ISA Leader Sees Resurgence of Society

H. L. “Leo” Staples Jr. is the 2010 International Society of Automation (ISA) President-elect Secretary.

H.L. Staples Jr.
H.L. Staples Jr.
As President-elect Secretary of the Society, Staples is a member of the ISA Executive Committee and ISA Executive Board. In his professional life, he is compliance management leader at the Power Supply Division of Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), based in Oklahoma City. He recently published his first book through ISA, “Project Management:  A Technician’s Guide.” He recently took some time to discuss the health and future of the ISA with Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell.

Automation World: There is a lot of concern about the health of ISA. What do you think ISA will look like in five years?

Leo Staples: I think it is safe to say that the great majority of engineering and technical societies are concerned by declining income, membership trends and financial reserves. This is not the first time in history that the world has faced economic challenges and it will not be the last. What further complicates that challenge has been a decline in volunteerism and availability of leadership due to the many other external demands we all see in our daily lives. Future success for engineering and technical societies will depend on their ability to meet the needs of this and future generations. ISA has the foundation to serve these future members through our Sections and Divisions. It will require that we utilize new technologies and change with the times, but the foundation is there.

Plans are coming together to launch internal and external studies that will serve as a road map to the future. But as we embark on that next step, we diligently focus on the implementation of plans that were approved last year.

In five years, I see a resurgence of ISA in all areas. For this to occur, we must develop leaders and provide benefits that are beneficial to the careers of our members. By 2015, you will see all elements of the Society (Sections, Divisions and Society) embrace technology to allow members to participate when they cannot attend an event. You will see a Society involved in educational programs (K-12) and college degrees that will produce the next generation of automation professionals. Finally, you will see programs that our leaders and members will use to develop leadership skills.

AW:  I think people misunderstand the Automation Federation. Could you explain the mission of AF?

Staples: The mission statement reads, “The Automation Federation is an association of member organizations providing awareness, programs and services that continually advance the automation profession for the betterment of humanity.”  This has not changed since AF was founded in 2006. The development of the Automation Competency Model is the perfect example of the value AF has delivered to its member organizations and the world. As a direct result of this work, the U.S. Department of Labor now recognizes automation as a profession. As an organization, AF advocates for issues and programs that will have a positive impact on automation professionals and the world.

AW:  ISA has changed its big annual event from an Expo to a Conference this year. Please describe what attendees will experience there and why ISA members should attend.

Staples: By design, Automation Week (the new conference name) will challenge what attendees believe, and inspire them to consider alternatives. The program includes technical sessions, tutorials, workshops and forums. In every case, time is allotted for Q&A and with more emphasis on discussion, vs. lecture. The event includes clearly defined paths for engineers, technicians, managers, marketers and researchers/academics/scientists. This Pathfinder approach is unique and will allow the attendees to go deep in a particular area or to go broad and learn a lot about many topics.

In recent years, we have been building up the technical knowledge and learning opportunities associated with the conference programming surrounding the Expo model. We are now bringing out the positive and the success stories, and reducing many of the time conflicts that presented themselves with the older model. By design, the new model will be smaller but will be more focused on knowledge, activity and interaction. We are excited about the potential offered with the new format and we hope that the community will actively participate.
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