• Meet our Members

    Q&A with Billy Walsh

    Billy Walsh
    Billy Walsh

    Please provide me with some general information about yourself, such as your current ISA involvement.

    I’m currently chair of the Operational Assembly within ISA’s new structure. Its members represent four departments within the Society, namely Image & Membership, Professional Development, Publications and Strategic Planning. Additionally, I serve on the Executive Board of ISA for the term of office 2015-2017, having been elected to this governance position during ISA’s first direct-member election in September 2014. I’m also a long-term serving member on the ISA Honors & Awards Committee and, for 2015, I serve as subcommittee chair for the Excellence in Technical Presentation Award.

    Please furnish a brief introduction of yourself, covering your educational background and how and why you became interested in a career in automation?

    I’m currently an instrument engineer within the School of Food & Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland. In this position, I work for the Irish government. UCC has a national and international reputation for providing quality education in food and nutrition, and operates state-of-the-art facilities both at laboratory (teaching and research) and pilot plant level. The school also offers four undergraduate degree courses and five post graduate programs for the agricultural food industry sector, in addition to a number of master’s programs.

    I received a bachelor of science degree in applied physics and instrumentation from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) in Ireland in 1994, having previously completed a number of certificate and higher diploma courses in measurement and control. Academic staff members within Cork Institute of Technology provide excellent career guidance and inspiration for those who embarked on a career within the control, automation and measurement sectors. In fact, three former ISA Ireland Section Presidents were on the academic staff within CIT. ISA was always promoted by the institute as a good option to choose for further education and improving skills throughout your working career.

    Tell us more about your current role and responsibilities—both in terms of your career and your involvement in ISA.

    In my job, I provide technical and engineering support to post-graduate students and post-doctorate students within the School of Food & Nutritional Sciences at the university in Cork Ireland. It feels good to work for an employer that has seen many of its former graduates progress in their careers to be renowned leaders and visionaries within the food industry, both in Ireland and throughout the world.

    At ISA, as chairman of the Operational Assembly, it is my duty to facilitate all meetings and group activities of its members and ensure that all obligations of the assembly are been met as outlined in the ISA Manual of Operations and Procedures (MOP). The duties and responsibilities of the Operational Assembly members are carried out throughout the year by holding conference calls and two face-to-face meetings. As a current member of the Executive Board, I’m part of a team that sets the strategic direction for ISA, approves the annual budget, and acts on matters of policy to advance Society objectives as specified by the Bylaws.

    Under the new governance structure that was enacted a few years ago, the onus is on all EB members to serve on one of the groups to ensure ISA achieves its five strategic goals: content, data, coolest delivery, cybersecurity, and advocacy. I’m currently a liaison member of a group (comprised of volunteers and staff leads) that is working on the advocacy goal. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we build positive momentum toward achieving this goal, which will benefit ISA, its members and customers, and the future of the automation profession.

    How would you say ISA has benefited you?

    My main reason for joining ISA back in 1980 was to network with colleagues who work for the private sector. I have spent the majority of my working life employed by the Irish government as the universities within Ireland are mostly stated funded. ISA met my needs as I sought a source where I could obtain technical content and mingle with like-minded individuals for continuous professional development.

    Through the years the ISA Ireland Section (chartered in 1978) has built a great tradition of sponsoring top-quality monthly technical discussions across a diverse range of topics, in addition to hosting half-day and full-day symposia and conferences on leading-edge topics. These technical events, as hosted by the Ireland Section, provide an excellent forum to meet and exchange views with engineering and technical professionals and, therefore, improve professionals’ knowledge in a fast-changing technological world.

    ISA is a wonderful resource for accessing technical papers, standards, publications, and webinars, and attending symposia and continuous training opportunities. All these resources embrace and support the vision and mission of the Society as it delivers remarkable value and benefits for a modest annual membership fee.

    What advice would you give to young professionals entering the automation profession?

    A career as an automation professional can be challenging, dynamic, and exciting. Newly qualified entrants will have to continuously strive to better themselves by staying abreast of changing technology in a fast-moving global world. Ongoing education is the key to professional development in the automation professional; the quest for knowledge must never cease.

    The benefits far outweigh the effort as the learning process never stops and the opportunities to network, increase technical knowledge, and develop leadership skills make it a very rewarding career choice. Young automation professionals need to tap into the vast knowledge base and life experiences that veteran professionals and ISA members have acquired through decades of dedication and commitment. I encourage newly hired graduates in the field to take advantage of as many mentorship opportunities as possible.