This post was written by Greg McMillan, industry consultant, author of numerous process control books, 2010 ISA Life Achievement Award recipient and retired Senior Fellow from Solutia Inc. (now Eastman Chemical).

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.

About the Author
Gregory K. McMillan, CAP, is a retired Senior Fellow from Solutia/Monsanto where he worked in engineering technology on process control improvement. Greg was also an affiliate professor for Washington University in Saint Louis. Greg is an ISA Fellow and received the ISA Kermit Fischer Environmental Award for pH control in 1991, the Control magazine Engineer of the Year award for the process industry in 1994, was inducted into the Control magazine Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2001, was honored by InTech magazine in 2003 as one of the most influential innovators in automation, and received the ISA Life Achievement Award in 2010. Greg is the author of numerous books on process control, including Advances in Reactor Measurement and Control and Essentials of Modern Measurements and Final Elements in the Process Industry. Greg has been the monthly "Control Talk" columnist for Control magazine since 2002. Presently, Greg is a part time modeling and control consultant in Technology for Process Simulation for Emerson Automation Solutions specializing in the use of the virtual plant for exploring new opportunities. He spends most of his time writing, teaching and leading the ISA Mentor Program he founded in 2011.

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