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Thread: Controls Career Path

  1. #1
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    Controls Career Path

    Hello all,

    First post. I'm a couple of years into a career in HVAC controls. I've been using solely Automated Logic and feel I have a pretty good grasp on the hardware and software. My job title is basically field technician, so I do a lot of install and some service. I'm comfortable with wiring, sequence of operations, and I can edit/troubleshoot and create new programs from scratch if I have to. I'm also decent with networking, but from reading some posts here, there is definitely more to learn.

    Somewhat recently, I may have caught a boredom bug. Some jobs get a little repetitive... (install, test, commission, repeat)...(same VAVs, different building) type of thing. I've spent some time considering what the next step is in my career.

    I've thought a lot about what it would be like working in-house for a facility as the "bms guy". Or possibly working as some kind of energy analyst who uses a BMS to track energy usage and optimizes the sequences/setpoints to save energy. I have also been interested in learning Niagara. To be honest I don't really know anything about Niagara, but I know it shows up on a ton of job postings.

    My question for the forum is, what career paths are there for a controls tech? And maybe some can share their career experience?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhoIs View Post
    I've thought a lot about what it would be like working in-house for a facility as the "bms guy".
    little repetitive now? Think of doing what you do on the same building or set of buildings over and over. Least in controls the facilities change if nothing else. Would look for a high end site that's always in flux and changing if that's the direction. Typical commercial, yuk.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhoIs View Post
    Or possibly working as some kind of energy analyst who uses a BMS to track energy usage and optimizes the sequences/setpoints to save energy.
    Would look at the pay ranges first and then what exactly their day to day looks like.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhoIs View Post
    I have also been interested in learning Niagara.
    Can't go wrong there IMO. How many ALC sites do you take over that you didn't install? I'll say one thing, that's a never ending challenge figuring out how to get in, take over and fix someone's failure. Its a platform to at least know something about as its just about everywhere you look.
    Propagating the formula. http://www.noagendashow.com/

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhoIs View Post
    Hello all,

    First post. I'm a couple of years into a career in HVAC controls. I've been using solely Automated Logic and feel I have a pretty good grasp on the hardware and software. My job title is basically field technician, so I do a lot of install and some service. I'm comfortable with wiring, sequence of operations, and I can edit/troubleshoot and create new programs from scratch if I have to. I'm also decent with networking, but from reading some posts here, there is definitely more to learn.

    Somewhat recently, I may have caught a boredom bug. Some jobs get a little repetitive... (install, test, commission, repeat)...(same VAVs, different building) type of thing. I've spent some time considering what the next step is in my career.

    I've thought a lot about what it would be like working in-house for a facility as the "bms guy". Or possibly working as some kind of energy analyst who uses a BMS to track energy usage and optimizes the sequences/setpoints to save energy. I have also been interested in learning Niagara. To be honest I don't really know anything about Niagara, but I know it shows up on a ton of job postings.

    My question for the forum is, what career paths are there for a controls tech? And maybe some can share their career experience?
    Your job is what you make it. NYC/NJ has tons of interesting jobs beyond the usual TI project. If your board working at different jobs sites everyday...how long do you think staying put is going to be interesting? The energy analyst stuff is mostly cooky cutter at this point. Automated monthly reports with alerts if your about to exceed a KHW or peak KW value..or after hours energy usage. And the copy and past dashboards that only get looked at by the commissioning agent.
    I started as a service tech, became a project engineer, then engineer, then project manager...Everything but sales. But the best job in controls is a service tech..Your the hero. The guy the gets to fix everyone else's f@ckups. Plus a new service truck, tools, and better pay then the office guys. (Salary is for smucks!)
    To me it never got boring at any of these jobs..but you have to ask for the job you want. Then the hard part..getting it done per plans and specs. To the customers satisfaction. At or below sales estimates...
    You want your heart to beat? Cut over some data-centers or live cut-overs of critical systems...no shortage of of high maintenance customers ..anything you'll ever want to do with controls is within 60 miles of NY.
    Controls, the cause of... and solution to... all your HVAC problems.

  4. #4
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    Well put. Some want to coast, some want an desk job, some want the excitement of crazy systems and risk of failure. Nothing wrong with any of them. Figure out what you want to make and what each role offers, then play the balancing act between them. Wouldn't limit myself to a specific area either if goals don't align with offers. Yet another term to balance the equation.
    Propagating the formula. http://www.noagendashow.com/

  5. #5
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    My objective is simple...Show me top dollar with a sizeable yearly bonus, some field work with less hours and weekends off, that will be my new position...rarely see much automated programming control work except changing setpoints and checking economizer operation for maximum efficiency

  6. #6
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    Show me the guy that can knock out a complex chiller plant from scratch, deal with fume hoods and complex room/area pressurization, safety critical work, etc. Size and spec all parts. You could easily have that role if you bring the same game level.

    Q&A techs, good luck.
    Propagating the formula. http://www.noagendashow.com/

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by orion242 View Post
    Show me the guy that can knock out a complex chiller plant from scratch, deal with fume hoods and complex room/area pressurization, safety critical work, etc. Size and spec all parts. You could easily have that role if you bring the same game level.

    Q&A techs, good luck.
    sounds like a pharmaceutical/bio-chemical plant is going to be built soon, that company is looking for a specific architect/engineer to do the design but it has environmental restrictions...i can see it now, epa restrictions, exhaust filtration, explosion proof housings, bio containment rooms...stainless everything! I may have to stay overnight at a Holiday Inn and ponder it...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhoIs View Post
    I have also been interested in learning Niagara. To be honest I don't really know anything about Niagara, but I know it shows up on a ton of job postings.
    Learn Niagara, submerse yourself in it and don't look back. I made that gamble 15 years ago and if every instance of Niagara were to disappear and Tridium was to completely disappear, my career could go in 40 different new and exciting directions.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unlimited1 View Post
    pharmaceutical/bio-chemical plant is going to be built soon
    Site like that is something that would be more interesting in facilities / controls than typ commercial IMO. Prob no comparison in pay scales either.
    Propagating the formula. http://www.noagendashow.com/

  10. #10
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    If you wanted to work for a facility as opposed to a contractor, industrial process automation is more fun than building automation, but it is usually noisier, and dirtier.

  11. #11
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    I started in mechanical repair. Lugging compressors across the roof when it was 100 Deg. Been a full time controls guys for about 10 years now. I can't say no and will take on anything I think as far as computer savy I'm one or the worst where I work, but I handle the most control lines of all the techs. Learning something new and challenging myself is in my DNA, and I think most controls guys possess that. So I've never been bored really? I taught myself Distech express enyvision prior to a recent project on my own time with a trainer board at my house. Good grief it was painful and I think it's trash IMO. That being said the site had a bunch of existing site done by another contractor, and after I finished my site the customer requested that all graphics should look like mine from that point on. I got a good chuckle out of that. It was my first one ever. I guess what I'm saying is find the next challenge and dig in Tridium knowledge means job security to me. Learning it will keep you from being bored TRUST ME!

  12. #12
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    I have about twenty years in the trade, the last five with ALC.

    I've done just about everything at some point with the exceptions of running pipe (a combined skill and art I've never been taught or was able to self-master) and sales.

    As has been said before, it's what you make of it.

    If you want you can learn pretty much anything you want with the business, be it the business side (PM/Sales) or technical aspects (hardware or software engineering, BACnet alone has a ton of details to learn or whatever). Get good enough and you may talk yourself in to a supervisor (SSS) position.

    Juan spent some time with us in Madison working on a variety of projects, including pharmaceutical labs. Those are a whole world of different from high rise after high rise. Other parts of our team are going crazy on hospitals, micro-hospitals and clinics with multiple, large medical organizations.

    The technology and building codes are always changing, that's a challenge in and of itself.

    Use the Employee Scholarship Program, become a Certified Energy Manager or PM or whatever you want, as long as it is related to the business.

    If you're really bored, Wisconsin has several slots open. We have all four seasons and lots of opportunity for growth (personal and professional).

    If Juan is still there, please tell him I said hello.

    Ken

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    Quote Originally Posted by chesehd View Post
    We have all four seasons
    Lol. And it will redefine your personal concept of what 'really cold'!
    Propagating the formula. http://www.noagendashow.com/

  14. #14
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    If you can find a path to install and control, "retrofit systems". In my experience it has been the most interesting and fun. Taking something that didn't work and making work. also learn n4 definitely worth it.

  15. #15
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    Learn IT and scritping. Then learn databases and virtualization. Learn how to build out UML use cases. All of these skills can be self taught in a 4 to 6 months depending on your apptitude.

    Get with a mid sized company or larger and start doing real integration work (not this quasi interfacing where your pulling in different BAS).

    Back when i worked in the field i was coding bacnet stacks in C++, building HL7 streams, designing IT networks for hospitals, doing cyber security assessments for oil and gas customers.

    You can do some really cool stuff if you get with the right company in the right role.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by philzito View Post
    Learn IT and scritping. Then learn databases and virtualization. Learn how to build out UML use cases. All of these skills can be self taught in a 4 to 6 months depending on your apptitude.
    Internally when we search for guys with this skill set, its interns for the local collages. No shortage locally and after a summer we have a good idea who likes the work and will excel. Sharp guys, we try to pickup. Would be interesting to interview a mix of folks with 4-6 months self-taught vs 3yr CS students and see what shakes out and the cost to hire differences.

    Quote Originally Posted by philzito View Post
    Learn Back when i worked in the field i was coding bacnet stacks in C++
    From scratch or tweaking open/closed source library to fit your needs? From scratch would be quite the project for a single tech/programmer to perfect for deployment given typical project time frames. Would be interested to hear what the design constraints where that drove the decision between rolling your own vs tweaking what’s already there if that’s the case.
    Last edited by orion242; 08-11-2020 at 08:58 PM.
    Propagating the formula. http://www.noagendashow.com/

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by philzito View Post
    Learn IT and scritping. Then learn databases and virtualization. Learn how to build out UML use cases. All of these skills can be self taught in a 4 to 6 months depending on your apptitude.

    Get with a mid sized company or larger and start doing real integration work (not this quasi interfacing where your pulling in different BAS).

    Back when i worked in the field i was coding bacnet stacks in C++, building HL7 streams, designing IT networks for hospitals, doing cyber security assessments for oil and gas customers.

    You can do some really cool stuff if you get with the right company in the right role.

    Would you say IT is the most important skill for a new BAS tech these days?
    If you were a recruiter/employer and looking to hire a new tech, what would be the most important factors/skills from most important to least on determining who to hire?

  18. #18
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    Its still got to be the mechanical knowledge, imo. IT is hugely important for sure. But if you dont know how to make the plant operate safely, you can cause hundreds of thousands worth of damage.

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  20. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreezerGeezer View Post
    Its still got to be the mechanical knowledge, imo. IT is hugely important for sure. But if you dont know how to make the plant operate safely, you can cause hundreds of thousands worth of damage.
    I couldn't agree more, just helped one of our newer guys setup control of a semi-heremetic compressor with electric unloaders. The system also had hot gas bypass he was very confused why his discharge temp wasn't where he thought it should be. The hot gas was injecting causing his DAT to be affected, and that he just couldn't grasp. Being a controls guy has been the most challeging aspect of my career, but coming from a well rounded mechanical background has benefitted me greatly. My weak point would surely be the IT side of things, and with the IP controller craze here I really need to focus in on some learning regarding that portion of the job. Always something to learn!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreezerGeezer View Post
    Its still got to be the mechanical knowledge, imo. IT is hugely important for sure. But if you dont know how to make the plant operate safely, you can cause hundreds of thousands worth of damage.
    X2. How do you program the correct sequence when you don't know what it is I the first place. And if you think the operating sequence from the scope of work will help, well that relies on the engineers doing their job 110 percent and not having people cut and paste all the time. Again you cannot spot mistakes like that if you don't know how it is supposed to operate in the first place.

    Sent from my SM-G965W using Tapatalk

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