For our #pAutomator this time, we spoke to Rick Simmonds, President of The Simmonds Group, a National Recruiting Firm in Columbus, Ohio. Simmonds specializes in mentoring and recruiting engineers in the areas of Process Control, Factory Automation, SCADA, Control System Security, and IIoT.

In this interview,  Simmonds discusses the need to have adequately trained employees in an organization and highlights the changing landscape of the industry.

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Interview with Rick Simmonds

Can you trace back your journey in this industry?

Well, I started my career in this industry in 1988. I was hired as a recruiter after selling industrial piping products. I made my first placement with Leeds & Northrup.

Image of #pAutomator: Rick Simmonds
Image of #pAutomator: Rick Simmonds

The Process Automation industry is filled with so many passionate people.  Everyone has a desire to serve others. I wanted to be part of this community too.

I have worked with Process Control System manufacturers as well as safety systems and software. I also serve companies who manufacture and sell control valves, flow, pressure, and level transmitters.

How has this industry transformed over the last decade? Any special achievement you did like to share with us? 

The industry has changed significantly over the past 30 years. When I first started, contingency searches were the norm. Today, 95 percent of my searches are retained.

Prior to branching out of my own, I was a part of a large recruiting firm, which had 4,000 recruiters nationally.  I finished in the top 11 and maintained that position for many years. Within this company, I was part of a group that pioneered the concept of “project coordinators”.  Project coordinators assist in identifying candidates for my client’s search needs. The opportunity to serve my clients in a faster, more thorough manner was the result.

What has been your approach in addressing the changing market demands?

Today, there is much more urgency in hiring than there was 10 years ago. Every company I speak with has an urgent need for assistance.  My experience allows me to quickly assess their need and determine if I am the best person to serve them. My clients value my honest approach.

Image of #pAutomator: Rick Simmonds
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You have been actively involved in recruiting process engineers. What attributes do you actually seek in the candidates?

Educational background and growth within an organization are very important to my clients.  My clients seek candidates with a proven track record of growth and measurable success. Hiring is a major investment for my clients and they are wary of someone who has held three jobs in five years.

How do you see the online resources playing a role in industry developments?

I agree with my clients that the talent pool in the industry is shrinking. Tools like LinkedIn have been a major asset in building a professional network.

How do you see the future of this industry shaping up?

When I first started in this industry, there were many more competitors in the system world. Due to acquisitions, the number of larger players has decreased. I believe this trend will continue.

Any advice for the next-generation engineers?

During school, young engineers should make use of the resources that are available to them. For example, co-op programs are incredibly valuable not only to the companies engineers work for but also to companies who will consider them in the future.

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