Good Trainer or Dedicated Implementer? It’s Your Money.

If you have ever seen me on the road, you know I have an “I LOVE ENGINEERING” bumper sticker. This is a great source of amusement for friends and family and occasionally gets a honk or two on the highway.

The other day, I needed a self esteem boost, so I went to fix a plotter at my friend’s firm- a small environmentally focused firm that also does some really nice land development projects. People are always glad to see someone who can fix the plotter.

So my friend, who had lost a few proposals that week and felt unappreciated, looked at me and said “How can you keep that sticker on your car? This business just stinks sometimes.”

And my answer to him was- my sticker says I LOVE ENGINEERING. It doesn’t say “I LOVE CONVINCING PEOPLE OF MY VALUE”.

And so I started thinking- what is the value of a Dedicated Implementer? What makes a Dedicated Implementer different from a Good Trainer? How can I help clients figure out which one they need to help them get going with Civil 3D?

So before you pick which proposal to sign, consider that there is more to Civil 3D than just getting training.



The Good Trainer will teach you what points are and how to create them. He will show you how to make point groups, styles and settings.

The Dedicated Implementer will spend time in the field with your crew, learn how they like to work and what equipment they have, help you create field codes, description keys and field to finish linework. He will document it, create it and take your crews through the paces to make sure they know it. He will lead your inside staff through importing the data and run through scenarios offsite to make sure he is optimizing mouse clicks and keeping your data sound. The Dedicated Implementer will not feel successful unless field data can be handed off without issue to the engineering department.

The Dedicated Implementer looks at the big picture and realizes that you need point styles and quanitity tables for landscape trees and shrubs, light poles and more. He notices that you need to contour light intensity, groundwater contamination levels and soil lead concentrations. He helps you make styles, groups and user defined properties to get that data into point form and even build surfaces and do analysis based on those points.


The Good Trainer will teach you what a surface is and how to build a good one. She will teach you how to compose a few styles to get you thinking about things like elevation analysis.

The Dedicated Implementer will take samples of your typical surface building data and shred it apart to figure out the best way to tackle best way to tackle it. What should you use? How can you manage file size? How can you get this to work? She will document it, brainstorm with you, talk to the project managers and learn as much as she can about your data and what you’d like to be able to get from it.

She will compose styles, labels and tables that leverage Civil 3D as much as possible to help you delineate stormwater areas, optimize cut and fill, design roads in reasonable places, etc.

She will spend time in your office watching and participating in your design process and spend time offsite experimenting with styles and labels that can get you what you need. Then, she will document it and make sure you know how to use it.

She will expose you to things you never would have found on your own- like simple but effective visualizations, using expressions in tables and anything else it takes so you are leveraging that model you just built.


The Good Trainer will explain what parcels are, how to make them automatically by layout and how to label them properly.

The Dedicated Implementer knows that parcels are more than just residential lots and fully understands the concept of site topology.

The Dedicated Implementer can smell bad topology a mile away and will step in and fix your drawing for you as you are learning so that you don’t wind up with future problems.

She will listen to the way you like to layout lots including setbacks, easements, special considerations, and design preferences.

She will create label styles and reference text so your plats go out looking the way you really want them to.

Then, she steps away from site plans and leads you down the road to other uses for parcels- like stormwater subcatchments, cover conditions, soil types, limits of disturbance, areas of special study. She goes into detail about how to manage your Site Geometry, helps you figure out how to organize your drawings with xrefs and references to keep parcels both safe and interactive.


The Good Trainer will make sure you know how to make and edit an alignment, a profile, an assembly and a corridor. He will teach you simple corridors, and perhaps even intersections and cul de sacs. You will be armed with the basics for your own experiementations and designs.

The Dedicated Implementer will ask to see your most complicated road designs of the past. He will make sure you know how to make alignments with reverse curves, compound curves, tough constraints and odd labeling. He will show you how to leverage reference text to help you see what is happening vertically while you are looking at your horizontal, and vice versa.

He will take time to understand your current design process go through his own scenarios with your data to test a few different ways to tackle your design challenges. He will help you customize subassmblies and store them for the future. He will come up with ways to optimize your corridor size, figure out when and how to split them up and document your best practices.

The Dedicated Implementer thinks of other uses for corridor models and helps you leverage them- like streams, ditches, berms, embankments, dams and others.


The Good Trainer will orient you to proposed ground design. She will teach you what feature lines are and how to make them, and explain all of the grading tools. She will lead you through a few design scenarios like a pond, or a berm. The Good Trainer reminds you that it is best not to edit contours and offers some suggestions on how to improve your proposed ground, like flipping faces or adding more data.

The Dedicated Implementer takes the contour trimmers head on. She sits down with your design staff and asks them to show her how they would grade a residental lot, or a pond or a rear yard swale. She looks at the corridor model, the grading objects, feature lines, setting points and all of the other ways that there are to make surface data and comes up with a combination that not only gets the job done but keeps you in your comfort zone as designers. She finds a way to make this process semiautomatic by storing templates, assemblies, and even blocks made out of feature lines so that the process is repeatable. She tests it in your design enviroment and makes sure you know how to edit and expand on it.

The Dedicated Implementer shows you how to leverage reference text, expressions, checks, surface analysis and quick profiles to keep track of what is happening with your design in real time so you never feel panicked about not being allowed to grip edit those contours!


The Good Trainer will teach you how to create a parts list, a rule set and a pipe network in plan and profile.

The Dedicated Implementer spends time trying to figure out the best way to get your pipes into your preferred hydraulic modeling software, including experiements with VBA and custom excel spreadsheets. The Dedicated Implementer takes their own time to try running your design over and over again before they teach you how do it and documents the best method for your company standard.


The Good Trainer knows Civil 3D’s limits. The Good Trainer keeps up with updates in the AutoCAD base product and has a decent handle on Map.

The Dedicated Implementer pushes Civil 3D’s limits– and pushes the people who make Civil 3D’s limits so that they know what users need and want. The Dedicated Implementer often casts aside Civil 3D’s boundaries by creating custom procedures, tools, and even programs instead of waiting for the official response.

The Dedicated Implementer realizes that there is more to Civil 3D than Civil 3D and helps you exploit things like Sheet Set Manager, Fields, AutoCAD tables, attribute extraction, dynamic blocks, shapefiles, GIS data, aerial imagery and is creative about combining those tools with Civil 3D to come up with solutions specific to your work. Like Hydraulics and Hydrology or making reports and tables.


The Good Trainer hangs around during lunch, stays a few minutes late and offers her email address for questions. The Good Trainer can answer a lot of your questions, but often doesn’t have the practical experience with the software to help you really get your problem solved. She’ll often provide you with links to self help- like subscription support and the discussion groups.

The Dedicated Implementer thinks about your project as if it was her own, and delays a flight home to make sure your project gets submitted on time. The Dedicated Implementer comes in on a Saturday when you have drawings that just aren’t working and a client that just can’t wait. The Dedicated Implementer takes your calls and IMs when you are at your wit’s end and listens to you. And they really understand. REALLY understand. Because they have gone through it themselves, and they take personal stake in your pain- and want to make it better.

The Dedicated Implementer is not stingy with information because he knows that the more knowledge there is out there in circulation, the more fun his job will be. The Dedicated Implementer takes time to blog, write papers, speak at Users Groups, ask questions AND respond to questions on discussion groups and forums.

The Dedicated Implementer knows that keeping in touch with what real people are going through arms them with the knowledge to help you better.

The Dedicated Implementer seeks every chance to use Civil 3D in real ways every day. He seeks out like minded peers- folks who realize that we are all on the same team so we need to help each other.


The Good Trainer is expensive, but worth it when your staff gains skills.

The Dedicated Implementer helps you minimize the time your staff spends spinning their wheels, makes sure a real, live project gets out the door, keeps your folks as billable as possible as they are learning, and works with you to calculate your return on investment.

The Dedicated Implementer makes sure that your staff knows how to handle revisions of their model, not just a generic textbook scenario.

If it used to take 10 days of design/drafting at $95 an hour to get a road vertical alignment changed fixed (from centerline, to ditches, to intersections to pipes, to stormwater management), and now it takes 5 days, what is that worth to you? How many times does that happen? How many times do comments come back from the county because something was missed- such as pipe plan rims not matching profile rims? What does that cost you? Think about it.

The Dedicated Implementer is creative about finding ways to help you finance your Pilot Project and Civil 3D Implementation.


The Good Trainer knows the book inside and out, and can explain it well and answer questions on its material.

The Dedicated Implementer wrote the book.

Autodesk Civil 3D 2007: Designing Intersections and Cul de Sacs

Autodesk Civil 3D 2007: Residential Grading



  1. smceachron says:

    Well put. Anyone can teach you to control an airplane, a Dedicated Implementor can teach you to fly – there’s value in that.

  2. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    Some clarification (as I write this jokes about me being Jerry Maguire are making the EE boys chuckle amongst themselves)

    The Dedicated Implementor is not one person. The Dedicated Implementor is a team effort- different folks with different talents and strengths who feed off of the energy of one another and the love of both Civil Engineering and Civil 3D.

    Every day is a new challenge and every project has its highs and lows. But if you have someone on your team who believes in your project, that makes a world of difference.

  3. Ya know I’m startin to feel good bout this.
    (excuse the Midwestern accent)
    I think we may be turning a corner here.
    The real secret to this success still lies in NH.
    They have to figure out a way to stabilize it enough, and “dumb it down” enough that the majority of the install base can adapt to and adopt( clever )this product.
    And your team makes all the difference in the world.

    John Postlewait
    IS Department
    George Butler Associates, Inc.

  4. Joe DeMarco says:

    My company has been working with Dana and EE for the last few months. The quality of training, commitment to our goals, and dedication to our learning has been excellent. Dana and her team have elevated themselves to the position of dedicated implementers and in doing so exceeded all of my expectations. I feel strongly that it was the best investment we could have made.

    Joe DeMarco
    Richard C. Mast Associates, P.C.

  5. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    Thanks Joe!

    A little clarification. Joe’s company, RCMA began working with me in July when I was still offically under the Cadapult umbrella.

    I did his project as Cadapult, and in September as I began the transition to EE, I finished his project as Cadapult.

    However, James, Nick, Mark, Jason and everyone else in the greater EE family supported me throughout the RCMA project- including Nick helping me adjust the sample VBAs to assist Joe in working out a stormwater modeling workflow, and countless other acts of Dedication.

    Now that EE partners with Cadapult offically, I know we can do even greater things.

    Thanks again Joe, Justin, Justin, Lisa, Mark, Rick and the rest of RCMA!