Blog Archives

April 2021 – Membership Value in a Pandemic – ISA St. Louis Section

I joined ISA because someone told me to join. There. I said it. Work paid for that first membership. Work encouraged me to go to that first meeting at a little restaurant in Joliet, IL. Work asked me to man our booth at the ISA table-top show at the Joliet casino (no clue what name it was going by at the time). I began meeting people in industry at those events. Some of the people were ones that sometimes I interacted with over the phone or through email while in the office. Suddenly I was developing personal connections to these people and the industry I worked in and realized that I had found my people.

A little over a year later I found myself back in my hometown. Sure, I had people and connections in the area, but no industry contacts at this point. I had no professional network in St. Louis to speak of, and by the way for those of you not in sales – it is kind of important to have a good professional network when trying to peddle your wares. Enter the ISA to save the day again – I went to my first St. Louis ISA program and started building my local professional network. After a couple months, I was asked to be a presenter at a meeting on the technology I worked with, and after about a year I found myself on the board as Secretary. Because of the ISA my professional network was exploding. That network enhanced my sales career. The leadership opportunities I took advantage within the Section helped open new professional opportunities to me. Not to mention, these are my people here – more than just colleagues or mentors, but many have become friends.

Now enter March 2020, the face-to-face value proposition went out the window for the time being. Networking was now virtual and differed vastly from those pre- & post-meeting gatherings that often included a favorite product from a local brewery. Without the opportunity to network face-to-face, one might ask me, “What is the value in your ISA experience now?”

First off, not everything changed – access to standards and the content that ISA provides at isa.org and automation.com continues to be of great value.  What about the local in person interactions that were so important to my professional growth? How do I get value in the pandemic-stricken world? Let me try to summarize some of the value I have found in the past year now:

Virtual Skills: Attending ISA Board meetings and Programs has forced me to treat virtual meetings differently. Over the past year I have learned to use my webcam, prepare better agendas for virtual meetings, record and publish programs, and probably a whole lot more I am not quantifying.

Industry trends: Not that I didn’t get this pre-Pandemic, but it has been great to catch up on the latest trends virtually, especially ones that have become more important as the world adapted to working from home. Topics ranged from Using Augmented Reality to Best Practices while working remotely.

Leadership Methods: Adapting to working from home also meant adapting to leading from home. From regular virtual meetings to collaborating virtually on files to recruiting new members and leaders remotely – these skills were practiced and are still being honed.

Virtual Networking: Not all ISA meetings are serious; we’ve had some fun virtual networking and happy hour events where we have been able to catch up with new members and longtime members about their unique experiences this past year. Heck a year ago I had a piece of electrical tape over my webcam, and now that camera is on almost all the time!

I am sure I am just scratching the surface with that list. While the world has changed, one thing has not and that is ISA Membership delivers tremendous value. Won’t you consider joining us?

 

Cory N. Kniepp

ISA St. Louis Section, President

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March 2021 – Spring Constants – ISA St. Louis Section

I have always seen Spring as a season of optimism and new beginnings. Flowers are blooming. Grass is turning green. Leaves return to the trees. Baseball season is right around the corner. All of these are constants of spring (whoa ... were you expecting a blog on ‘k’? Sorry to disappoint you, but F=-kx will not be referenced here). Who couldn’t feel upbeat this time of year? The worries and fears of March 2020 have turned to optimism as new cases go down and vaccine supply goes up. Positivity is everywhere (except for that negative coefficient … last reference, I swear).

There is another constant that I am reminded of every Spring – the job hunt for new grads. I, along with my fellow ISA Board Member – Andre’ Warren, attended the local Engineers’ Club Spring New Grad Job Fair to help promote the benefits of ISA to new grads. As a student or new grad, these job fairs can be intimidating as it creates some serious inner monologues and self-reflection – Did I look the part? Were they interested in me? Can I do it? How can I do it? Are they going to ask me about my grades? What if they tell me I need an A in Thermo? … and the list goes on and on and on.  Now, it is 2021 - combine all those worries and anxieties with the virtual world! Awkwardness abounds.

As I sat comfortably at my virtual work set up, used to the routine of webcams and virtual conversations, Andre’ and I welcomed future engineers, technicians, technical writers, and business leaders to our virtual booth. It was clear the students, although also having to conduct much of their learning in a virtual realm, still didn’t quite have the knack of virtual interactions as Andre’ and I come to find in our professional lives. Yet something about the whole experience felt familiar to me.

After the first conversation we had with a soon to be college graduate, I was transported back to conference and meetings rooms in Urbana and Champaign when I was in their shoes. Not sure if I had studied hard enough, mastered what I needed to know, or even looked the part of a professional. I remembered all the fears and anxieties of talking to people in industry who were already doing the jobs that I one day hoped to have a chance to do. The platform was different, but I felt a connection to our visitors and saw ways to communicate with them … for the most part. However, I did take note of a few unique and eye-opening interactions.

Turns out, even with me being transported to my college days in my mind, I am no longer in the Spring of my career. I am old(er) now. Somewhere in my Summer months to keep the seasonal theme going. I know this because I can remember a time before flat screen TVs. You see, this technology was a clear mile marker in the minds of one of our attendees. Andre’ and I explained the transformation of the Instrument Society of America into the International Society of Automation when we were met with an interjection – “oh, wow, like way back before flat screens?” Andre’ and I immediately looked at one another and knew the times, they were a-changin’.

If it wasn’t evident in the change of the technology around us, it was evident in the new language being used as one visitor described a “flex”. A what? Did the visitor mean “Flex”, the company, maybe the visitor was an intern there? Maybe the visitor meant something related to yoga or gymnastics? Or something related to our old friend ‘k’ the spring constant (found another way to sneak it in!)? As the conversation continued, we figured it out. Now, growing up I spent a lot of time in the Library as my grandmother was a librarian, so when I didn’t know a word I went and got a dictionary. Flex, being used as an intransitive verb, now has an official informal meaning according to Merriam-Webster as “to make an ostentatious display of something”. Apparently, this usage has become so commonplace that this is how the next generation is highlighting professional and educational achievements. Allow me to more formally reference Mr. Robert Allen Zimmerman, or as you might know him, Bob Dylan – “the times they are a-changin’.”

After the meeting, I was telling these stories to my wife. My initial thought was she was going to get a laugh at how out of touch these kids are. Oh boy, was I wrong. One more time, from Bob Dylan, “don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” You see, she deals with college aged individuals in her career and is aware of the perspectives and new lingo that these students introduced me to last week. This was the new normal. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life.” This change in perspective and language was nothing but a reminder that I truly was in my Summer months now and served as a lesson that I needed to learn how to better connect with our next generation of STEM leaders and thinkers.

Once again we have another constant of Spring. These new grads become the leaders, thinkers, doers, creators, visionaries that enter the workforce en masse bringing with them new thoughts, perspectives, ideas, techniques, and even language into the workforce. How do we more seasoned individuals help these new ideas and skills blossom? How do we adapt our own skills to nurture our own further growth in our careers and disciplines?

If I had answers, I’d probably be a well published business author by now, but I don’t and I am not. I do have some reflections on my latest interactions – be respectful, be helpful, listen, and be aware that this generation, much like mine and yours and yours will all be a little bit different then the one you are accustomed. Try to remember what is was like during your first interactions in your career as your Spring began.  Lend a hand to this next generation and be aware that the true constant of Spring is that the times will always be changing.

See you real soon,

Cory N. Kniepp

ISA St. Louis Section, President

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Feb 2021 – Networking in a Pandemic – ISA St. Louis Section

Feb 2021 – Networking in a Pandemic – ISA St. Louis Section

Recently a few of my colleagues wrote an article about lessons we have learned during the pandemic (You can find that article in Pumps & Systems – pumpsandsystems.com Planning for the Unexpected: 5 Lessons Learned From COVID-19). The article covers how some work priorities, processes, and product considerations have changed in the pandemic. Well, that got me thinking a bit about some of our soft skills in the pandemic, and specifically networking.

If you are like me, prior to last year you dreaded ‘virtual’ events and meetings. You probably multitasked, half-listened, or just even completely tuned such events out while you focused on other activities. And a webcam? Forget it! A piece of electrical tape? Now you’re talking. Pre-pandemic the virtual world just wasn’t my thing. I enjoyed the face-to-face experience. I loved the networking aspect of the events. I learned, expanded my industry contacts, made friends, and even made sales during networking events.

While we have been discussing a socially distanced networking event this summer, that is still months away at best, and will look very different from our usual networking/dinner/programming events. So how do we make the best of this current virtual world while still honing our networking skills? I wish I had all the answers, but here a few tips I have picked up:

  • Attend. It is easy to RSVP and fill up your calendar. A friend of mine in college gave me some great advice – 80% of it is just showing up. Think about it for a second. He was right – you signing on to listen in to a speaker or a program isn’t just a great start, it is more than most are willing to do.
  • Give the virtual event your full attention. Easier said then done, but I have learned to silence my phone and close my email and instant messenger. Removing those distractions keeps me focused on the virtual event.
  • Find ways to engage. If the event is interactive – great! Speak your mind, add a question to the chat, or add a perspective from your own expertise. If the event isn’t interactive, find a way to follow up after the event. Like a speaker’s point? Then reach out after the event to the speaker. Have an idea for a follow up event? Reach out to the event coordinator. Take it from me as a former Programming Chair – they are always looking for new event ideas.
  • Mind your microphone and camera. Know how to mute and unmute both the microphone and camera. If you are just listening to a presenter, be sure to be mindful of this. I am sure we have all been in virtual programs now where “that attendee” has their mic open and their dogs are barking, and their kids are yelling, and their neighbor is mowing the yard, and …. well, you get it. Use your camera when you can – once again be mindful of not just your surroundings (confession here – my toddler appeared in a meeting waving a toilet wand around like a sword. Not ideal.). This also leads to my last tip …
  • Dress for the event. This is probably more of a pet peeve of mine then a true tip, but it is simple - If you are presenting, wear what you would if you were presenting in person. If it is a professional event, stick to your normal business dress code and you’ll be good. I love a good hoodie as much as the next guy, but maybe not for business related events.

 

Looking for other ways to network? Well, we have plenty now – ISASTL.org, ISA St. Louis is also on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, and of course ISAConnsect at ISA.org.

I sincerely hope to see you virtually as we continue our Energy Efficiency programs, this month on Air, and in case you missed the Steam presentation – hop on over to our YouTube page to view the archived program. Want to take your networking skills to a new level and get involved? Please reach out to me as we are always welcoming of new volunteers to our amazing Board of Directors.

Until next time,

Cory N. Kniepp

ISA St. Louis Section, President

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Oct. 2020 - Notice of Proposed By-law Changes – ISA St. Louis Section

Per the current Constitution and By-Laws (amended April 4, 2009) the current Section Board has the made the required resolution to update our Section’s Constitution and By-Laws. The proposed change will become effective immediately if two-thirds of the ballots received at the end of a two-week period from the date of submittal, are in favor of the change. As a non-profit, we also must update the State of Missouri of any approved changes.

The Board unanimously recommends the proposed changes.

Below is a brief Q&A explaining the nature of these changes:

Can we review the proposed changes?

Yes! Links to the current document and proposed document are below.

Link to Current: https://isastl.starchapter.com/images/downloads/Constitution_and_Bylaws/2009_st._louis_section_amended_constitution_and_by_laws.pdf

Link to Proposed (log-on required): https://isastl.starchapter.com/restrictedDoc/Constitution_and_Bylaws/2020_st._louis_section_bylaws_r1.pdf

Where and when do I vote?

Voting will be open from Saturday October 17th thru the Saturday October 31st in the Member Area of  isastl.org (member log-on required) via this link: https://isastl.org/survey.php?id=3 (Please note this link is only available during 10/17-10/31). Results will be published via email on November 4th.

Who is eligible to vote?

All members in good-standing with the ISA St. Louis Section may vote. If you have trouble accessing the web vote, please contact [email protected] to confirm membership and for updated website credentials.

Who is affected by this proposed change?

Ever ISA Member of the St. Louis Section.

Why is the Section Board resolving to change the current document?

Over the past 11 years, many transformative changes have taken place at the Society level as well as how our Section conducts business and programs. It is our goal to be a completely inclusive Section of all our Members, and one small change we are making is dropping gender-specific pronouns from all documentation. One major cue we are taking from the Society as well as our peer Sections is to separate our Business Processes and Procedures from our By-Laws. The By-Laws will be a legal record of how our Organization is structured and will continue to require Membership approval to change. The Business Process and Procedure document will be a living document that the Board uses to define and delegate tasks amongst the Board members.

Why now?

The ISA is also updating their By-Laws and Business Practices. We are using this time to update our Section’s documents to be in lockstep with the Society and their changes.

What process was used to make these recommended changes?

This process dates back to 2016 when the then Board identified the need to update the By-Laws. While several revisions were suggested, the Board declined resolution with knowledge that the ISA was also soon to revise the Society By-Laws. Jump forward to 2020, and with the Society revision moving toward a vote, we felt it was the right time to use the previous proposed revisions alongside with guidance from the ISA to undertake this change. During the September Board meeting, a motion to start a By-Law committee was passed. Nick Erickson (Chair), Ed Biggs, Mike Unterreiner, Cory Kniepp, and Hycintia Subbash made up this committee. This committee met throughout September to go over each item in the proposed document and utilized resources from the ISA Society office as guidance in creating the proposed document.

If the Proposed Document passes, when does it become effective?

Immediately. We will work quickly to file the new By-Laws with the ISA and with the State of Missouri.

What if it doesn’t pass?

We will continue to operate under the current By-Laws.

What if I have additional questions?

Please contact any Board Member via isastl.org.

 

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