• Meet our Members

    Q&A with Mary'beth RameyMary'beth Ramey headshot

    Mary'beth Ramey is a senior at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia where she is working toward a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering. By participating in the university’s co-operative (co-op) educational program, she’s also gaining valuable work experience on a rotational basis through an internship at DuPont. Ramey helped establish the ISA student section at Virginia Tech, and served as president of the section in 2018. She’s accepted an offer for a full-time position at DuPont, which she will begin upon her graduation in May of this year.

    You are currently a member of the ISA Student Section at Virginia Tech, but are also gaining work experience through an internship with DuPont. Could you explain your involvement with both ISA and DuPont?

    I first joined ISA as a student member before the Virginia Tech Student Section existed. The closest section at the time was the Richmond-Hopewell Section, so I joined that section by default. In February of 2018, I and a few other VT students founded a student section here; the Richmond-Hopewell Section is now our advisory section. I fully intend to become a regular ISA member when I graduate and to continue being involved with ISA in the future.

    While at Virginia Tech, I am taking advantage of a co-op program. A co-op is a paid internship experience where you take a semester off from school to work full time. At Virginia Tech, being enrolled in the co-op program has allowed me to maintain my full-time student status so I didn't have to withdraw from school for the semester. My co-op experience at DuPont has been rotational in nature, so I've worked one fall semester, one spring semester, and several summer terms.

    My first mentor in process control at DuPont mentioned ISA to me in 2015. He suggested that if I seriously wanted to pursue a career in process control, I should become an ISA student member as the cost to join is only $10. After joining, I started reading ISA publications and taking some online ISA training courses to stay in the know. I recall my mentor saying: "You never know what you'll read about to help you in your job." I followed his advice, expecting to only be involved in ISA as a consumer, but the more involved I've been in the Society, the more excited I've become to grow my career in process control as a member of this professional association.

    Do co-op arrangements position students for full-time jobs at companies where they intern?

    Usually, being a co-op does not guarantee a full-time position, but companies do like to recruit within their familiar co-op pool. With DuPont, I still had to interview for several full-time positions available. I ended up accepting an offer in the company’s field program, which is also rotational in nature, similar to the co-op program. My first rotation will be in Parkersburg, West Virginia where I will work half the time in manufacturing and half the time in process control work for a projected two- to three-year period. For future rotations, I am eager to transition fully into process control and hopefully settle into a permanent position.

    What initially attracted you to the field of automation (and specifically your selected field)...and when was it? Was there any specific thing that triggered your interest?

    I initially became interested in the field of automation through my process control co-op rotations at DuPont, starting in May 2015 and continuing intermittently until August 2018. Before then, I had worked on the interface side of control systems as a user by simply changing settings on a control room's Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) for production experiments.

    Once I started my process control role, I learned how control systems generally function and became responsible for converting several control rooms from GUS graphics to HTML. Through this project, I delved more into the brains of control systems and became fascinated by the subject over time. I have to admit that, initially, I was intimidated by the steep learning curve process control threw at me. It took a little while to get to know all the lingo and how all the pieces fit together. But once it started clicking and I was able to deliver meaningful solutions to the control room operators' problems, that really magnified my interest in a career in automation and process control.

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

    I'm still a senior in college right now so I find myself in between my co-op job and my full-time job starting in June. That being said, my new role is as a Manufacturing Technology Engineer at DuPont. In this role, I will be splitting my work between the manufacturing technology group and the process control group. My focus will be to optimize the production and safety of a given process line with a given control system while maintaining the integrity of that process line and its control system. From my co-op experience, I have a strong background in designing HMIs and performing day-to-day tasks within Honeywell's ExperionPKS control system. Ultimately, my area of specialty in the field of automation will be process control.

    Are you involved in any volunteer or leadership activities within ISA?

    During 2018, I served as the President of ISA's student section at Virginia Tech. Now, I am the section webmaster and will hold that position until I graduate in May. A couple other VT officers and I went to ISA's Annual Leadership Conference in Montreal last October, and I was very excited to meet so many leaders within ISA. Most notably, we met the SAIT student section leaders who talked us into attending their annual competition this upcoming March. Our section is currently fundraising to attend this event and I am very excited to go and get Virginia Tech more involved in ISA.

    What ways would you say ISA has benefited you?

    The most obvious way that ISA has benefited me was through its Educational Foundation Scholarship Award for my 2017-2018 school year. It has also enabled me to expand my network of industry contacts, which I hope to grow as I become more involved in the association. I've really enjoyed sparking up new professional relationships with ISA members and hope to continue developing them in the future. ISA also provided me with the opportunity to present at the 2017 Process Control & Safety (PCS) Symposium in Houston, as well as the chance to learn more about other PCS topics at the event. All in all, my time as a student member in ISA has been very rewarding and everything I'd hoped to gain out of a professional society.

    Do you have any advice or suggestions to other young automation professionals entering the profession? Are there things that you have learned that you might pass on…to help them better develop their careers?

    From advice passed down to me, I'd say that belonging to a professional society is one of the best things you can do to ensure a fulfilling and dynamic career. ISA is certainly the one to join for those interested in the field of automation. It's always a good idea to build relationships with automation folks outside your specific company, especially if you want to become an industry leader in automation. That being said, I would advise college students to join as soon as you can to get a head start on building professional relationships over time. Through my student membership in ISA, I have learned that you get out what you put into a professional society. The more I've contributed, the more I've learned about all the resources ISA has available for continuous learning and making connections.