Gary On Membership & Mentorship
October 27, 2023
Boasting 38 years of experience in automation and 7 years as the ISA Calgary Section Membership Chair, Gary Fraser enlightens us on what inspires him: family, travelling, volunteering, golf, Disney, and on the flip side, ISA membership and mentorship.
“Membership leads to mentorship, and both, especially mentorship, are a big deal to me. It excites me to train people to do what I do. I believe in knowledge transfer; this is paramount. As long as I can breathe, I will continue to help others. When you come out of school you only have what you’re taught, lean on your predecessors for their experience.” – Gary Fraser
On His Career Path
What got you interested in automation?
My father was an electronics engineer and in turn I had lots of exposure to Hi Tech equipment growing up. Watching my dad fix TV’s always fascinated me, we even built a stereo amplifier together. After High School, I took a test to show aptitude, which told me that I was destined for technology.
Where did you go to school for automation?
I studied at Vanier College in Montreal graduating in 1985. I was registered in the Electrotechnology program. I learnt all the sciences from physics, calculus, electronic design, motor controls, drafting, instrumentation, computer programing, machine language, plc’s and my final year was dedicated to instrumentation and controls.
What is your work experience in automation?
I started my career in the analyzer world working for Western Research as Circuit Board Repair and Building Tech. From there I moved into building and testing, then service, maintenance and training. Following that, I spent time at Kenonic Controls as an Intermediate Instrumentation and Controls Technologist.
The next 15+ years I worked in the engineering world as both an Analyzer Specialist and in I&C for Colt Engineering, Gemini Engineering, SNC Lavalin, Husky Energy, Fluor, Worley Parsons and SAIT (of note, SAIT was a teaching position in Kazakhstan as Process Analyzer Instructor for a few months).
Another 8 years were dedicated to CNRL Horizon. First as a Senior Instrumentation Technologist, then I moved into the control room diving into control and safety systems. Next, I took on a contract role as Senior Process Analyzer Specialist, and finally focused on field commissioning, trouble shooting and training mostly throughout Alberta.
Currently, I’m back in engineering and working with Worley as a Principle Senior Process Analyzer Specialist.
How did you first learn about the ISA? What attracted you most to this organization?
I first got introduced to ISA in my last year of College. My senior class designed a PLC controlled conveyor coffee machine. It had a computer set up to take your order and it controlled a Texas Instrument PLC to move a cup to several stations based on coffee selection. We used limits and times solenoids to pour coffee! We presented this at the ISA Show that year and won a $500 bursary. I have been an ISA member ever since.
You’ve been an ISA member for 38 years, now, correct?
Yes, off and on, mostly on.
Why is membership so important and how has being a member benefited you?
I have access to all that the ISA offers and own several ISA books that I still reference.
How has membership changed over the years?
Being a member of something, on a professional or personal level, used to carry more weight. Now it seems that interest in every sort of membership is in decline.
Do you have any goals regarding membership?
Having access to ISA’s worldwide pool of knowledge is priceless. As Membership Director, my job is to remind people of this.
Who mentored and/or inspired your career journey?
It started with my father who kept me on path at all times. In industry, a few of 'the greats' that guided me along the way were: Brad Young, and Lauri Kitchen at Kenonic Controls, and Peter Strickland and Walter Driedger at Colt Engineering (in addition to many others).
To me, mentorship is the ability to transfer experience and knowledge onto those who seek it. Without mentorship, the success of the next generation is limited. The opportunity to teach someone and see them thrive is priceless. There is no better feeling than being able to help.
How do membership and mentorship complement each other?
Membership and mentorship go hand and hand, one leads to the other.