Ruth Sikorski is a project engineer in the Aerospace Systems Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory. In advancing aerospace science and technology, The Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate brings together world-class facilities including a fuels research facility, structural testing labs, compressor research facility, rocket testing facilities, supersonic and subsonic wind tunnels, flight simulation lab, and many other cutting-edge research labs. Sikorski is also highly engaged in ISA, serving in numerous leadership positions at the district, division and section levels.
Please provide me with some general information about work position and your current ISA involvement.
In my work, I serve as a project engineer in the Aerospace Systems Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory. In terms of my involvement with ISA, I am currently in the first year of my term in two different positions. I serve as District 5 Vice President and Director of the Aerospace Industry Division. I am also well into my second year as the President of ISA’s Dayton Section, and looking for a successor. And oh yes, I am the General Chair of ISA’s 62nd International Instrumentation Symposium (IIS), which will be taking place 23-26 May in Dayton, Ohio. I want to promote the fact that on 23 May, ISA will be offering two short courses. The formal program will be conducted 24-26 May. I also want to draw attention to the fact that abstracts for papers are still being accepted and the early registration deadline is 9 May.
Please give us some background on your education and how and why you became interested in a career in automation.
It’s hard to believe that when I was in high school, the subjects that I chose were math, physics, accounting and business economics. After serving time in the military, I gravitated to automation and instrumentation. I joined Alusaf (an aluminum plant) in South Africa and completed an apprenticeship at the company. I passed my trade test with distinction, receiving my Red Seal.
Automation has always intrigued me for the reason that it can be used in so many different market sectors and in our everyday life. Of course, I have used my automation skills and knowledge in the industrial marketplace. But it’s also quite prevalent in motor sports, where it’s essential to get real-time data and information on vehicles as they are driven. For me, automation has given me the opportunity to work on and experience a large variety of processes and operations. It’s given me the chance to work and engage with many different people around the world. It’s been a great opportunity to interact with and learn from other cultures and build respect among colleagues and peers.
How would you say ISA has benefited you?
Coming to Canada and having no family around me, I basically had to start from scratch. No one knew me personally or about my capabilities and achievements. Since joining ISA, I have had the opportunity to grow my professional network and make some lifelong friends in the process. ISA has given me the chance to grow as a professional through leadership and mentors. My attendance at technical events and leadership conferences has enabled me to engage with other experts from around the world, sharing ideas and perspectives. I value access to ISA standards and white papers as they keep me on the cutting edge and abreast of new technologies and practices relating to the various market sectors and industries I serve. I thank ISA and its members for being accepting me for who I am and providing me with the tools and guidance to keep me continually learning and growing.
What advice would you give to other young professionals entering the automation profession?
Keep an open mind. Learn from your mistakes as we all make them. Find a mentor you can rely on. And last, but certainly not least, join ISA. It’s a great way to network with colleagues and make friends.