The original intent of the ISA Mentor Program was to start with four end users with at least two years of plant experience. After reviewing several candidates, I decided to accept more than double the amount of applicants into the program due to their excellent qualifications. I kicked off the program with nine talented and enthusiastic end users from six countries at ISA Automation Week 2011 in Mobile, AL.
The inaugural protégés are Bahtiar Abu Bakar, Mohammed Khalifah, Flávio Briguente, Brian Hartman, Luis Icasatti, Danaca Jordan, Madhawa Somasiri, Héctor Torres, and Bill Thomas. We met as a group to get to know each other and attend the technical sessions. I then met with each individual during that week to determine what type of guidance they would require. There was an instant synergy among the participants from the beginning.
For all of us, the program is an ad hoc and extra curricula activity worth sacrificing free time, including evenings and weekends. We started the program with an open mind. We were learning as well as the protégés.
The communication during the year following the ISA Automation Week technical conference was mostly by email and social media. The discussions avoided proprietary information concerns and did not get bogged down in details of particular automation systems. In keeping the individual discussions on a non-proprietary level, we were able to post 22 questions and answers from our discussions on the ISA Interchange blog site so the whole automation community could benefit.
The questions asked made Hunter and I step back and think about the knowledge we take for granted. I, for one, know how difficult it is to start out as an automation professional. Most of what you need to know is spread out in more than 100,000 pages of articles, books, handbooks, technical papers, and standards. Answers to basic questions are hard to find. When faced with thousands of details in many areas of expertise, the automation professional may find it difficult to see the forest because of the trees. In an attempt to help address this obvious need for practical, profession-focused knowledge, Hunter and I decided to write a book titled, 101 Tips for a Successful Automation Career.
The book offers concise philosophical, career, project execution, and technical guidance. An innovative format gives the essential knowledge in one or two pages for each tip with concepts, details, watch-outs, exceptions, insights, and rules of thumb. While inspired by the ISA Mentor Program, the book should help suppliers and users at all levels to get on the same automation page.
Excerpts from the 101 Tips book have been posted to the ISA Interchange blog site. The automation community needs more publications and presentations written by end users. The protégés were encouraged to learn how to write and present papers that would enable them to share what they have learned.