Most CAD insiders know Brenda Discher from Autodesk, where she was involved with launching one mechanical design product after another, starting with Mechanical Desktop, then Inventor and most recently Fusion 360.
Discher recently made news for leaving Autodesk, where she had been for 23 years, and joining Siemens PLM. It’s a big step up for her. Siemens PLM has revenue of $4.5 billion and 19,000 people, both twice as much as Autodesk. The parent company, Siemens AG has 370,000 employees.
We caught up to her on her 44th day at Siemens PLM. Discher had just returned from her “world tour,” executive retreat in Barcelona and Hannover-Messe, the world’s biggest trade fair, in Germany. She had been meeting many who she’ll be working with, and for, in her new role as senior vice president of Marketing and Strategy. She will be unifying products and messages for products in Siemens’ enterprise design, engineering and manufacturing portfolio, which recently added Mentor Graphics.
Discher joins a long list of veterans leaving Autodesk, including Lynn Allen, Carl Bass, Noah Cole, Amar Hanspal, Clay Helm, Heidi Hewitt, Jay Tedeschi and Joseph Wurcher, to name just a few. She doesn’t attribute leaving Autodesk to anything that happened at Autodesk, though. It’s more about opportunity at Siemens and a chance to head up the marketing effort of a large multi-national company.
An unscientific comparison of executives from engineering software firms convinced me that years of experience are seen as a positive in foreign companies. Is it possible they value the knowledge and wisdom that comes with experience? Bay Area companies, by comparison, are more likely to be impressed by youth.
Asked about the differences in corporate culture, Discher has found the people at Siemens quite welcoming. Siemens places a great value on relationships with enterprise customers.
“The enterprise selling at Siemens is best in class,” she said.
Mentor figures big in Siemens’ plans, and Discher will be doing a lot of work on Mentor’s messaging and the integration of Mentor products with the Siemens portfolio. This will often take her to Mentor’s Oregon offices. She had transplanted herself to Oregon to work with Autodesk’s manufacturing team in Lake Oswego. She was resisting moving to San Francisco to be closer to where most of Autodesk management works.
Her heart always has been in Michigan. The change to Siemens has given her a chance to find a home base again. Although head of Siemens PLM is listed in Plano, Texas, most of the executives now work in the Livonia office, Discher said.