In this blog series, ISA Interchange interviews automation leaders about their experience with the International Society of Automation (ISA) Certified Automation Professional ® (CAP ®) certification.
This second post in the series features Steve Mustard, an independent automation consultant and licensed professional engineer backed by more than 30 years of engineering experience who specializes in the development and management of real-time embedded equipment and automation systems. He serves as president of National Automation, Inc., served as the 2021 president of ISA, and is currently ISA treasurer.
Read the first post in the series with Scott Sommer here.
ISA Interchange: Can you tell us more about you and your professional experience/educational background?
Mustard: I have been working in industrial automation for over 30 years. My degree was in control systems engineering. After graduation, I worked in the space and defense sector, developing real-time embedded systems for surveillance and reconnaissance applications. I had experience in a wide range of interesting projects such as sonar tracking, image and speech processing, fissile materials manufacturing, and internal security and counter insurgency.
Due to my background in real-time systems, I was asked to lead a product center focused on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) for the water industry. I worked with water companies in the UK, Ireland, and Australia, supporting and developing hardware and software.
I eventually led a venture-capital-backed management buyout of the product center and established a UK company called Metasphere. I ran that company for a few years and then my family and I decided we wanted to change our lifestyle. I applied to the US government for an entrepreneur visa which I was granted. I set up a new business in the US called National Automation. The business provides products, services, and consulting for industrial control system users. I continue to represent Metasphere and their SCADA solutions, as well as a French company called STRATON AUTOMATION, which provides IEC 61131-3 compliant soft PLC solutions.
My main business activity is in industrial control systems security consulting. I provide asset owners with support to develop cybersecurity management systems, perform security risk assessments, and provide awareness training to employees. For the past five years, I’ve been working as the cybersecurity lead on a project for an oil and gas super major that is developing a new production platform that is now deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.
ISA Interchange: How did you become familiar with ISA? What led you to consider earning a Certified Automation Professional (CAP) certification?
Mustard: I was first introduced through a friend who asked me to stand in for him at a meeting where ISA subject matter experts would be developing the Automation Competency Model (ACM) for the US Department of Labor. Being involved in something so significant and collaborating with ISA members was very appealing, so I joined right away to be part of this exciting and vibrant community.
The blueprint for the ACM was based on ISA’s Automation Body of Knowledge; thus, CAP is very closely aligned with it. I could see that it was a very comprehensive certification.
I realized that having a CAP certification would be a good way to differentiate myself from other automation consultants. I also wanted to challenge myself, to see if I really did know what I should. Preparing for the exam would allow me to brush up on my knowledge and complement what I’d learned on the job since graduation.
I decided to give it a go, even though I hadn’t taken an exam for over 20 years. I bought the CAP study guide from the ISA bookstore, which helped me pass the exam.
ISA Interchange: What value or benefits does a CAP certification provide, and how does it differ from other certifications in the industry?
Mustard: Any certification is a way for someone to have an independent verification of their skills and knowledge. The CAP certification is unique in that it is the only certification that covers the skills and knowledge used through the entire lifecycle of an automation environment, from feasibility study to operation and maintenance. A CAP certification demonstrates that the individual not only has the required skills and knowledge, but also is committed to the high standards of excellence required in the profession. For employers, a CAP certification simplifies the task of assessing competence and highlights the right candidates in the vast pool of potential applicants.
ISA Interchange: What additional advice do you have for new professionals entering the field?
Mustard: I think it is critical to keep learning. The automation professional skills and knowledge set is enormous and extremely diverse, including instrumentation, safety, risk management, and cybersecurity. Now a whole new set of skills and knowledge is required to be effective in the digital transformation and Industry 4.0 age.
On-the-job learning is fine to a point, and much can be learned from watching YouTube videos and searching the internet. But nothing can replace formal instruction based on peer-reviewed material. It’s also important to keep abreast of the latest standards and guidance in the field. ISA is a trusted resource for automation professionals where they can develop their skills, keep up to date, and ensure they are always ahead of the pack.
About CAP Certification
The ISA Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®) certification demonstrates your commitment to excellence, as well as your expertise and knowledge of automation and controls. When you earn ISA CAP certification, you receive a non-biased and objective confirmation of your skills and expertise as an automation professional. The CAP Body of Knowledge is extensive and is derived from the actual practice of automation professionals in the field.
Who Are CAPs?
CAPs are individuals who have demonstrated their extensive knowledge of automation and controls and that they have the expertise and qualifications to excel in their fields. More than 600 automation professionals around the world have achieved this distinction, and are responsible for a wide variety of activities in the manufacturing and automation industries, including direction, definition, design, development/application, deployment, documentation and support of software and equipment systems used in control systems, manufacturing information systems, systems integration, and operational consulting.
To learn more about CAP and apply for certification, visit https://www.isa.org/certification/cap.