched NOLA well in advance). However, every town has potential issues, including Las Vegas (where I have had no trouble in the past). My wife and I arrived early to be able to check out the city and its culture. We, along with others from the group, saw many things and enjoyed some fantastic food while meeting interesting and very welcoming people, who made us feel like "non-tourists.” I would (and plan to) go back to NOLA to see the city.


As part of the Autodesk University culture for so long, I had some expectations based on past events. I also knew that a new location could be very different. As an Expert Elite (EE), we had events for our group. I had never been to an AU while being an active EE member, so I did not know what to expect.


We registered early (Sunday) at the event center. Autodesk, as usual, did an excellent job organizing and managing this process. We were able to register before the 4:00 start time and had no issues with anything about the process. After registration, my wife and I checked out the convention center a bit, looking over the map. A large floor plan, but I was used to having much walking from past experience.


All of the events Autodesk put together for the EEs were excellent. Thank you, Autodesk, for all you did for the group.

Tuesday comes, and the first day of "real" classes. The breakfast meal session was as expected. However, the organization of the lines was a bit confusing, with people doubling back on themselves at times to gather their meals. This had people frustrated and caused a bit of a mix-up.


I have always liked and used the mobile app in the past. There have been a few areas that could use help, but overall it has been quite good. The one thing that I feel is important is the ability to export the class schedule to an Outlook or Google calendar. This is an excellent tool for both an attendee and their employer. I really missed that feature this year.


While at breakfast, I checked out the updates to the app. Mostly, it was well done this year with many improvements, including real-time mapping updates and class-to-class timing. The preview feature and information on free schedule time, with suggestions for options, were excellent. I found, however, that the class travel times and distances were misleading with respect to the venue layout. I was not the only one who experienced this. Many people I spoke with had missed class time or entire classes due to inaccurate data due to the different venue layout. This is a real issue that Autodesk needs to look into. The common thread among my conversations was that It is not practical to attend classes as scheduled with the convention center's layout. Some went as far as just skipping class due to logistical problems.


Having some issues, as many older or physically challenged attendees, the travel data being unreliable was very frustrating. The venue is not the same design as Las Vegas venues. I feel that this point should have been communicated better to the attendees.


Las Vegas was a more centralized event (still much walking, however, not the great distances between classes). The event map should have shown travel times that took venue logistics into account. A map showing travel distances and times is only as good as the location. Escalators not in service and crowded halls with confused people greatly compounded travel time. I had a 25-minute walk to two of my classes! This issue could very quickly derail the efforts of Autodesk to promote AU2023.


The food delivery, not an Autodesk issue, was a significant concern. Standing in the lunch line for 45 minutes to arrive at empty food tables is not good. It was addressed to a point, and the people at the convention center worked out the issue.


My takeaway from this year; NOLA is a new venue with real potential for AU2023; however, planning needs to be looked into more. Autodesk has tools in its portfolio to plan and work logistics out for such things. These tools were not used, resulting in some less-than-positive results. As an older, long-time attendee, I feel that the event was positive in the overall scheme of things, with some preparation issues that need to be reviewed.


I am planning to attend AU2023 and looking forward to meeting new people and old friends. If Autodesk would like my feedback, I welcome the opportunity to talk with them. They have always been customer-centric, and I expect they will always be.


Thank you to those who finished reading this and put up with my ramblings about AU2022. I look forward to seeing everyone next year at AU2023!