Who Are We Missing Out On?

Oct. 11, 2021
Discover how the talent shortage and entire automation industry can benefit by widespread diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

“I feel like whenever we work on something together, we end up with something better than either of us could have created alone.”

After hours of iteration and debate leading to the completion of a key proposal, my vice president voiced this sentiment. He and I differ in so many ways and bring experiences and perspectives that often contrast, but together, our collaboration creates an unique and superior outcome.

These results are possible because I am included in the debates with my vice president. We welcome each other’s different perspectives, and we treat ideas and each other with fairness. Our perspectives contrast, but through heathy conflict, we create a complementary result.

My dream is to see the entire industry of automation capitalizing on the value that can be derived from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) the way my proposals have benefited from them. I believe automation is a field full of opportunity and wields incredible influence.

Automation is a key part of manufacturing the things that benefit people everywhere—including life-saving vaccines, medications, and products. If we better automation, we can influence all those outcomes—potentially impacting the lives of billions of people with our work. However, to drive the best, our field needs to include the perspectives of all the people we serve.

The talent shortage
Furthermore, industrial automation is a field that faces a talent shortage. Over the past several years, I’ve heard the same story in my company and echoed by my clients and competitors alike—it is extremely challenging to find and hire qualified, experienced automation engineers. We are perpetually shorthanded. Automation is competing for talent with the likes of Apple and Google. To stay competitive, we will need to be more strategic, broaden the pool of folks who can be successful with us, and welcome in those who might not have “fit in” in the past.

Taking action
I’m excited about the impact that DEI can make on automation. Several months ago, I reached out to my automation network and it turns out that I wasn’t alone. Many of my connections were excited by the possibility of what improved DEI could bring to our companies and our teams.

Together, we are founding a nonprofit that aims to advance DEI in automation so the industry can better serve the world.

We are starting with some small volunteer-led projects. The first of which is a “STEM Professionals Office Hours.” We've heard from our community college connections that direct industry support for students may make a meaningful difference. So, we've created weekly office hours which will offer a safe space for students to talk to caring folks in industry. At the same time, office hours promotes visibility for the automation industry. Future projects are likely to include collaboration with MESA and creating hands-on experiences to introduce students to automation and build their resumes. To get involved, or if you’re just curious, you can find me on LinkedIn. There you will also find info about STEM Office Hours if you know a student who might benefit from joining the conversation.

If you are brand new to or interested in learning more about DEI, you can:

  1. Check out this online course offered free for individuals until the end of September by Feminuity. LEVEL-UP: Foundations and Practice in partnership with #MoveTheDial. Use code MTD100.
  2. Add some different perspectives to your LinkedIn feed: Matthew J Yazzie, Lily Zheng, Dr. Sarah Saksa, Dr. Nikta White.
  3. Give the podcast Code Switch a listen.
  4. Do a little reading.

Cassy Gardner, PMP is Engineering Manager at Banks Integration, an E Technologies Group Company. E Technologies Group is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about E Technologies Group, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.