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ISA President's Column: Coach, Share, Learn, and Grow

Working Together to Strengthen ISA for Our Members

The International Society of Automation (ISA) President Eric Cosman is featured monthly on the ISA Interchange blog with a column directed toward ISA members around the world. Eric’s column speaks to current membership priorities, challenges, news, and perspectives. We invite ISA Interchange readers to engage and dialogue with Eric, and if you aren’t currently a member of ISA, visit to learn more about membership.

Fellow ISA members;

The official end of summer is fast approaching, and we will soon be entering the final quarter of the year. Although the pandemic forced us to cancel in-person events, we will have several significant events and milestones in our Society between now and the end of the year. These require your attention and participation to prepare us for continued growth and success in providing services to our membership.

Although our Society faces several challenges this year, I remain optimistic about our future. After achieving a financial surplus in 2019, we have experienced something of a setback because of the current business environment. However, ISA Executive Director Mary Ramsey and our staff have done a great job in mitigating the loss of revenue and our financial projections for the year are very encouraging.

Our long-term success also depends on effective and responsive governance, which in turn requires improvements to our policies and procedures to provide greater clarity about roles and responsibilities of our leaders and empower them to make the changes required to respond to changing circumstances. To that end, Executive Board members, staff, and others have worked for several months to identify proposed changes to our bylaws. The Council of Society Delegates must vote on these proposals by 25 October.

Although we were forced to cancel our annual leadership conference planned for Puerto Rico, we are committed to accomplishing as much as possible using a series of virtual meetings in September and October. As with previous leadership conferences, much of the emphasis is on training and professional development. Collectively, our members have a vast amount of experience and expertise and are willing to share this with their colleagues in ISA-sponsored events. This is the essence of what a professional society is about, and I sincerely hope that you have been able to benefit from this resource. These benefits are not limited to those who wish to learn. I have conducted many such courses and seminars over the years, and I have always found that I learn as much from the experience as the “students.” I have often said that the two most fundamental elements of success are to have fun and make a difference. Sharing your experience with others can accomplish both of these objectives.

It is also important that we remain focused on our longer-term strategic plan. I am confident that we are making real progress against this plan and setting the stage for additional improvements over the next several years. Although we are unable to hold an in-person executive summit this year, we will convene members of the 2020 and 2021 executive board to review our strategy and make any revisions to accommodate changes to our situation. The philosopher George Santayana said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Although we generally consider this quote in the context of world events, it applies equally to almost any organization. Our strategy must respect and acknowledge our past experiencesgood and badwhile laying out a long-term vision and direction for future success.

Key to that success is recruitment ofand active engagement withthose who are still early in their professional career. I am particularly pleased with the emergence of a formal Young Professionals group in our Society, bringing a fresh perspective on how to create a valued experience for those who are the future leaders in our profession. This group has been conducting a series of fireside chats with former society presidents to learn from their leadership experiences and understand the history of ISA. I am looking forward to hearing more about the results of this exercise.

Moving back to the present for a moment, I hope that you have had a chance to spend some time on the new ISA website. It provides us with an improved structure through which to deliver content to our members, share news on planned and past events, and encourage collaboration. Of course, like any website, it is a work in progress, and we will continue to make additions and improvements to its content and features. Perhaps the most important element of this change has been the launch of ISA Connect, an online forum where individuals and groups in ISA can discuss topics of common interest and share information. Ultimately, the success of this forum depends on all of us, so I encourage you to learn more about it and explore its capabilities.

I hope that you will agree with me that we are making progress towards positioning ISA as the “home of automation,” a place where our members can come together to learn and grow, and to contribute to their profession. Of course, there is much more to be done. My experience has been that it is generally easier to brainstorm ideas for improvement than to turn them into actionable plans. I encourage you to pitch in and help with this.

If you have thoughts or questions on these or any other topics you can always reach me at Stay safe and well, and I look forward to seeing you in some of our virtual events.

Eric C. Cosman

2020 President


About the Author

Eric C. Cosman is a chemical engineer with more than 35 years of experience in the process industries. He is the founder and principal consultant at OIT Concepts, LLC. Eric contributes to—and has held leadership positions in—various standards committees and industry focus groups. He is a member of Control Magazine’s Process Automation Hall of Fame as well as an ISA Life Fellow. Eric has served as ISA’s vice president of standards and practices, and he is a member of the ISA Executive Board. He was a founding member of a chemical sector cybersecurity program team focused on industrial control systems cybersecurity, and he was also one of the authors of the chemical sector cybersecurity strategy for the U.S. Eric is a founding member of the ISA99 Committee on Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) Security, where he currently serves as the co-chair, in addition to serving as the co-chair of the MESA Cybersecurity working group. Eric speaks and writes on topics ranging from automation cybersecurity to systems architecture development and industrial transformation, and he is the author of the cybersecurity chapter of the ISA Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge (3rd edition).  


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