Erin Werkema wouldn’t be one of the leaders of the Austin, Texas, Bluebeam User Group (BUG) if it wasn’t for her mother.
A skilled student growing up, Werkema initially wanted to apply to art school, thinking the creative, change-of-pace subject matter would be less intense and more intellectually fulfilling than the math and science subjects she excelled at in high school.
“I was getting ready to go to university and was honestly getting a little burnt out,” Werkema said. “I kind of wanted to do something that, in my mind, was going to be a little bit easier and just give myself a bit of time to relax.”
Her mother thought otherwise, and pushed Werkema to reconsider. “She’s like, no—you’re too good at math, and you’re going to get really bored doing art history or graphic design,” Werkema said. “She pushed me to apply to a couple of architecture schools around the country.”
Members of Austin’s user group, known as AtxBUG, are thankful for the change in career course, as Werkema is one of the primary reasons the user group exists.
After graduating from the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, with a degree in architecture, Werkema ventured on a path that ultimately brought her to Austin in 2017, where she took a job as an architect with STG Design.
Werkema quickly began playing a leading role in taking Bluebeam Revu from a tool used by only a few people at the firm to one of its most widespread and critical technologies.
“I was able to take a project through as a beta test to prove to the firm that, ‘Hey, this is a really valuable tool’,” she said of Revu. “We showed the benefits of Bluebeam over Adobe in terms of digital collaboration and record-keeping, and eventually we made the case and the firm saw the value of it as an investment.”
Werkema’s enthusiasm for Bluebeam was so high that, as a new architecture professional to the Austin area, she couldn’t wait to join the local Bluebeam User Group to network and share her passion with industry peers.
There was just one problem: Austin didn’t have a Bluebeam User Group at the time.
So Werkema started one.
After connecting with a few other Austin-area industry professionals who also wanted to start a BUG, Werkema said through the help of Bluebeam’s communities team, they officially launched the group in 2018.
Since then, AtxBUG has thrived. “A big value for me was meeting other people in the industry,” Werkema said. “I’ve been able to connect with general contractors that I hadn’t worked with before as well as engineers. We’ve also had a couple of meetings where some people from the city of Austin came to learn more about digital workflows.”
Werkema said leading AtxBUG during the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened her conviction in the value of the community. In fact, since BUG meetings have largely been virtual during the pandemic, Werkema said it’s been even more appreciated, since she and other members have found renewed value in attending meetings hosted by AtxBUG and the other BUG communities around the world.
“We can have cross-BUG collaboration now,” she said. “I have attended several of the Sydney, Australia, BUG meetings. Just getting to meet people from all over the country and the world has been really great.”
Why should other Bluebeam users consider joining a BUG?
In addition to the networking, Werkema said the value proposition of the user groups comes from discovering the unique ways other people and roles use the technology. “Every single person, every single firm uses the program differently,” she said. “And so, someone is going to have come across a problem and found a solution that I haven’t even thought of yet. So, just getting those perspectives is super helpful.”