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  • By Bill Lydon
  • The Final Say

Workers in hard hats looking at an electronic device on a plant floor.
Experienced automation professionals have an opportunity to mentor people entering industry, which is a way of “paying forward” your expertise. Paying forward is the idea of repaying what you gained in the past from others by sharing with someone else. In the context of automation professionals, the payment is in the form of using your know-how and hard-earned experience to help new people be more effective and efficient.

New automation people just out of college or technical schools have learned the “latest and greatest,” but they lack the know-how and activity knowledge gained with years of experience. Know-how and activity knowledge are the practical understanding of how to get something done, as opposed to “know-what” (facts) or “know-why” (science). Experienced learnings are not obvious, and they are often difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing or verbalization. It is best experienced in the field with an experienced mentor as a guide.

An experienced, longtime ISA member and automation professional described mentoring as helping new people be more effective and avoid making the mistakes he had made early in his career. Without the benefit of a mentor, new people make old mistakes, spending a lot of troubleshooting time trying to fix errors that could be avoided with mentoring.

There are great advantages to pairing the veteran and the novice, beyond avoiding old mistakes. There is the potential for tremendous synergy from the combination of an experienced mentor and a person who has recently learned academically about some of the newest technologies. Synergy is defined as two or more things functioning together to produce a superior result not independently obtainable. Consider the potential, where knowledge of new methods and technology are combined with a deep and intimate understanding of the plant’s automation and physical processes.

Mentor benefits

Mentor benefits include:

  • The joy of seeing someone else progress and gain valuable skills due to your guidance.
  • The satisfaction that comes from giving back by simply sharing your own learning, having a remarkable impact on a person’s future.
  • Giving your time and knowledge to someone who might not have previously had access to your level of expertise can be hugely rewarding.
  • Gaining new perspectives as a mentor by viewing and understand a problem through the lens of your mentee.
  • You might also surprise yourself and pick up a few tips and tricks from your mentee that you might not have otherwise thought about.
  • Deeper appreciation for the unique knowledge and value you have to offer by sharing your experiences with someone else.

The longer-term result of a great short-term mentor-mentee match is often a lasting friendship and long-term contact.

ISA Mentor Program

ISA offers a unique opportunity to share your valuable experiences and perspectives by becoming part of the ISA Mentor Program. ISA’s mentoring program connects early career professionals to more seasoned professionals who are willing to help coach, guide, and share expertise.

The program is conducted entirely online. There are no meetings to attend or travel to endure. Participants are from around the world. Relationships between participants can develop and progress at your convenience. The program is designed for practitioners, retirees, and educators whose goal is the best functional use of automation products that are not exclusive to an individual supplier and are not in any way promoting the sales of products from a particular supplier. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, just complete the brief online application form.

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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