Useful Tools for Automation Career Advancement

Sept. 1, 2011
Dennis Waitley coached thousands of people and company leaders on personal and professional development. Early in every talk, he would say, “Leaders are readers.” Recollect every plant or factory where you’ve ever worked or visited. Doesn’t your experience bear out his comment?

One of my supervisors taught me about program management early in my career. He pulled out a notebook he had assembled full of notes, trade journal articles, copies from books and more. I kept the copy he gave me for years. That’s a lesson that stuck.

The top engineers and managers I’ve met all read the latest business and technical books, trade journals, news sources and more. They are all intelligent and knowledgeable people. Reading and thinking are on their personal priority list. What I’ve been wondering lately is whether the way they read has changed over the last couple of years.
There are still books of the paper form. There are still magazines. But there are so many other formats and sources today that you could begin to wonder if you could ever keep up. First there was reading on your computer—as in surfing the Web. Twitter gives you real-time news feeds and conversation. Facebook and LinkedIn applications let you connect with others. But LinkedIn groups also serve a similar purpose as the “User Groups” of the early pre-Web Internet years. Anyone remember comp.realtime or comp.C? These were community areas of questions, answers and discussions.

Here come the tablets

Next came the tablet revolution. This is a computing device that is sort of like the old clipboard on a gazillion dose of HGH. The Amazon Kindle lets you carry an entire library in a small electronic device; no more lugging a half-dozen books on your trip. Then came Apple’s iPad, and with it the “App Store” phenomenon.

Although I usually jump at the latest gadgets, I bought my first iPad for my wife. She reads a couple of magazines (especially National Geographic, which is beautifully rendered), news and books on both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle app. And, of course, she does Sudoku.

I bought an iPad to play with and it quickly integrated itself into my daily workflow. News from many sources enters the workflow via RSS streams on Reeder. The Wall Street Journal app keeps me apprised of the latest business news. I can either email links directly from the app or save to the Evernote app for later use. Dropbox allows me to work on documents either on the iPad with the WritePad (handwriting-to-text) app or my laptop. I attend meetings using the WebEx or GoToMeeting apps. I make calls using Skype. I take notes during conferences and meetings using Notes Plus and save the resulting .pdf file to Evernote. It’s useful have an integrated Google calendar on the device. And watching videos of the TED Talks, for example, is a great way to combine learning and recreation on long plane rides.

Many people are beginning to integrate the iPad into their workflows. We have seen interest from readers for an Automation World app (see page 49 for the results of our survey). Therefore, we are launching several new apps. The first will show the magazine in an iPad format. Following will be apps for “real-time” updates of news and information from Automation World. Now you will now be able to connect to us through your iPad, as well as follow both Automation World (@automationworld) and me (@garymintchell) on Twitter, join our LinkedIn group (, or follow me on Google + (+garymintchell). Let me know how it goes, and how you are using tablets to improve your workflow and information.

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