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22 May, 2022

Time for pastures new

13 October, 2019

After more than three years in charge of Gambica’s industrial automation activities, Victoria Montag is moving on to pastures new. In her final column, she reflects on some of her experiences during her time with the trade association.

On the 14 April, 2016, I had my first day as sector head for industrial automation at Gambica. It wasn’t the typical start of a brand-new job – being shown my desk, getting a pass and a laptop, filling out forms, and so on. No, my first day was spent at the Drives & Controls 2016 show at the NEC. I had never been to a trade show before and for a first day in the job it was pretty overwhelming. I don’t remember too much about the day except kicking myself that I had had not heeded my father’s advice and worn comfortable shoes. Honestly, when I finally took my shoes off, I half expected to find my feet rubbed raw.

In spite of the lack of memory about it, this day comes to mind as I write this, because today I handed in my notice at Gambica.

Being very aware that I have only a month left at Gambica has made me reflect on my time with the company. If you’d permit me a moment of sentimentality, 

I have decided to use my final column in Drives & Controls to share some of my thoughts about my life at a trade association.

I don’t know what it is like for other trade associations, but working with Gambica has been a really special experience. This I put down largely to the people. Sure, the people at Gambica are funny, really lovely and a pleasure to work with. But there is something else. I have never worked for a company where there is one clear aim – in this case, working to further the interests of the industries we represent. Every decision and action at Gambica is measured by the criteria of “what is the value of doing x to our members?”. Not having to divine some purpose to your work is a very liberating experience, but it also means your colleagues just “get it”. 

This is true of our members too. The Gambica membership is a brilliant community who are engaged and proud of their industry. I have written in the past about how our members put aside the fact that they work for competing organisations and collaborate on certain topics for the greater good. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is a genuine joy to witness our special interest groups working on a guide, or a position paper or a consultation response. I have seen teams from the same company work together with less altruism than these competitors.

And Gambica, being a relatively small organisation, means that we know our members, on a company level and an individual level. This means that Gambica is truly a member-led organisation. Like all trade associations, we have a board, comprised of representatives from member companies, and they will set the agenda for the association at a high level. But all of our members have a say on the association activities, by joining the sector council and special interest groups. Equally, an emailed enquiry from a member can, and has, led to new services being offered to the membership. 

Gambica would not exist without its members, literally of course, but also figuratively. Those who come to meetings, get involved, share knowledge, send emails and are part of the community ARE Gambica. 

As I leave not only Gambica, but the industrial automation sector, I hope that I leave the sector in a slightly better shape than when I arrived. Measure my success however you will. There are still a number of challenges the sector faces. The one that concerns me the most is that our membership seem to be an ageing population. More people are retiring than coming in.

The same is true for engineering as a whole. The sector needs to really think about how it can make itself a more attractive prospect as a career. I feel in particular that the industry needs to think about how to encourage under-represented groups into the sector and creating an environment where everyone will thrive. This probably means shedding some things from the past. 

Overall though, I am gratified that the feeling towards automation by media and government appears to be a lot more positive than when I started. The message about industrial automation’s importance for a strong economy and healthy job market hasn’t prevailed yet, but seems to be breaking through. 

As I bring this bit of schmaltz to a close, can I take this opportunity to thank Drives & Controls for letting me share my thoughts once a month, you for reading, and to those of you who have got in touch about something I have written, and especially to the whole Gambica community, for making these 3½ years so enjoyable.

Finally, if I were to offer my successor one bit of advice it will be this: when you go to Drives & Control’s show in April 2020, wear comfortable shoes! 




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