CAD Software In Asia Design Practices

Working in London for a number of years with the architecture and design community it was very apparent that companies that were  hiring staff would carefully consider candidate’s design software capabilities as part of their application. A company for example that used Vectorworks would often reject a candidate that had no previous experience in the software. For candidate a firm’s willingness to cross-train them in different software packages was a major selling point when considering an offer. But what about the Asia market? Do firms consider this area with as much importance as in the UK?

Well the answer is not really. I have not yet come across a scenario for a typical design based position where a candidate’s CAD ability has been a key deciding factor in a company employing them. The obvious exception to this being when a company has been looking to fill a CAD Operator role which requires knowledge of a specialist software package (usually rendering or 3D software such as Maya or Rhino). On the more generalist front it is unusual for a client to specify the basic CAD competency of the applicants they are looking for.

Why is this? In Asia it seems that clients are keen to focus more on a candidate’s relevant hands-on experience. Projects they have completed, teams they have led, negotiations they have conducted – IT skill takes a less significant role. In part I would say that this is due to a lot of the CAD work being outsourced cheaply in Asia by firms and in part due to there being less variety in the number CAD packages used by companies out here. In London companies tend to use one of either AutoCAD, Microstation, ArchiCAD or Vectorworks as their main CAD package – cross-training between software is easier for some than others and as a result a lot of candidates become experts in their respective packages. A strong Vectorworks Technician for example was always in high demand.

In Asia I would say the majority of firms use AutoCAD, or increasingly Revit. Microstation is used in some of companies but not as widely as in the UK. Where Revit use is required firms tend to just send their staff on the necessary training course to familiarise them and I have often found the view, rightly or wrongly, to be that if someone can use AutoCAD they’ll pick up Revit in no time.

Another reason for these views on CAD ability is apparent when you look at design firms working in China. A lot of the technical drawings are passed to and completed by the Local Design Institutes (LDI’s). These are government institutions that ensure designs comply with local regulations. Therefore I have found that companies focus their search on candidates with exceptional design ability irrespective of their skill in front of a CAD machine. That is not to say that designers working in China do not have involvement in their projects after early design, it’s just that it tends to be less CAD oriented and more an overseeing role on the drawings done by others. To a lot of people this sounds like their idea of perfection – the chance to focus purely on the design and leave the more mundane CAD work to others. However, it should be noted that the most successful candidates in Asia are still those that demonstrate a well rounded design and technical drawing portfolio and the Directors within international companies in particular have moments of nostalgia when they see technical drawings during an interview. It takes them back to the more traditional portfolios they reviewed before working in Asia.

Another major exception is where clients looking for graduate staff specifically look for good 3D CAD ability. A number of companies are increasingly keen to snap up CAD whizzes who can help them with their initial design bids and wow clients with amazing 3D visuals and fly-throughs. Experience with rendering and animation software is becoming more and more sought after. Sadly the days of a client asking for hand drawing ability seem to be diminishing.

Overall then it seems that a candidate’s CAD ability is not that important to a company in Asia. I would say that this is only really a half-truth. If a strong candidate with a good, solid understanding of a CAD package goes to interview, they will generally succeed over those that don’t demonstrate such ability. The fact is, most clients still like to see that candidates can “get their hands dirty” so to speak. Knowing that someone can still sit down and produce a drawing, even if it just in an emergency situation, is often enough to convince a company to take them on.

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One Response to CAD Software In Asia Design Practices

  1. bercton says:

    Interesting point!

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