This post is authored by Paul Gruhn, president of ISA 2019.
As a member of ISA you automatically belong to a local section. Sections represent a geographical grouping of members. Some sections represent a city (e.g., Birmingham, Houston). Others are spread out enough to represent an entire state (e.g., Alaska, Greater Oklahoma). The same applies internationally for both cities (e.g., Curitiba, Delhi) and countries (e.g., Argentina, Italy).
ISA has more than 100 sections, led by hundreds of volunteers. Sections offer their members (and industry in general) local networking opportunities, monthly educational meetings, fundraising and social events, training, table-top shows, newsletters, web sites, and more. As should be expected, some sections are stronger and more active than others. The majority of members are only familiar with and experience their local section, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sections are combined into districts. Districts are a grouping of sections or states in the US, or a combination of countries outside the US. There are 14 districts in all, with eight located in the US. Each district has a vice president and a vice president-elect. These volunteer leaders (over two dozen in all) exist to help make their respective sections strong, share best practices, and facilitate yearly section leader training. Districts support ISA’s internal structure and have no direct bearing or impact on any member.
All members have interests in technical areas that are not restricted to their locale. ISA satisfies these members’ needs through our 16 divisions (e.g., Chemical & Petroleum, Power, Analysis, Water & Wastewater, Construction & Design, etc.). Divisions offer their members (and industry in general) industry networking opportunities, conferences, newsletters, and web sites. The technical tracks at most ISA conferences are coordinated by division volunteers. It takes hundreds of volunteer leaders to run all the divisions. While your membership dues include belonging to two divisions at no extra charge, a significant number of members don’t select any divisions when joining. Unfortunately, these members don’t even know or realize what they’re missing. After all, you can’t miss what you don’t even know about. If you’re not a division member, I strongly encourage you to join one; they exist to make you and your employer more successful!
In case you weren’t aware, ISA is also a standards development organization, certification body, and publisher. ISA has more than half a dozen departments to support such efforts, all led by more than 100 volunteers. For example, the Standards & Practices Department oversees over 100 standards that ISA has produced, with more always in the works. The Publications Department oversees our journals and books. The Professional Development Department oversees our licensing, certifications, and training efforts. Like districts, departments comprise ISA’s internal structure and they have no direct bearing or impact on any member.
ISA also has many committees that have existed for decades (e.g., Finance, Investment, Honors & Awards, Nominating, Conference & Exhibit Oversight, Officer Search, Web & Social Media, and many more). While these groups are not visible to most members, they are necessary for ISA to properly function. They are all led by volunteers.
More than 1,000 ISA volunteer leaders recently participated in a survey. Of those who responded, 88 percent said they would volunteer again, 96 percent encourage others to volunteer, and 92 percent would still volunteer even if their company did not provide support. While I was initially surprised by the overwhelmingly positive feedback, it really does match my own experience. My employers and I have benefited from my involvement with ISA. I have grown, learned, and matured along the way. I would say the overall experience has been both positive and enjoyable.
Why am I telling you all this? Theodore Roosevelt said something over 100 years ago that is just as relevant today for ISA. "Every person owes part of their time and money to the business or industry in which they are engaged. No person has a moral right to withhold their support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within their sphere."
Do your part and get involved. As everyone so far has reported, not only will you enjoy it, you, your employer and ISA will benefit from it!
About the Author
Paul Gruhn is a global functional safety consultant at AE Solutions and a highly respected and awarded safety expert in the industrial automation and control field. Paul is an ISA Fellow, a member of the ISA84 standards committee (on safety instrumented systems), a developer and instructor of ISA courses on safety systems, and the primary author of the ISA book Safety Instrumented Systems: Design, Analysis, and Justification. He also has contributed to several automation industry book chapters and has written more than two dozen technical articles. He developed the first commercial safety system modeling software. Paul is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in Texas, a certified functional safety expert (CFSE), a member of the control system engineer PE exam team, and an ISA84 expert. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Paul is the 2018 ISA president-elect/secretary.