Musings from Paul Studebaker on Control's Hall of Fame

'When it's time to go ahead and make a change, perform a migration or install something new, we want a set of instructions from someone like us who's already done it,' he says.

By Paul Studebaker

Control Process Automation Hall of Fame members are not heroes. None has rushed into a burning refinery and closed a valve to prevent an explosion. None single-handedly stopped a heinous cyberattack that would have taken down a grid, and frozen or starved a population. None called the Feds and blew the whistle on clandestine emissions that threatened the health of families and children downwind or downhill of some concocter of heinous goo.

If called upon, they probably would have, but nobody gave them the chance to earn their notoriety in a single opportunity or act of bravery, MacGyver-esque ingenuity, incredible wisdom or moral certitude. They all pretty much muddled their way to significant success and the admiration of their peers by simply doing a little extra along with their regular jobs. Since they like process control and automation systems, that little extra accrued to the profession, and over time, they (and all of us) found that it can really add up.

Many were required or inspired by their professors, supervisors or mentors, but most simply had a problem they needed to solve, or were interested in a particular technology or industry. They delved into the details, thought “this is cool,” and gathered expertise. Then they shared their knowledge and experience by presenting it to others, joining organizations or committees, or writing a book or article.

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For someone who is contemplating a new endeavor, nothing is more valuable than the knowledge and experience of someone who’s gone before you. We all want to know the theory, and to have the right tools and equipment, but when it’s time to go ahead and make a change, perform a migration or install something new, we want a set of instructions from someone like us who’s already done it.

At Control, there’s nothing we value more than an article by an end user—like you—telling us about something you’re done on your job, or explaining some aspect of process control that you’ve learned from experience. We editors write what we can, but our words are thin gruel and filler material between the expressions of knowledge and experience we obtain through interviews and by reading the writings people who do the work. If you’ve paid attention to the bylines of the articles, columns and departments we publish, I think you know what I mean.

And none of these writings—not mine, Greg McMillan’s, Béla Lipták’s, Ian Verhappen’s, John Rezabek’s, Bill Mostia’s or even Jim Montague’s—spring fully-formed from our keyboards. They all start as germs of ideas, pecked and pounded out, often slowly and crudely, on what begins as a blank screen. Our articles have won awards, but not because we write so well—it’s because we had something to say, our editors helped, and the art directors made it look good.

We would be delighted to do the same for you. If you know something you’d like to see in print, we’d like to help you make that happen. If you’ve completed a project, solved a problem or acquired expertise—or even a well-considered opinion—about an area of process instrumentation, control or automation, and you want to take a step up that ladder that might lead to the Hall of Fame (or just see your name in print and be a little more famous), send me a note. I’ll tell you what’s possible and the next step, and you can decide from there. One step at a time, no obligation, no pressure.

Meanwhile, many of you have already received or will soon be seeing an invitation to participate in our annual Salary Survey. Your responses are the basis for our July cover story, but more important, they let us know, so we can let you know, how you’re feeling about the profession as well as the direction of salaries, bonuses and benefits.

This year, we’ve removed some long questions to streamline the survey, and added a few short ones that spice it up. We know you get a lot of surveys, and it’s getting harder to get a meaningful response. I hope you’ll let us have yours.