From primary education through graduate learning, workforce development is vital to our growth as a profession. ISA has formed a partnership with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and the Automation Federation has developed the Automation Competency Model and is working with various learning institutions to develop automation-specific curriculum. With all of this work going on, what are we, the professionals who currently make up the automation workforce, doing to enhance our careers and support our own profession?
What is your career path?
Over the years, I have seen that an overwhelming majority of automation professionals do not have a solid, actionable career plan. I cannot explain why this is the case, but it seems to be the reality. How many of us have determined what we want from our careers? What do we want to be in five, 10, 15 years? The norm is the passive path, where we put our careers in the hands of others. As we gain more seniority in a company, often we are expected to take on more responsibility or we are placed in a position where our expertise and passion are misplaced. For instance, a great senior technical person may be placed into a project management role in which he or she will likely struggle to be successful and will feel out of place.
Automation professionals can find themselves in a variety of roles, such as technicians, engineers, managers, sales, service, field techs, commissioning specialists, technical gurus, and process experts. We can work for end users, systems integrators, vendors, engineering firms, ourselves, and many other employers. The possibilities are endless. With all these options, how do you differentiate yourself from others? How do you demonstrate your mastery of automation?
You have to be an expert at something
To succeed, you have to be an expert at something and be able to demonstrate that expertise to others. It is difficult to be an expert in the total field of automation, because the body of knowledge is so expansive. One of the best ways to demonstrate your mastery of the profession is that of certification. ISA has set the standard for certification programs in the automation profession. The Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST) and Certified Automation Professional (CAP) are designed specifically for this. CAP is a globally recognized certification demonstrating that the holder has a working knowledge of the automation profession and can be trusted to perform the duties required in automation.
Dean Ford, CAP, serves the professionals of Westin Engineering, Inc., as vice president of North American engineering. In this role, he keeps our electrical, water and wastewater infrastructure safe, secure, and reliable—protecting both the public and the environment.
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