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.

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Personal Learning: Being a Lifelong Learner

Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow…don’t forget about personal learning.

The first part of that is not only a great song by Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, but a mantra to live by in today’s fast-changing technology landscape. I can happily claim that I have been in the process and automation controls arena my entire career, starting as a junior in high school in 1980. The grey in my hair is a combination of age, four kids, work stress, and the feeling that I need to stay on top of my game. I am admittedly very competitive, always wanting to be the best and gain the necessary knowledge to be on the cutting-edge of industry. And yes, that is part of my grey hair, too.

Having literally grown up in the age of computers and their application to process and automation control, it has been an ongoing, lifetime need to learn. Early in my career, I used to think to myself, “I need to always be learning and checking out new things. If I don’t, I will fall behind quickly and become irrelevant.” Admittedly, this was self-induced, and I probably could have hopped off the learning train at any point and had a successful career. However, that would mean I would stop thinking about tomorrow (sorry…the lyrics are stuck in my head now).

To this end, I have made it a point to keep adding to my learning through both the means of formal education and the informal means of seminars, webinars, magazines, white papers, LinkedIn, vendor lunch and learns, and more. Never, ever, stop learning!

During the height of COVID-19, when many were working remotely and everyone was unsure about what was next, my alma mater, the University of Hartford (where I also teach as an adjunct), was holding alumni-generated webinars to keep people engaged and learning during this downtime. I did one on this subject—how to be a lifelong learner. I recommend that you do this, not only to keep you on top of your career game, but also to keep your mind active and arm your brain with more fodder for increased critical thinking skills.

The Arthur G. Russell Company, a company that applies layers of high technology onto stable and robust mechanical assembly platforms to provide customers with the state-of-the-art, requires our equipment to be on the cutting-edge. During a meeting I had with my department the other day, I once again spent some time stressing this point to my engineers, designers, technicians, and specialists. I suggested that they sign up for Control.com, Control Engineering, ISA InTech, Automation World, and many other trade magazines that dedicate a large part to exposing new technology, trends, methods, and vendors.

To borrow a phrase from the exercise and sports world, if you don’t use it, you lose it. That is true for your brain, too. Studies have shown that active learning in adults can help stave off dementia. To borrow a phrase from my son, “can’t hurt, might help.” Learning definitely can’t hurt, and I firmly believe it will always help. Never stop learning and never stop thinking about tomorrow because, “it'll soon be here, it’ll be better than before, yesterday's gone,” and tomorrow’s technology will need you to know more.

Next time, I will talk about the knowledge and skills needed to scour the landscape to assure your company has the cutting-edge or the appropriate level of technology. OK, I feel a sudden need to hop on YouTube and cue up some Fleetwood Mac to try to satisfy this earworm.

Brian Romano
Brian Romano
Brian Romano is a 40-year veteran of the Process and Automation Controls Systems arena. Notably, he was the president of a company division before purchasing it and growing it into a successful multi-disciplined systems integration company over a 16-year period. He is currently the Director of Technology development with the Arthur G. Russell Company in Bristol, CT and is heading up the company’s Industry 4.0 offering for both new machine offerings and for existing process and automation control systems. Romano is currently the ISA SM/IIoT Division, Industry Readiness and Maturity technical committee chair. Bringing the need for qualified control system engineers to the University of Hartford, Romano helped develop the current Automation curriculum at the university's College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member. To help shape local technology programs, Romano also serves as an Industrial Advisory board member at Bristol Technical High School, CETA at the University of Hartford and the Robotics and Mechatronics program at Central Connecticut State University. As a basis for his career, Romano holds an AAS in Electronic Engineering Technology, continued studies in Electrical Engineering, a BS in Information Technology, an MS in Applied Computer Science with a concentration in Modeling and Simulation, an MBA with a concentration in Data Analytics, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Technology and Innovation.

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