I joined Interstates eight years ago with no background in controls and automation. I'm not an engineer, programmer, or software developer. My education is in accounting and finance. While I understood how manufacturing leaders thought and what information they needed to make decisions, I had a lot to learn about the systems integration world.
When I transitioned to an operations role at Interstates, I joined an operations-focused peer group of other CSIA-certified integrators led by one of the industry's top consultants. Over the last six years, our group has met quarterly to share best practices, ideas, joys, and struggles. We all have similar roles at similar companies, are learning from each other, and are ultimately making our companies—and the industry—better.
You might wonder about confidentiality and potentially feeding a competitor valuable information. Those are fair concerns, but all members of our group sign a confidentiality agreement to protect the information shared. Building a strong rapport and trust between members and companies is critical.
So, how can you get started with an industry peer group? If you have an interest in forming or joining a peer group, reach out by going to the Contact CSIA page. They can use their network to connect you with other companies and individuals.
I cannot overstate how valuable industry peer groups have been for me. I've learned a tremendous amount about the systems integration world through the information shared within our peer group and being able to call someone who understands your business and has to make similar decisions to you is invaluable.
I've gained many good friends through my peer group involvement, which has been one of the most rewarding things of all. I encourage you to consider joining a peer group and be willing and open to sharing ideas in order to get more ideas in return.
Daren Dieleman is programming services delivery leader at Interstates, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Interstates, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.