Why Do Automation Professionals Join ISA?

This post is authored by Jim Keaveney, president of ISA 2016.

Now that we have discussed our five strategic goals (Content, Data, Coolest Delivery, Cybersecurity, and Advocacy) and our additional focus areas for 2016 (Alignment, Leadership , Globalization and Voice of the Customer), our front line volunteer leaders and collective members are all thinking the same thing:  What’s in it for me (WIFM)?  Depending on the answer, you might just keep listening, start dancing, or change the channel.

I will admit that there is no magic bullet or slogan that will do the trick. There is no perfect or universal answer.  I can only share my own story and hopefully it will resonate with you so that you stay highly engaged with ISA.  There are three things that prompted me to join, become actively involved, and, yes, to do a dance every now and then: training, networking, and mentoring. Let’s take a closer look at these.

Training

Like most of you, my formal education did not include much in the way of automation or process controls.  I also come from the supplier side of our profession so my automation education has come about through factory training, start-up experiences, field support, and by working with clients.

My local ISA section provided additional training through some great technical topic instruction and classes.  Classes primarily covered the basic measurements (pressure, flow, temperature, level), communications, and unit operations (chemical plant operations, distillation).  Along the way, I invested in my own ISA library of about 50 books on various topics. These publications have helped me to better understand process controls and become a better, more informed resource to both my clients and my employer.

As a section, district and now Society officer, ISA also has provided me with some excellent leadership training, both formal as well as “on the job.” Holding leadership positions in a volunteer organization has taught me much about indirect influence, team dynamics, meeting facilitation, and motivation. The experiences, insights, and skills I have gained have made me a better peer and supervisor—both within ISA as well as in my career.  Along the way, I have tried to make sure my company understands the value of my Society involvement and leadership training so that it would continue to support and encourage my ISA engagement. Without question, ISA training has made a very positive impact on my career.

Networking

All the classes, meetings, and conferences I’ve attended have provided me with the opportunity to cultivate a strong and extensive personal and professional network. When faced with a particularly challenging technical or business issue, I’ve been able to draw upon my network of ISA Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and friends who share their wisdom and provide valuable guidance. ISA also has provided me with the opportunity to meet some of the authors of the important books I’ve read. Some of these interactions have occurred online as well as face to face.

I’m not sure you can put a price on having a strong network of friends and colleagues. For me, these connections have been invaluable. Networking through my ISA membership is another arrow in my professional quiver that has, I believe, made me a better automation professional and manager. My ability to tap into my ISA network is something my management has also recognized.

Mentoring

Networking has also helped to provide an entry point to mentorship. I have been blessed that several senior ISA leaders graciously serve as personal mentors.  The dictionary defines a mentor as “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.”   Through feedback and self-assessment, we all can point to areas that need improvement—which is important whether we seek career advancement or just want to become better at what we do. There is rarely a week that goes by that I do not have some contact with one of my mentors and I have ISA to thank for this gift.

There is no doubt that the more you put into a volunteer organization, the more you’ll benefit. It will, however, require that you be both persistent and proactive.  For me, ISA training, networking, and mentoring have more than answered my own WIFM question.  I’m not going to change that channel.

Next month, I plan to drill down into how the Society’s strategic planning process and goals can help our section leaders and members.  Meanwhile, I’d be curious why you tuned in and what got you hooked on ISA and what we can do to make your membership experience more rewarding.  Please contact me at President@isa.org. I’m eager to hear from you.

About the Author

Jim KeaveneyJim Keaveney is northeast regional manager and key account director at Emerson Process Management. He brings a strong track record in automation technologies sales and marketing and business planning to his role as Society president. Jim has been an active ISA member for more than 30 years and has served in numerous leadership positions, including Society treasurer, finance committee chair and District 2 vice president. He has received numerous ISA honors, including the Distinguished Society, District 2 Golden Eagle and Lehigh Valley Section Dannenberg Service awards. He also received a Certificate in Instrumentation from the Philadelphia Section of ISA. Jim received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Temple University and a master’s degree in business administration from Penn State University.
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A version of this article also has been published in ISA Insights.

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