- By Eric C. Cosman
- Executive Corner
By Eric C. Cosman
I am very pleased to have been given an opportunity to provide a brief editorial for this special version of InTech. Although this year has been challenging for everyone, the volunteer leaders and staff at ISA are working very hard to move forward with our strategy for our Society, positioning it for long-term success as the “Home of Automation."
When I started my career as a chemical engineer, I would have never predicted that automation would be my area of focus for so many years. In fact, of all of my courses in school, process control was the one that I struggled with the most. However, my strong interest in computers and programming led me first to the automation of various process design calculations, then to simulation, and ultimately to the use of computers to visualize and control plant operations. I have never looked back.
Over these many years, a recurring theme that has never failed to excite me is the application of computers and automation to all aspects of engineering and plant operations. Although the laws of physics and chemistry do not change, the processes used to harness them to develop innovative and profitable products are infinite. In virtually all cases, these processes can be improved or optimized using some degree of automation. Some processes, in fact, are so fragile or dangerous that they are impossible to operate without automation.
It is the intersection of data and knowledge with the physical world that I have always found so interesting. This is the essence of engineering, and I am convinced that this is what attracts people to our field.
While the popular caricature of an engineer may be of one who is staid and conservative, I have had the privilege of working with—and learning from—some of the most creative and innovative people I have ever known. A successful engineer must have both an appreciation for and an understanding of proven and effective practices, as well as a curiosity about emerging techniques and technology. This in turn requires sharing experience and expertise.
ISA provides a forum for this sharing for automation professionals. This is what a professional association is all about—and ours has been successfully doing that for 75 years.
We come together to share, coach, teach, and learn about all aspects of our profession, from technology and applications to “soft skills,” such as leadership and project management. In these and other areas much has changed since our Society was first formed. We have expanded from an instrument society to an automation society, reflecting a much broader focus. We continually strive to expand our reach outside our origins in North America. Meanwhile, industry expectations and enabling technologies continue to change, sometimes at what seems like a breakneck pace.
As a Society we must respect and learn from our legacy while responding to these changes and meeting new challenges. I believe that we can do this much more effectively as a community than individually. This is why I am a member of ISA, and why I take every opportunity to attract people both to our Society and to our profession.
Our past is rich and, together, our future promises to be even richer.
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