Bored techie lights up with automation
After three semesters at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, Josh Berhens dropped out with no clue what he wanted to do for a living. He did some odd jobs for a year while trying to decide, and he soon “surrendered to the easy way out. My brother who worked at a close-by mill had gotten me an interview there, and I was prepped for it,” he said. Although he and everyone around him knew that was not what he wanted.
Berhens did not make it to the interview at the mill, but instead applied to The Pittsburgh Technical Institute (PTI), “and to this day, I have no idea why I did. I chose electronics for my study of interest, and my tour was scheduled. Since my grandfather and my father were successful electronics technicians, I decided to give it a go about.”
Berhens started out bored until he got into digital. “Then it got better; then came microprocessing and programming. After those quarters, I felt I had found my niche. I was hooked, completely fascinated with the field of automation.”
Growing up, Berhens was more into sports rather than building things, studying, or being creative. “I always felt automation was intriguing and interesting, but anything to do with making that crazy stuff work was beyond my league of study,” he said. “It wasn’t until I went to school I realized, no matter who you are or what you think of a subject, if you are passionate about what you want, the goal is reachable.”
And Berhens never plans to quit learning because, “as skilled as I may become, I will never master every aspect of automation simply because it will never stop changing or advancing. In his Industrial Automation class, Berhens quickly learned he was naturally good at programming PLC ladder logic. “It was easy for me; I was quick to think up a program for anything, and from there, it was a walk in the park.
Now Berhens is interning for Muninn Group, a company that specializes in building and industrial automation, and he is finding out quickly “just how difficult this stuff can be. I have learned already, however, that the difficulty and challenge of this field is what makes me enjoy it so much.”
One of Berhen’s life lessons so far is the real world is “not nearly as cut and dry as it is in the classroom. We were very hands-on in our classes at PTI, but when no one is around to critique your mistakes and explain in detail what to do, that’s scary. Real-life automation is amazing, and it is very difficult, beyond what I thought it would be like. I feel that is the best part of it. I enjoy a challenge, because it helps me grow as a person and as a professional.”
Berhens said ISA has been a big influence in his decision to choose a career in the field of automation, and he is now president of the new student chapter from PTI. One of his goals is to complete requirements for the Certified Automation Professional, or CAP.
Since automation is always advancing, Berhens recommends it to fellow students. Berhen’s route—attending a two-year school in a technology study—gives you all the skills needed to begin a career in automation, he said. “From there, you can begin obtaining field experience in a job and go after furthering your education. Berhens plans to attend another school and go for a Bachelors degree in Engineering.
If someone is a hard worker and loves critical thinking, then a career in automation is exactly what they may be looking for, he said. Berhens loves to solve problems and analyze situations and then execute a plan; he looks forward to new challenges every day. “Automation gives a person so much room to wonder and be creative. There are so many open doors in this field, and the opportunities are endless. The thrill of being a part of designing some of the amazing systems out there is inexplicable.”