Happy New Year 2017!


Well, its that time again where people around the world review the last year and make plans for the new one to come. While this can be done at any time of year, people often choose this particular day to reflect on what changes they want to make in their lives.

Way back in 2011 I mentioned that I often use Chris Guillebeau’s technique of an annual review followed by defining my goals for the upcoming year. I think people are constantly evaluating the past, but the new year is a particular time where they set goals connected to their previous results. Some go as far as making “New Year’s Resolutions”, though this formality can often lead to disappointment when one’s goals aren’t met. Its a well known fact that more gym memberships are sold in January than any other month.

Looking back on my last year, I did make some fairly serious changes. I moved my office from a single room in a shared space 25 miles away in Nashville to a much larger location only a mile and a half from my house. At the time I thought I was just doing it for convenience, but it has turned into much more than that.

I started creating a series of my own classes on PLCs, troubleshooting, Machine Vision and other automation topics. In support of this I was able to write and publish a new book in only four months.

I have started creating an “Automation Academy” that will eventually have at least one of every major PLC brand along with hands on stations for troubleshooting, board level work and a small machine vision lab. I hope to add a small robot at some point in the future. I have also added class space for up to eight students, and will be teaching my first Automation Training class (on Siemens S7) here January 17-20. This will be a great test of my logistics!

Last year at this time none of this was really even on my radar. I knew that I enjoyed teaching, and my overall plan was mostly focused on just doing classes for AT. I spent 38 of 52 weeks on the road last year. Though not all of them were for AT, I realized that for my own health I needed to figure out a way to spend more time at home where I tend to eat better and exercise more. Much of my goal setting for next year has been a direct result of that.

One of the benefits of having a blog like this is that when you write down your goals for all to see it makes you more accountable. Some of my friends (and even my mom!) occasionally read it and know if I’m slacking off. So here are some of my goals for the upcoming year:

1. Do not schedule consecutive weeks teaching classes out of town. I have already had to modify my original goal of being home every other week because I still have other customers besides AT, and one of them has requested some time at the end of January. I also sometimes get asked to do longer trips, such as my class several months ago in Trinidad.

2. Eat better. I haven’t mentioned this here before, but I have had a health problem (Diverticulitis) for the past four years. This has led to one trip to the hospital and several other miserable weeks getting over attacks. While doctors have given me some broad guidelines on how I should eat, its not always possible to stay strictly between the lines. I have already been pretty good about eating much less meat and almost no fast food, but I know I can do better.

3. Exercise more. This goes hand in hand with being on the road less. There is a nice gym right up the hill from my house, and when I am home I tend to use it pretty regularly.

4. Continue building on my training programs. It is difficult to put completion dates to some of my projects, since I am new to the course design process. I had hoped to have my first PLC class online by the beginning of the year since I had most of December at home, but I got pretty sick in the middle of the month, which seriously slowed me down. Among other things, my voice couldn’t be used for recording for over two weeks. I did manage to start much of the remodeling and planning of my new facility though. My new website and training software projects also made progress especially since they are being handled by others.

It goes without saying that I am also always striving to be a better husband, father, friend and mentor to all of the people in my life. I don’t really consider these to be things that I confine to goal-making and planning at the beginning of the year.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a truly heartfelt happy new year, and I hope that everyone uses this time to reflect on their goals and progress. Over the past several years I have made hundreds of new friends in person through training and thousands of contacts through professional activities and this blog. Many of you have reached out to me here and on Linked In, especially from other countries. I would like to pass on some advice and words of encouragement to those of you getting started in the automation field:

Many of you are getting formal education and degrees, while others are taking classes or online training, hoping that these will lead to better opportunities and well paying jobs. I receive hundreds of unsolicited resume’s and job requests every year from people looking for work.

One of the “resolutions” I made when I closed my business in 2006 was to never have employees again. Though sometimes I am tempted when I see the wealth of opportunities for growth out there, I have managed to turn my new business into something I am very happy doing without bringing others into the mix.

At the same time I recognize the struggles others are going through. The best thing I can advise others to do is be patient. Before trying to get a job in another country, develop your resume by getting some good experience right where you are. If you aren’t the very best where you are, why would someone who doesn’t even know you in another place want you to come there?

I get a lot of contacts from people who have just gotten advanced degrees or technical training who hope to pick up a job here in the US or outside of their home country. Even for people with lots of experience and advanced degrees this is very difficult to do. In this country you have to be sponsored by the company that hires you, and they have to show that they couldn’t find someone here to do the work. For every one of these jobs, there are thousands of applicants.

The most important thing you can do in my opinion to have a great career in the automation world is to develop a passion for the field. Of course your resume needs to have those classes, degrees and experience to get the interview, but ultimately you are going to have to convince a real person that you are a better choice than the thousands of others who want the same job. This is not something you can fake, your enthusiasm for the work needs to shine through. No class or degree is going to provide this.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 2017, and remember to keep learning!


Electrical Engineer and business owner from the Nashville, Tennessee area. I also play music, Chess and Go.