Say hello to Niraj, the new SketchUp Pro scale figure for 2022. A self-described ‘behind the scenes’ guy, it’s time to honor him with the coveted spot on the axis. We pulled an amenable Niraj into the spotlight and asked him a few questions about what makes him tick. From physicist turned architectural engineer turned sustainable building design specialist turned SketchUp extraordinaire, Niraj could fill several books with all the ideas swirling around in his head.
Name: Niraj Poudel
Role at SketchUp: Customer Success Manager
Two Truths and a Lie (scroll to the end for the lie):
- I am ambidextrous.
- I have a twin brother.
- I have hiked Monte San Martino in Lecco, Italy over 200 times.
How do you feel about being the scale figure for 2022?
When they told me I was going to be the next scale figure, I was surprised and flabbergasted! To use soccer terminology, my sweet spot is being the midfielder; the person who passes the ball to the striker to score the goal. I’m unused to attention, but at the same time, it’s exciting to be part of the SketchUp legacy.
Tell me about yourself and your journey to work at SketchUp.
I was born and raised in Nepal and came to the U.S. to study physics for my undergraduate degree. While attending Whittier College in California, I took a couple of extracurricular courses in architecture at a local community college. Little did I know then that this was the beginning of my journey into the building industry. This interest would later lead me across the ocean and back again, and eventually to accept a position at SketchUp.
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I moved to Italy to complete my master’s degree in architectural engineering at Politecnico Di Milano. One of the reasons for going to Italy was to experience famous architecture firsthand, particularly work by Renzo Piano. He was an Italian architect best known for designing high-tech public spaces and a big inspiration to me. I traveled back to the U.S. to finish my doctorate at Clemson University, where I researched phase change materials. These singular materials are important to sustainable design and passive building systems because they release or absorb energy at a particular phase transition temperature to provide heating and cooling. In layman’s terms, they regulate building temperature.
This research led me to work at Sefaira as a sustainable building design specialist in a customer-facing role. Sefaira is a software program that provides early-stage analysis for better building performance, which is right up my alley. When SketchUp acquired Sefaira, I was not only talking about Sefaira workflows with customers but also about SketchUp. My role is called a Customer Success Manager.
What is a Customer Success Manager?
A Customer Success Manager works with enterprise clients to get them firing on all cylinders, making sure they have an optimized workflow and access to the right tools. Part of my job is to communicate feedback from our clients to the product team to improve the SketchUp experience. As a Customer Success Manager with a science and engineering background, I understand what obstacles my clients face. My ability to think critically —honed through conducting experiments over the course of my career— helps me propose innovative solutions to clients looking to improve their workflow.
Science is a big part of your life. Why?
I was inspired by Carl Sagan, the American astronomer, science writer, and educator. His philosophy of science is awe-inspiring, and I wish I could have met him. Another inspiration is Richard Feynman, an American physicist who was known for his work in quantum mechanics. I’ve spent countless hours researching theories, going down rabbit holes on the internet, or as my wife likes to call it, ‘nerding out’. It’s not just science either. For example, I started playing chess, and now I am discovering new game strategies to get better and better.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My daughter is almost two years old, and I spend most of my time being a dad. I like to play the guitar for her and go camping with my family. My wife and I watch shows together in the evenings. We binge on dramas like Game of Thrones and The Morning Show or comedy sitcoms like Friends and Cheers.
I currently live in New Jersey and enjoy traveling when time allows. Although I grew up in Kathmandu, I never had a chance to explore outside of the city. One of my favorite trips was going back to Nepal to trek through the majestic mountains and bodies of water. I look forward to traveling more in the future.
And the lie is...
That I am ambidextrous. I am a lefty, but not ambidextrous.