ISA Interchange

Welcome to the official blog of the International Society of Automation (ISA).

This blog covers numerous topics on industrial automation such as operations & management, continuous & batch processing, connectivity, manufacturing & machine control, and Industry 4.0.

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. ISA blog posts may be authored by ISA staff and guest authors from the automation community. Views and opinions expressed by a guest author are solely their own, and do not necessarily represent those of ISA. Posts made by guest authors have been subject to peer review.

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My Commitment to Be a Lifelong Learner

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” - Albert Einstein

I took my Professional Engineer exams almost 30 years after graduating from university. I do not recommend doing this. Taking the Fundamentals of Engineering exam while you still remember all your engineering math from university is likely the better way to go. I also advocate taking your Principles and Practice of Engineering exam as soon as possible in your career.

Having said that, I will say that there is a sense of satisfaction when all the studying pays off and you achieve a certification or accreditation. I have also taken the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) exam. I did not do any of this because someone asked me to, rather I wanted to test my knowledge, challenge myself, and keep getting better at what I do.

There are other ways to show commitment as a lifelong learner than taking exams and achieving more letters behind your name. I have been involved in an ISA initiative to develop an exam for the Certified Mission Critical Professional qualification. As part of this, I was asked to write the study guide, Mission Critical Operations Primer. I am also a certified ISA trainer in cybersecurity and teach the IC31 and IC32 classes. There is always something new to learn, even from a class you are teaching. The questions that often get asked from the students in these classes has given me many new perspectives.

Since I immigrated to the US, the common element in my learning journey has been ISA. Gerald Wilbanks, Former ISA President, was a key contributor to my PE study. I purchased the Automation Body of Knowledge (AutoBok) and CAP study guide to prepare for the CAP exam. I studied the ISA/IEC 62443 standard to prepare for teaching cybersecurity classes.

One of the things I am most proud to have been involved with is the Automation Competency Model. While this was developed for the US Department of Labor and leveraged much of the work already done by ISA in the Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST), CAP certifications, and the AutoBok, this model is applicable to the global automation profession.

And now, as President, I have had the great privilege to watch ISA embark on new learning initiatives in continued support of our automation profession. These new programs (coming out very soon) build on the traditional skills and knowledge required for automation professionals, adding further opportunities to develop. The first is an automation project management certificate which will allow professionals to demonstrate their competence in managing complex automation projects. The other is the automation digital skills program which is designed to provide automation professionals with the knowledge they need to work in the Industry 4.0 world and beyond.

With all of this, there is no better time for you to commit (or re-commit) yourself to lifelong learning. I encourage you to get more involved with ISA, and in doing so, join a workgroup, become an ISA instructor, write a blog or a book, or see how many ISA certificates or certifications you can achieve. You are never too old to learn something new. Trust me—I am living proof!

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts or comments. Let me know what you are most excited about as the world reopens. What do you hope we learned during this time to which we should hold tight as we step into our new world?

As we all commit to lifelong learning, we surely will create a better world through automation.

Steve Mustard
Steve Mustard
Steve Mustard is an independent automation consultant and a subject matter expert of the International Society of Automation (ISA). Backed by more than 30 years of engineering experience, Mustard specializes in the development and management of real-time embedded equipment and automation systems. He serves as president of National Automation, Inc., and served as the 2021 president of ISA. Mustard is a licensed Professional Engineer in Texas and Kansas, a UK registered Chartered Engineer, a European registered Eur Ing, an ISA Certified Automation Professional (CAP), a certified Global Industrial Cybersecurity Professional (GICSP), and a Certified Mission Critical Professional. He also is a Fellow in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), a Senior Member of ISA, a member of the Safety and Security Committee of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and a member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

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