Andrew Gaer started his career in irrigation science, working to ensure that whatever needed watering, from lush residential landscapes to vast acres of treasured agriculture, received the proper amount to flourish and grow.
Gaer’s career at Bluebeam, now in its second decade, has also involved a lot of nurturing and growth. Except instead of engineering and designing water systems to make sure landscapes remain green or crops yield hefty harvests, Gaer has had a front-row seat for Bluebeam’s growth as a business, from scrappy software startup to established global construction technology enterprise.
Bluebeam has overseen and nurtured Gaer’s growth, too. He’s risen from one of the construction technology company’s early-stage, jack-of-all-trades employees to its director of customer success, a critical role as Bluebeam continues to expand globally and enhance its product portfolio.
“I’ve always felt like I matter at Bluebeam,” Gaer said from his home office in Orange, California.
Nurturing a career
Gaer’s role at Bluebeam has, in many respects, been the same for the 11 years he’s been at the Pasadena, California-based company. While his job titles have changed and his responsibilities have shifted and grown, Gear’s job can be boiled down into two words: helping customers.
Exactly how Gaer, a Southern California native, has helped Bluebeam’s customers over the years has taken on many forms. And his career path leading to Bluebeam certainly didn’t presage a rewarding career in construction software.
Gaer graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a degree in landscape irrigation science, a field that “seems like a pretty obscure thing to major in,” Gaer said. Still, it fulfilled his childhood interest in building.
As a child, Gaer was always building things, from PVC pipe-fitted surfboard racks to a driving range net to help him work on his golf game. And after initially attending college for geology, Gaer said the practicality of learning how to design, manage and operate water systems eventually became more appealing.
ALSO ON BUILT:
“It was a mix of engineering to understanding flows and friction and pipe sizing and fluid dynamics, and all of these other things,” Gaer said.
After college, Gaer dove into the field, working first as an irrigation systems design intern for a few months before taking on a full-time role as a field technical and landscape irrigation consultant. Gaer then went to work for a soil moisture sensing technology company for several years before managing maintenance crews for a local landscaping firm.
Gaer even spent nearly a year as owner of his own water management and irrigation business. It was also roughly around this time that he received a master’s degree in business, as he looked to expand his professional acumen outside of the narrow field of irrigation science.
But with a baby girl on the way, Gaer decided, with some encouragement from his expectant wife, that he needed something more stable than entrepreneurship could provide, so he began a search for a new full-time job.
“My wife had a frank conversation with me: ‘Hey, we’re going to have a baby. Why don’t you get a real job?” said Gaer, who went on to have two more daughters.
Gaer had one criterion for his next gig: It had to be in an office. “I was tired of working out of a truck, having worked in the field for seven years by that point,” Gaer said.
He came across a posting on LinkedIn for an account specialist at Bluebeam. Although he had never used the company’s software in his irrigation and landscaping work, and the potential commute from Orange County to Pasadena initially seemed daunting, Gaer said he was intrigued by the job.
“I was so compelled by it being a software company, and being a young software company, doing this work in the AEC [architecture, engineering, construction] industry, which is what I came from,” he said. “And it’s a technology that helps people do their jobs better, easier and faster.”
In fact, the more Gaer said he learned about Revu, Bluebeam’s flagship program, the more he wished he knew about it during his irrigation jobs. “Oh man – this would have helped me so much,” he recalled.
“And then when I interviewed, the culture at Bluebeam was so apparent, and it was just a great fit for me,” Gaer continued. “So I jumped at the chance. And, luckily, they brought me on board.”
Gaer’s initial job with Bluebeam, which had about 50 employees at the time, was simple: learn Revu and answer the phone when it rang with customers’ questions.
Sitting at a desk just a matter of metres away from Bluebeam’s founder and then CEO, Richard Lee, Gaer’s days were sort of like a game of roulette: He never knew when the phone rang what sort of customer problem he would face on the other end of the line.
“I could pick up the phone and it could be a company that had 1,000 users,” Gaer said, “or I could have picked up the phone and it was an estimator who had no employees.”
“What was so fun about it was we could just spend time with people and figure out their problems,” Gaer continued.
There was no better way to learn Revu. “I learned a lot by just asking good questions and hearing what people were doing,” Gaer said. “And then that got me to understand how different construction trades worked and what their days looked like.”
This “concierge approach” to working with customers was intentional, Gaer said, and it was central to Bluebeam’s success, which began to kick into overdrive shortly after Gaer came aboard.
Customer volume started to pick up, and then it would pick up again, and again. Stretch revenue goals were easily eclipsed year after year. Bluebeam rewarded its employees with not one but two trips to Hawaii to celebrate the success. “We would ask ourselves, ‘Is this happening because of us or in spite of us?” Gaer jokingly said. “There was nothing we could do to stop it. It was just growing like crazy.”
MORE: Enter the Emerging World of Space Construction
Bluebeam’s continued growth – the company now has more than 500 employees globally – came with formalised and expanded roles for Gaer. He eventually became part of a group within the company called technical account management, which would continue to help customers through its concierge approach with Revu and its steadily evolving capabilities.
Gaer ultimately took on the title of director of technical account management, leading a team of people and collaborating with Bluebeam’s growing sales and marketing apparatus as the company started to expand beyond the United States.
In 2014, about three years after Gaer joined the company, Bluebeam was acquired by Munich, Germany-based Nemetschek Group, a technology conglomerate whose portfolio includes many other software companies in the construction industry and beyond.
Today, Gaer leads a newly formed customer success team, which essentially continues to do what Gaer has done at Bluebeam from his first day: help customers.
“It’s a little more of a targeted approach,” Gaer said. “It’s a little bit more ownership of the accounts, but with the same goal: to help customers understand what it is that they’re trying to achieve and how they can achieve it through user education and user awareness, and helping them to build out processes that can help them get the most out of the software.”
What keeps Gaer at Bluebeam, through all the growth and inevitable change that comes with it? Throughout his tenure, Bluebeam has gone from a punchy, founder-led startup just making a name for itself in a small-but-growing construction technology industry, to a global enterprise owned by a large, publicly traded company.
Gaer’s answer is straightforward: Bluebeam has always invested in him, so he is happy to continue investing in Bluebeam.
“I’ve had a lot of managers that have really taken me under their wing and helped me to develop my career path,” Gaer said. “So I’ve always felt very supported by leadership and the company as a whole.”
And even though Bluebeam is now far larger than when he first started, Gaer said he still feels the culture has the positive elements of a startup – its continued growth being one of them.
“We’re still growing and we’ve got this whole new phase that we’re growing into,” Gaer said. “So there’s still lots of opportunity to be had here.”