• By Bill Lydon
  • The Final Say

Due to the pandemic, we have entered a virtual world, replacing physical events with Zoom calls, webinars, and electronic chat rooms, but we can enhance them by reaching out and touching someone.

My more-than-30-year industrial automation career has benefited from learning and meeting people at ISA symposiums, trade shows, and other face-to-face events that, unfortunately, have been canceled during the pandemic. Fortunately, Internet technology allows us to attend virtual events that are productive under the circumstances. But these virtual events lack valuable informal human interaction.

Logically I know events must be virtual during these times, but they do not have the added dimension of face-to-face attendee discussions. Mingling at exposition areas, breakfasts, breaks, lunches, social hours, dinners—and just bumping into people—I gained highly valuable information: knowledge, new ideas, insights, and know-how. These informal interactions at events also foster greater camaraderie in the automation community. As a result, you make long-term professional connections and friendships, and these become your personal ecosystem of automation resources. Your professional life is enhanced by a diverse group of people in a way that goes beyond formal training and book learning.

Reach out and touch someone

The lack of informal interaction due to virtual symposiums and events has led me to think about the 1970s AT&T advertising slogan, “Reach out and touch someone,” encouraging people to make long distance calls to friends and family. This campaign was highly successful, touching a fundamental need for human interaction not always possible at a distance.

Feeling the sense of loss of face-to-face events for several months, I started making a conscious effort to reach out and connect with people using emails, LinkedIn messages, ISA Connect, and phone calls to say hello, how are you doing, and what’s happening? The reception to these efforts has been very good, because I think people feel the same need to connect. Phone calls particularly have been well appreciated, with many resulting in serendipitous conversations about meaningful challenges and solutions.

Industry is faced with rapid change and challenges, and the diversity of automation professionals throughout the world is a great resource for dealing with these changes in the automation industry. In Judith E. Glaser’s book, Conversational Intelligence, she describes how conversations actually rewire our DNA and brain chemistry for mutual success. In my experience, asking people in my ecosystem for ideas and thoughts has proven invaluable for solving automation control problems and improving operations.

The broader ecosystem outside your organization is important for protecting yourself and your company against the dangers of becoming inwardly focused and not changing with the times.

Whether you are a young person just entering the workforce, new to the industry, or an experienced veteran, your ecosystem can help you navigate industrial automation challenges and new technology.

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About The Authors

Bill Lydon is an InTech contributing editor with more than 25 years of industry experience. He regularly provides news reports, observations, and insights here and on Automation.com