Updated: May 14, 2021
An interview with Robert Hurlston
Remain curious and keep learning; develop your professional network both inside and outside your company; be known as a helper; become the best communicator you can.
Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Bohm for the latest in our series of interviews titled 'Excerpts with the Experts', in which we learn what it takes to get to the very top of the simulation field.
Mark Bohm is the Director for Worldwide Technical Sales for SIMULIA at Dassault Systèmes, supporting customers in all industries. He’s been with the company since 1985 and has held a variety of technical and sales management roles based in Rhode Island, the UK, and Michigan. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Brown University and a master’s degree in structural mechanics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Hi everybody, and welcome to the latest installment of Excerpts with the Experts, where we learn a little bit more about the path that led our simulation and CAE experts to where they are today, and what makes them tick!
Mark - thanks so much for joining us today. First, I’d like to ask you about your journey to get here (career and otherwise). Can you tell us a little about your career path to date?
I’ve been with HKS/Abaqus/SIMULIA my whole career. The way I ended up working here was totally serendipitous. I was looking for a summer job before grad school and I saw this small typewritten advertisement on a bulletin board in the engineering department at my school. It said something vague like, “Summer Internship: must be interested in solid mechanics and numerical methods. Hours 9﹘5.” Really exciting, right? What caught my attention was someone added a handwritten modification in red ink: “Hours 9am﹘5am.” Once I started, I realized it was a very special place. I was only the 10th person hired and, yes, people worked long hours. However, it was because they were having fun! I was really happy to return full-time after grad school.
As we’ve just heard, we all started from somewhere. Who were your role models or mentors, and what did you learn from them about simulation, engineering and life in general?
They would have to be the founders of HKS, David Hibbitt, Bengt Karlsson, and Paul Sorensen. They set standards for technical excellence, customer service, and integrity that continue to inspire me.
That’s great! Thanks for setting the scene. Let’s learn a little more about what you do currently. What does a day in the life of Mark Bohm look like?
On any given day, our team is working with customers around the world making sure we have the right people doing the right things to maximize success with our products. We also spend a good deal of time assimilating requirements from customers so we can continuously improve our products. Finally, we help communicate the value we can deliver and help to develop a strong community of customers. There’s a lot of variety in the job, and I enjoy working with my colleagues in many countries.
OK, so we know what you do… but why do you do it? What about your job drives you to get out of bed in the morning?
Using simulation to predict real-world behavior is both complicated and important. Maybe because of that, our company has always attracted interesting, smart people who are wonderful to work with. In addition, we know, when applied well, simulation can really make the world better in both small and large ways. Maybe you don’t think about it, but every time you drive a safe, reliable and durable vehicle or see a relative with, say, an artificial knee that greatly improves their quality of life, simulation plays an important role and that’s gratifying.
In short, we can help make products and processes more safe and sustainable while at the same time reducing their cost. It’s not easy to apply simulation well in an industrial setting, but it’s worth it, and that challenge motivates me.
Awesome! Now, let’s get a bit more specific. What is your preferred simulation software?
Abaqus and all the other products in the DS SIMULIA portfolio, of course!
And are you working on anything particularly exciting at the moment?
One key area for us is the Transportation and Mobility industry. We are deeply engaged with helping customers navigate the transformations necessary for electrification and autonomous driving. Improving their simulation efficiency and effectiveness across the board is integral to success in those areas.
We’re doing really interesting work on batteries from coupled electro-chemical-thermal-mechanical physics for cell design to module and pack design. We’re also working on delivering practical solutions for optimizing electric drivetrains. These require tradeoffs among multiphysics KPIs and well-constructed multidisciplinary optimization studies. Another exciting development is the DS strategic partnership with AVSimulation. We think our Simpack product coupled with their SCANeR software will offer unique value for virtual testing of autonomous vehicle control algorithms.
We’re also working really hard to make the process of simulation model building more efficient for all industries. Because SIMULIA is part of the same company that develops two of the world’s most popular CAD systems – CATIA and SolidWorks – we can make simulation models deeply coupled with CAD in ways not feasible for other vendors. We call this tight integration MODSIM and we expect it to make simulation much more efficient and accessible moving forward.
We’ve all worked on things that we’re particularly proud of or that we enjoyed more than our typical work. What is the coolest project you’ve ever worked on?
There are many so it’s difficult to say. For me, any project that brings together smart people from both our side and the customer side to solve an important, technically challenging industrial problem has the basic ingredients to be “cool.”
One such project was the work we did with Exxon over the last decade to develop technology and methodologies to efficiently simulate hydraulic fracturing. The numerical methods and software we developed are helping Exxon save millions in production costs and excess emissions from unnecessary wells. Equally exciting, is the same technology now is highly relevant to carbon sequestration, which is critical to the emerging carbon capture, utilization & storage industry.
I also enjoy projects where I can help grow our team’s skills. If I can help develop and motivate the next generation of colleagues, that’s a win.
What does ‘cutting edge’ simulation look like today, in your opinion?
Cutting edge applications always include one or more of these ingredients: they stretch available computational resources; they require nonlinear mechanics, often spanning multiple physics or length scales; and they automate model building, solver execution and post-processing so simulation can have a broader, faster impact. These ingredients haven’t changed over time. What has changed is the range of what’s possible because of the vast improvements in computational power and software algorithms.
You’ve clearly made it to a point in your career where we’re calling you an ‘expert’. A lot of our readers aspire to get to this point in their own careers, too! What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring engineer that might help them grow in their simulation career?
In no particular order: Remain curious and keep learning; develop your professional network both inside and outside your company; be known as a helper; become the best communicator you can.
OK, well thanks for all of that. Here’s a fun one to finish with: Who, alive or dead, would you love to sit down and have a drink and a chat with? Why? And what would you ask them?
My great-great-grandmother who had a career as a “ghost” architect in 19th century Poland. She designed buildings without getting any credit. She was a big influence on my father who, in turn, was a big influence on me. I’d ask her how she got into that career and what it was like to be a woman in a still male-dominated field.
Well that was fantastic! Thanks so much again for taking the time with us today. We wish you continued success in your career – and I’m sure our paths will cross again very soon!
As Director of Worldwide Technical Sales for SIMULIA, Mark would like to invite all of our readers to the series of upcoming regional user meetings - beginning with one for the Americas on May 18 –20. It’s virtual and free and he hopes to “see” many customers there. You can register for that meeting here.