Q&A with Bridget Fitzpatrick

Bridget Fitzpatrick
Bridget Fitzpatrick serves as Discipline Technical Authority for HMI, Abnormal Condition Management, and Human Factors at the Wood Group, a global engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance services company for the energy industry. In her position, Fitzpatrick is responsible for marketing, sales support, training, and corporate standards; consults on a wide range of projects; and serves as a team lead for a group of automation engineers. Within ISA, she is an ISA Fellow and serves as Managing Director of the ISA18 (alarm management standard) committee.

Could you provide some background on your education (degree/s received) and academic areas of emphasis?


I have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a master’s degree in business administration (concentration on technology management) from the University of Phoenix.

At MIT, I enjoyed coursework that provided practical hands-on experience. I enjoyed figuring out how things work. MIT teaches you how to think as an engineer. In chemical engineering, I found studies in heat exchange, separation, and pumping networks particularly interesting. I worked for several years as a process design engineer and enjoyed detailed engineering design, though I moved to control engineering to focus on real-time models and optimization.

In technology management, the degree impressed upon me some of the considerations and methods for developing and managing technology. I think that I almost worked as hard on the MBA as the engineering degree and feel that it has greatly enhanced my capabilities.

One of my elective courses at MIT was a lab class on the physiology and psychology of visual perception. Little did I know—while I was painting a tangle of football players—how important that would become in my career.


What initially attracted you to the field of automation? Was there any specific thing that triggered your interest?


It was an interest in complex models and wanting to take the knowledge and improvement into the real-time domain that led to my transfer from process engineering to process control.

I enjoy examining complex problems, finding ways to model and better understand them, and improve performance. Working for a chemical company was all about finding areas for cost reduction and process improvement. Once we hit the laws of nature, automation was often the best solution to remove human errors, improve cycle times, and ultimately save large sums of money.


Please tell us about your current career responsibilities (specific position, company) and background, and area of specialty in automation.


I am the Discipline Technical Authority for HMI, Abnormal Condition Management and Human Factors for Wood Group, based in their Houston office. I provide support for standards, work processes, and training in these areas. I also generally support a wide range of other projects. In recent years, part of my focus has been helping clients apply new standards and best practices in these areas. My activities in ISA and other standards bodies are supported as part of my role.


How did you get involved in ISA and what is your current level/degree of involvement in ISA (leader positions, section involvement, etc.)?

I first got involved with ISA as a process engineer working in process safety. I had a mentor who was an ISA instructor and he had me sit through some of his early presentations. This was partly what inspired me to move from process design to process control.

I was fortunate to work with the ASM Consortium as it developed guidelines for HMI, alarm management, use of mobile computers, and other areas. When I heard that ISA18 was considering a new standard, I wandered by a committee meeting at an ISA event and somehow never left. When ISA101 launched, I was quick to join that committee as well. I was an editor and voting member on the first editions of both the ISA18.2 and 101 standards. I am proud to have been honored with multiple awards related to those committees.

I currently serve as the Managing Director of the ISA18 committee on the Standards & Practices Board. As part of this activity, I support ISA’s initiatives and board objectives.


How would you say ISA has benefited you?


ISA has provided a framework to network with a wide variety of truly talented engineers. It is gratifying to work on new standards, see them be applied across the world, and witness the evolution of control system features.


You were recently elevated to ISA Fellow. Could you describe or explain what this distinguished achievement means to you?


I was thrilled to become an ISA Fellow for “innovative improvement of alarm management and human machine interface design practices.” It is very flattering to be recognized by peers whom you respect. It is also a validation that your efforts have made a difference and were significant enough to be noticed.