I thank you for indulging me over my posts the last two months (here and here) on the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization and the FIRST Championship, which was held in April.
However, I am sure that if you attended a FIRST event, you would catch the FIRST fever as I have. One of the things to consider is that our efforts and partnership with FIRST are quite in line with our objectives in supporting traditional ISA student sections. With FIRST, we have another avenue to engage future professionals without having to establish a separate structure or model for student membership. These young people are already members of an organization that ISA, via the Automation Federation, supports and has a relationship with. All we really have to do is show up and make a good impression!
Many ISA sections and members are already involved with the FIRST® Robotics Competition in their local communities. It’s a great feeling to have students and adults—after recognizing our logos—drop by the ISA/Automation Federation booth and express their appreciation for the support our members provide to FIRST.
Consider for a moment the meaningful nature of these relationships. Through our involvement in FIRST and other STEM-related organizations, we’re providing these young people with personal exposure to automation professionals. These interactions make important impressions as they give tangible reference and recognition to what automation is, how rewarding an automation career can be, and the value of ISA as a professional association. If more of us got involved in FIRST and similar organizations, we could see a real surge in the amount of young people becoming ISA members in the coming years.
It’s easy to let all the opportunities we have to serve as an effective ambassador for ISA pass us by. We’re busy. We get caught up in our active schedules and responsibilities. It takes some initiative. But think about all the people you interact and engage with during an average work day. In the course of these normal conversations, there are many times when ISA can come up.
Get in the habit of briefly touting the virtues of ISA to other automation professionals, describing how you’re involved, and what the Society has meant to you. It’s amazing how people respond positively to someone else’s enthusiasm. It draws people in. It makes them curious. I know many a sales rep that have joined ISA based on a single conversation I have had with them.
I encourage you to make a more conscious effort to talk about ISA and your ISA experiences when the opportunities arise. If each of us could attract just one or two professionals to ISA on an annual basis, we would be making a real difference in growing ISA and strengthening it for the future.
Just last month, at our Food and Pharmaceutical Industries Division (FPID) Symposium, I was chatting with people at the registration table. Just through our conversation—in chatting about our professions and interests—they became intrigued about ISA. Two folks, having received some information on the FPID event earlier, went ahead and signed up. Another joined ISA to ensure that he would continue to receive information on upcoming Society conferences.
The point is we all can make a difference virtually each day in improving ISA and shaping its future. Sometimes that difference begins with just a conversation.
Steven W. Pflantz, PE, is an associate in the St. Louis, Mo. office of CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc., a global consulting, design and construction services firm. He serves as a technical leader on many of CRB’s electrical and automation design projects, applying his extensive electrical engineering experience — particularly in the areas of instrumentation and controls. A longtime ISA member and leader, Steven brings to his role as Society president a deep understanding of the automation profession, the needs and expectations of ISA members, and the value and significance of automation careers. In 2012 and 2013, he served as vice president of ISA’s Professional Development Department. He’s also served on ISA’s Executive Board (2008 and 2012) and as an ISA district vice president (2007 and 2008). In 2012, Steven was inducted into the Academy of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. He’s also a member of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE). He earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
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A version of this article also has been published at ISA Insights.