In this blog post, a dedicated member of the International Society of Automation (ISA) shares her path to getting more involved with the organization. If you aren’t currently a member of ISA, we invite you to visit www.isa.org/join to learn more about membership options.
Mentors consistently tell me that one of the most important things you can do in your career is to get involved and show up. Sounds simple, but it takes passion, effort, and willingness to give of your own time. I’m always interested in learning how fellow professionals got involved in ISA. I’d like to share a bit about my journey to being involved in multiple facets of the society.
I began my career as an instrument engineer working in oil and gas after graduating from Clemson University in 2014. Going into instrumentation and controls was quite the learning curve for me, as I had specialized in power systems while at Clemson, majoring in electrical engineering. Eventually, I felt that I was ready for a role change.
The aspect of my job that focused on safety systems had always been the piece that most interested me. I also was longing to move back to South Carolina and be closer to my family. This all came together with an opportunity to work for aeSolutions in Greenville, South Carolina. It was a perfect fit for me—a chance to move back home and work for a process safety lifecycle company. So I've been with aeSolutions since 2018, working as a safety instrumented system design engineer.
My supervisor at aeSolutions first introduced me to ISA, encouraging me to join. I figured I’d give it a shot, partly due to my company reimbursing membership dues as part of our professional development program. I didn’t think there was any downside to joining, even if I didn’t get much out of it. I have since experienced the exact opposite—there would have been a downside if I hadn’t joined at all.
We have many ISA members in our company, a few of whom are board members of our local section (Western Carolinas). I first decided to get involved with my section when I was invited to attend our monthly section board meeting to see how things are run. I had experience as a board member of my student IEEE chapter at Clemson University, so a board meeting wasn’t a completely unfamiliar setting to me. I intended to simply meet the board members and hear more about what the section was planning for the coming year. The Past President of my section, Jim Garrison, invited me during that board meeting to run for our Program Chair position. This was a great first chance to get involved at the section level. As I was approached directly by someone who seemed to think I could do the job well, I decided to give it a try.
Emily Henry, the author of this post
I enjoyed serving as our Program Chair during my first year of ISA membership. I helped organize tours of automation facilities like Sierra Nevada Brewery in Asheville, North Carolina, and the BMW manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I coordinated technical presentations on hazardous area classification, machine vision technology, and industrial cybersecurity.
I was learning so much about new topics, meeting speakers as well as fellow local engineers and automation professionals. I was having a ball being involved with my local section as well as learning from my peers. I was able to study and pass my Control Systems PE exam with donated study materials from fellow section members. I was thrilled to accomplish such a big personal goal with the help of new friends and mentors.
After that first year, I decided to run for Section President. I wanted to help continue the great section activities and camaraderie that was being fostered under my Past President and stay involved in the section. I ended up being elected Western Carolinas Section President in September 2019. Being involved at the section level was not the end of my ISA journey, however. During my second year of membership, I was invited to attend the 2019 Spring Leaders Meeting with Jim Garrison. I met many of the Society leaders, division champions, other section leaders, and the incredible ISA staff. It really helped me understand how the Society functioned at a higher level.
This is also when I met Shari Worthington. I got to participate in some breakout sessions with her and ISA members from across the globe. She and I discussed her career and the ways that she volunteers with ISA. Through these conversations, she invited me to join the Digital Transformation Advisory Committee (previously Social Media & Web Advisory Committee). I have enjoyed participating on the committee to share ideas ever since.
After attending the 2019 Spring Leaders Meeting, I was approached by ISA staff about joining a Young Professional (YP) Task Force, which would look into the value proposition of ISA to YP members. I was thrilled by the opportunity to engage with other young professionals from multiple different states and countries talking about our needs from the society. The Task Force has since turned into a full ISA committee on which I currently serve. I’ve been able to help organize YP virtual events like the Fireside Chats with past presidents. I’ve also assisted with writing the proposal for including a YP Chair position on Section boards. It has been truly fun serving on the YP Committee and I look forward to helping other YPs get involved in the society just as I have.
The final and most recent piece of my progressive involvement in ISA is being an Early Adopter of ISA Connect. ISA Connect has been a bridge for me to see what groups within the society are actually talking to each other, what the heck Divisions even are (it was very nebulous to me when I first joined ISA), and how easy it is to talk with my fellow members abroad. Using ISA Connect has helped me to realize that it’s silly to think any of our members are intimidating. I feel welcomed in the ISA Connect Communities. I’m actually able to contribute to conversations and learn from others conversing in technical discussion threads. I’m stoked ISA Connect is finally launching society-wide. It’s truly connecting us all, living up to its name. It’s another reason I’m glad I joined ISA, and I’m sure it will be one of those reasons for years to come.
So, how can you get involved? It can be as simple as posting in an ISA Connect thread, attending a virtual section meeting in your area, or getting involved in a volunteer position. I’ve done them all in my short two years of membership, and I’ve benefited from it greatly both socially and professionally. I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more just to reach out to a fellow Society member and see what they can do.
About the Author
Emily Henry is a former Program Chair and the 2019-2020 Past President of the ISA Western Carolinas Section. She also serves on the ISA Digital Transformation Advisory Committee and is involved in the ISA Young Professionals. She is a safety instrumented system design engineer for aeSolutions, and has been a member of ISA since 2018.