Q&A with Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds
Scott Reynolds, P.E., is a Lead Engineer for Industrial Systems at Johns Manville, a leading manufacturer and marketer of insulation and commercial roofing as well as fibers and nonwovens for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. Within ISA, Reynolds serves as District 8 Vice President Elect. He is the immediate past president of ISA’s Denver Section.

Please tell us about your career in automation your educational background (degree/s received)

My current role at Johns Manville is leading a team that focuses on industrial system infrastructure and system architecture. I also work to ensure that capital projects meet the standards of our IT Department, and work on integration projects between the IT/OT worlds.

A core area we focus on with the architectures and projects is risk management. This involves both improving reliability of systems as well as minimizing cybersecurity threats. My team also has systems that we manage ourselves, especially those not in the IT/OT grey area. These include historian systems and gateway servers between the MES and the shop floor.

I have a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering technology with a concentration in information technology, and have minors in computer science and business administration, all from the University of Maine. I received my Professional Engineer license in control systems and achieved Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®) certification. In addition, I am working to obtain a master’s degree in business administration from the University of South Dakota. I expect to graduate in May of 2017.

What initially attracted you to the field of automation?

I took a class on PLC programming in college. Upon graduation, I took a job offer from an environmental consulting firm (Woodard & Curran) to work in control system integration. From that point on, I began focusing on automation and control systems. It ended up fitting perfectly with my minor in computer science.

Tell us about your current involvement in ISA.

I’m currently transitioning from my involvement in the Denver Section to serving on the new ISA executive board. A challenge for me is to make things as streamlined as possible before passing my position on to the next section president. On the ISA Geographic Assembly, I am working on the committee to update the section manual. I hope this will better showcase the opportunities and roles available within sections and improve section success. I am also representing the Geographic Assembly as a Director on the Strategic Planning Committee.

It’s an interesting time for me as I move from section president to district vice president. I’m focusing more on my MBA before my role as DVP ramps up. Once my MBA studies are completed, I hope to be more active on the ISA-99 Committee.

How would you say ISA has benefited you?

At the top of the list is networking. I have met so many people that I can engage with about work, standards, and the architecture of control systems. ISA also has enabled me to gain valuable leadership experience. For instance, as section president, I had to learn how to manage people. I’ve been able to leverage these skills at my company. It’s been a unique challenge working as a volunteer leader because it can be difficult to encourage others to take action if they don’t readily recognize the value of doing it. It’s the role of a leader to help others understand the value of certain processes and decisions and work together to achieve common goals. ISA has also enabled me to develop professionally. I obtained the tools and training needed to achieve CAP® designation and become a Professional Engineer. I’ve also enjoyed opportunities to present on topics that interest me. Doing so forces me to fully explore and research the issues.

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

When starting out as an automation professional, I would focus on three main things. The first is to ask questions; ask so many questions that people get annoyed with you. If you can’t get the answer you’re seeking, work even harder to get it through research. The more inquisitive you are, the faster you will ramp up your technical understanding and develop the knowledge needed to become a successful automation professional.

The second is to break stuff! The fastest way to learn how something works is to be willing to break something. Being too cautious slows down your learning. Also, it’s important to know how to deal when something does, in fact, break. You will need to address the situation with your client.

The third is to learn and master people skills. Having good interpersonal skills will advance your career. You will be held back if you lack them. Most people in the automation profession interact with a lot of people. People with good interpersonal skills can usually compensate for gaps in technical knowledge. If you’re engaged, you can work through challenges and deal with tough discussions. The right people skills is valuable in virtually all situations, whether you’re managing people or working in client management or sales. Even if you are a recognized subject matter expert, you need interpersonal skills to work well with others.