On the sidelines of the 3D Insider’s Summit held in Westminster, Colarado, last month, I had the opportunity to sit with Jean-Marc Guillard, the new COO of Spatial. Jean-Marc will be taking over as CEO at the end of this year. This is how the conversation went.
Deelip: Tell me more about yourself. How about we start with your education and how you got into Dassault Systemes.
Jean-Marc: My main interest was Mathematics. IT was just beginning to take root at that time. I graduated in 1988. I then switched to Numerical Analysis, which is still Mathematics but is something that can be more applied to programming software. I did my Masters in that field. Next I went to do my Ph.D and was wondering whether to do it in Numerical Analysis or something else. At that point I started to have a look at 3D and noticed that Dassault Systemes was working in that field. So I asked Dassault Systemes if they would sponsor my Ph.D. and they agreed.
Deelip: So you mean after you did your Masters you joined Dassault Systemes?
Jean-Marc: No. I was still a student. It was a collaboration between the University and Dassault Systemes.
Deelip: So did they sponsor your Ph.D on the condition that you join them?
Jean-Marc: No. It was a pure Ph.D agreement. I was going to do my Ph.D in Surface Optimization and Dassault Systemes would use the results of my research. I completed my Ph.D in three years, after which I was hired by Dassault Systemes as a programmer on CATIA V4. Well, actually it was the end of CATIA V3 and the beginning of CATIA V4. I started by maintaining CATIA V3 and then began working on CATIA V4. In the beginning I worked mainly in the area of surfacing due to my Ph.D.
Deelip: I hear that you were on the team that architected the completely rewrite of CATIA V5.
Jean-Marc: Not exactly. I was focused on the new modeler for CATIA V5 – CGM – while there were others who worked on defining the architecture of CATIA V5.
Deelip: What was the need for rewriting the modeling kernel from ground up in CATIA V5?
Jean-Marc: Basically, there was a need to make the software more scalable and be able to handle large sets of data. With CATIA V4 we also learned that it was important to have a modeler manage surfaces and solids in a transparent way . It means the same operators can handle open or closed bodies. More globally CGM has been designed and evolved in a way where all the different modelizations that can be necessary to modelize a large variety of parts are totally unified. This is why CGM stands for Convergence Geometric Modeler.
Deelip: So did you build V5 from scratch? Or did you take parts of V4 and fine tune them to fit into V5?
Jean-Marc: No, we started from a blank sheet of paper. Everything was created from scratch.
Deelip: So how long did it take? How large was the team?
Jean-Marc: It took us about 2 years and 9 months between the beginning of the project and the first industrial release. The team was not very big at the beginning. We were about 10 or 11 people. We kept the team small for about 2 years and then we started to expand till it became quite a large team. I finished by leading the team that developed CGM.
Deelip: Who came up with the name Convergence Geometric Modeler?
Jean-Marc: Well, actually the name at the beginning was CATIA Geometric Modeler. But as we started adding other brands like DELMIA, SIMULIA, etc. we decided to change the name to Convergence Geoemtric Modeler to better describe where it was used and the scope covered by CGM. After we completed CGM and supported the customers in the deployment of CATIA V5 I wanted something else to do. I spend the next two years on the Services side of the Dassault Systemes business, mainly to discover stuff other than geometry and programming. Basically, when you start something from scratch and see it to the end, you want to then start something new. So after working for two years in services, I then changed tracks again and began working on the deployment of the ERP system for Dassault Systemes.
Deelip: Wow! You have been around quite a bit.
Jean-Marc: (Laughs) Yes, I think I spent about three years deploying the ERP system for the Dassault group. And now I am here.
Deelip: Given your history that you just recited, I know this may sound like a stupid question. But I’m going to ask it anyways. Why do you think Dassault Systemes chose you to lead Spatial?
Jean-Marc: Well, Keith Mountain was retiring and Dassault Systemes has recently started to introduce CGM as a component through Spatial. I also collaborated with Spatial in the past and have a good idea of what our customers are expecting from Spatial to be successful. So I guess the value I can bring is to extend Spatial’s portfolio by leveraging Dassault Systemes technologies for the benefits of our customers.
Deelip: While introducing you Keith Mountain said that when finding a replacement for himself, one of the main requirements was that the person should be able to navigate his way around Dassault Systemes. Is the way the American and French work that different?
Jean-Marc: No, I don’t think so. Dassault Systemes is a large group. You need to communicate well and understand what the DS strategy is. How do you position your entity with respective to the objective of the group. You need to sometimes make decisions keeping the groups objectives in mind. The advantage of being in a group like DS is that you can leverage its assets. But then you also have to look at the broader picture to ensure consistency, which you don’t need to do when you are an independent company.
Deelip: So are you implying that earlier Spatial was an independent entity and now DS has started to exert more control over it?
Jean-Marc: No, I will not say that. Earlier the purpose of Spatial was to see if the component business was a viable one. We now know that it is viable and profitable. It is now time to leverage Spatial experience and V6 technologies to serve the requirements of the industry.