• By Brian Curtis
  • Special Section
Career opportunity knocks
Perspectives from the president

By Brian Curtis, 2018 ISA president

I am proud to be the 2018 ISA president and to participate in the advancement of the automation profession. As someone who has been highly engaged for many years in my local (Ireland) ISA section, I am very aware of the personal and professional career rewards that come with active ISA membership involvement. Career development is a significant part of human development and spans an individual's entire life. Itincludes learning, work, leisure, and transitions to achieve a personally determined and evolving future. ISA is the best organization for career development in the automation profession, and\, as many of us have learned, the more you contribute to the organization, the more value you receive.

ISA is continually advancing automation by providing opportunities for automation professionals to learn more, develop their careers, and help form the future of automation. This is accomplished in many ways, including opportunities to improve knowledge, skills, problem solving, leadership development, and friendship. Members develop and contribute through collaboration, mentorship, volunteerism, sponsorship, and student scholarships. I and many others have learned that contributing time, knowledge, and talents enhances our understanding and insights in unexpected ways.

ISA ecosystem

"Ecosystem" is a hot buzzword in business circles today, and the ISA organization is an ecosystem available to automation professionals, as ISA members, to advance their careers and the profession. I challenge you to be a member and make the most of, capitalize on, and benefit from the ISA ecosystem. In nature, an ecosystem is a community of living organisms interacting as a system in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water, and mineral soil). ISA is an ecosystem of people focused on common goals and visions with a wide range of automation and control backgrounds, experience, and expertise. ISA provides a broad platform where members gain information and skills to improve operations, quality, and productivity, which are critical for manufacturers to compete.

The ISA ecosystem of automation profession members is a culture that helps members increase their knowledge, grow in their careers, and drive positive industry change. Leveraging what they learn, members can contribute entirely new value to their employers' operations, making them more successful. The ISA ecosystem resources include the ISA.org website, InTech magazine, Automation.com, books, standards, technical papers, webinars, ISA Interchange, training, and events. The most important part of the ISA ecosystem is ISA members who have a wealth of knowledge and experience.

ISA conferences and symposiums are a great example of bringing people together around topics that create focused ecosystems. ISA conferences and symposiums include the ISA Analysis Division Symposium (AD), Foundations of Alarm Management, ISA LDAR Fugitive Emissions Symposium, International Instrumentation Symposium (IIS), ISA POWID-EPRI Symposium, and ISA Water/Wastewater and Automatic Controls Symposium.

Symposiums and other events have great content value, but the interactions among people who share the same interests, challenges, and problems also bring an abundance of knowledge. I believe there is great value at these events where people interact formally and informally in conversations, creating lasting connections, and, in many cases, long-term friendships. In Judith E. Glaser's book, Conversational Intelligence, she talks about how conversations actually rewire our DNA and brain chemistry for mutual success. Over the years, these personal connections from events become your own specialized ecosystem of people with common interests and a storehouse of knowledge. In my experience, asking people in my ecosystem for ideas and thoughts proved invaluable for solving automation control problems and improving operations. Today, it is much easier to continually stay in touch and share with people you have met using email and the ISA LinkedIn group, which has more than 45,000 members.

Young and experienced benefit

Whether you are a young person just entering the workforce, new to the industry, or an experienced veteran, the ISA ecosystem can help you navigate industrial automation challenges and new technology. ISA continues to create opportunities for a younger generation of bright new minds to grow and meet the challenges of the future. ISA members and leadership continue to make decisions based on our future-not what we have done in the past. We cannot constrain ourselves to our past behavior and practices. Attracting new and younger leaders to the Society is important, because they bring new thinking and fresh perspectives that in an open environment, when combined with experienced leaders, create a much stronger organization and more value.

Diversity of thought

The automation industry is faced with rapid change and challenges, and the diversity of ISA members throughout industry is a great resource of experience, ideas, and know-how to deal with these changes in the automation industry. The broader ISA ecosystem outside of your organization is important for protecting against the dangers of a company becoming inwardly focused and not changing with the times. Companies that are completely inwardly focused run the risk of missing new opportunities for improvements and being blindsided by changes in the external reality.

Focused on the future

Clearly, ISA is an organization that is proud of its past but is firmly focused on the future. In setting the standard for automation and control, we are determined to constantly raise the bar. Evidence of new Society growth and new opportunities for all of us to learn, participate, and help shape the future of our profession and industry are all around us. The world of the automation professional is changing daily, affected by evolving and emerging new technologies and solutions that need to be applied in creative new ways. ISA is committed to adapting in this changing environment.

The roots of ISA are in the process industries, mainly petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage. This is an important strength, and now other industry sectors are recognizing they benefit from leveraging and applying our expertise. There are many opportunities to make our intellectual property (IP) available to other segments of the economy involved in automation. In doing so, we can contribute to the improvement of other industries and make their services and solutions more valuable to their customers and end users. There are many opportunities to secure new members and customers by explaining and demonstrating value.

Members are at the heart of ISA. They truly "make" ISA possible. Without the members, we would not possess the IP that is so valuable to those in the automation profession. It takes committed and passionate members-working within a network of peers-to volunteer and apply their talents and knowledge to assist others.

We have so many strengths and so much knowledge that can benefit the world, to make it a better and safer place. So, why not do it? In the process, we will expand our membership base, add new customers, and grow. Building automation is an area that has expressed interest in our cybersecurity standards. By leading with our expertise in cybersecurity, we can explore other ways of providing service and value.

Given that there are so many new opportunities, we have to think a bit differently, modify what we do and how we do things, and accept change. We are not going to move away from our core strengths-in standards, training, publications, certificate and certification programs, and events-but we need to introduce new business models and delivery formats to meet the demands of an evolving world.

ISA sets the standard for automation by enabling automation professionals across the world to work for the benefit of all. The ISA Board knows with great staff, great volunteer leaders, members, customers, partners, and member support and commitment to ISA, we all can make a difference each day in improving ISA and shaping the future of the automation profession. Sometimes that difference begins with just a conversation with our peers and colleagues.

The advent of a new year is the ideal time to take a fresh look at all the different ways ISA members can get involved in ISA sections and divisions and support the organization's vision and mission.

ISA vision

ISA sets the standard for automation by enabling automation professionals across the world to work for the benefit of all.

ISA published mission

ISA's mission is to enable our members, including worldwide subject-matter experts, automation suppliers, and end users, to work together to develop and deliver the highest quality, unbiased automation information, including standards, training, publications, and certifications.

Will you answer?

Career growth comes from action. Your opportunity is to get involved by being a member and ISA volunteer contributing to the automation profession and your own development.

Reader Feedback

We want to hear from you! Please send us your comments and questions about this topic to InTechmagazine@isa.org.

Like This Article?

Subscribe Now!

About The Authors

Brian Curtis, the 2018 ISA president, is the operations manager for Veolia Energy Ireland, providing services to Novartis Ringaskiddy Ltd. in Cork, Ireland. He has more than 35 years of experience in the petrochemical, biotechnology, and bulk pharmaceutical industries, specializing in design, construction management, and commissioning of electrical, instrumentation, and automation control systems. He has managed complex engineering projects in Ireland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany.

A long-time ISA member, Curtis has served on the ISA Executive Board since 2013, as well as the Geographic Assembly Board (2012–2015) and the Finance Committee (2013–2017). He was Ireland section president and vice president of District 12. Curtis has also been active on several Society task forces, including cybersecurity, governance, and globalization-related committees. He received the ISA Distinguished Society Service Award in 2010.