Marcus O’Brien worked as a consulting engineer in the construction industry for the first seven years of his career, before transitioning to product management in 2010. Following his MBA from London Business School he joined Autodesk in 2015, initially working as a product manager for AutoCAD for Mac. Last year he took over as the senior product line manager for the AutoCAD platform.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Working at the intersection of UX, business, and engineering, I lead a team of some of the best product managers, who collectively own the product strategy for the entire AutoCAD portfolio. This includes products for web, Windows, and Mac as well as industry-focused verticals.
The technology and products delivered by this team drive a vast portion of Autodesk’s revenue and are key to the company’s transformation to cloud-enabled products and subscription-based businesses (SaaS).
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love the different challenges that this job brings. In any product management position you might be talking to customers one minute, designers and developers another. I’ve had breakfast with our marketing team, lunch with the business strategy team, and then grabbed a coffee with legal all in one day. I love the challenges that the role brings in terms of forcing me to be brutal in my prioritization and pushing my communications and influencing skills to the limit.
What’s your favorite AutoCAD command?
Clicking the mouse wheel in the middle to pan. I know, I know, it’s a basic one, but when I first started using AutoCAD there were no mouse wheels. You used to have to use the ‘ button to pause a command so you could pan. So you would start a line in one corner and press ‘p to pan, then continue to select the second point for the line. When mouse wheels became mainstream and AutoCAD integrated the pan command, it was so intuitive, and made me 10% faster. Can you imagine the difference that minor change made to the world of construction in terms of hours spent designing? It reminds me every day that the improvements we make to this product have a profound impact.
And favorite AutoCAD feature?
My favorite feature of AutoCAD is the command line. It’s a true “feature” and is incredibly iconic.
What are you most proud of about your work on AutoCAD?
I am proud of lots of things. I am proud of my team and how hard they work for our customers. I am proud to be the custodian of the 35 year legacy that is AutoCAD. There are many product managers that went before me, and clearly got it right, so I take my responsibilities very seriously. Finally, I also feel like I am paying back in some small way. I worked as an AutoCAD draftsman to pay my way through my engineering undergrad, and, 15 years later, to be able to manage the product that helped me get to where I am today gives me great satisfaction.
When you tell friends and family that you work on AutoCAD, what is their response?
It really varies. My father was a draftsman in the 1970s and drew with ink pens on acetate. He would have to scrape off lines with a razor blade if any design changes were needed. So for him, AutoCAD represents the evolution of his trade to the nth degree. He is very proud that I work on this product.
My friends are largely engineers, so their responses invariably are feature additions or bug fix requests.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have a one-year-old daughter and the reality is I don’t have any spare time lately. Not unless you include playing at 6 a.m. But when life settles a bit I look forward to playing guitar more, hiking, and working on old motorcycles.
Behind the Scenes of the AutoCAD Team is a series spotlighting Autodesk employees devoted to developing AutoCAD further every day. Check out all of the installments here.