175. Hero: Amos Purdy – Lead Systems Engineer @ GPA Transcript

00:00 Chris: 

Welcome everyone to the holidays with our heroes here on EECO Ask Why. Now next week is the big week. You’ve heard some amazing stories leading up to this one today. And next week we have our season recap and then all the 22nd the big surprise will be revealed. So you do not want to miss that.

Now this particular episode, I sat down with Amos Purdy and you may remember Amos from all the way back in episode 47 and 75. That’s right he was so good we had to have him on two times and three making this hero where he talked about what the heck is IIOT. And he also talks about OT networks and connecting business goals.

And I tell you what Amos I’m jealous of this guy. He’s got an MBA, he’s got an engineering degree. He lives in Wilmington for one of the most beautiful places in the world, but he is amazing hero. And I know you’re going to love his story. 

You know, speaking of those stories, we’re getting those war stories and they are pretty incredible. I’m looking so forward to releasing those out and sharing them with you all. Now, it’s not too late to get them in. If you got something, you know, we’re gonna be gathering around the Christmas tree here next week. We wanna hear the fun stuff, the inspiring stuff. So check out the link in the show notes, get those stories to us. We’d love to hear them. We’d love to put a spotlight on them. And thank you for your submissions. Now it’s time to get some insight into Amos Purdy and his amazing journey. Cue the music. 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a fun hero episode where we’re going to sit down with Amos Purdy, who is a lead systems engineer at global process automation. So welcome Amos. 

01:51 Amos: 

Thanks for having me. 

01:52 Chris: 

Man. We’re excited, man. I hope you’re having a good day. 

01:56 Amos: 

Oh, yeah.

01:56 Chris: 

We love these hero episodes and just to get the spotlight, the people that are making impact and definitely our heroes, and we love to get started just by sharing your personal story and your journey with our listeners. 

02:08 Amos: 

All right. Honestly, I’ve been around this data technologies and web applications for quite awhile. My mom was in community college and took me to an HTML class right around the 2000 scare and kind of been hooked ever since then. I did web applications all through high school and college and really focus my undergraduate on computer engineering and linking a lot of those web applications.

So I’ve been around a lot. A lot of experience around those when web applications were really first starting up. And then as I was finishing my undergrad, I got the opportunity to start working with oil and gas driller, and really looking at a lot of his remote monitoring and everything kinda got hooked.

The amount of data that you could get industrial wise was way more than web applications at that time. So changed my whole trajectory really so went more into industrial technologies, helped my college create a industrial automation course which has expanded now into a minor. And really, start getting more people into the field to early start seeing know industrial automation and what that can mean for data and going after these technologies 

03:29 Chris:

Where’d you go to school at Amos? 

03:31 Amos: 

Wyoming and actually, I loved Wyoming. Originally from Montana. Family moved around with the government down to Nevada, back up to Montana, ended up spending a lot of my childhood in Nebraska and really remote areas and stuff. So I really understood Wyoming when I went there. I guess you could say, but honestly it was a great school. They have a heavy focus on some defense contracting and stuff and just seeing the amount of research that went on there and amount of, really smart technical people and just a great all around place to go. 

04:07 Chris: 

Very cool. From Wyoming, you mentioned you worked in the oil and gas industry. So what led you to North Carolina and automation? 

04:14 Amos: 

My brother lived out in Charlotte when I graduated. And really just kinda wanting to start looking around, seeing what was out there. I figured I’d do a stint in the Southeast for the next decade. And so coming up on that, but yeah, really just the southeast had so much of that industrial plants and really the infrastructure and just about every little spot that you could turn. Getting down to Charlotte was great because I started out with an OEM, so it really started to, take what I learned from school and really make machines from the ground up. It flexed everything that I knew and what I learned in school, it was a great learning experience to see every little bit of it clear up to the data side.

05:01 Chris: 

Right. Now I know we’ve talked prior to, but our listeners don’t know. So you have two masters, you have a master’s in electrical engineering and an MBA also. So we don’t see that quite often. So what led to you wanting to pursue that MBA?

05:17 Amos: 

After being out in industry and, being freelance for a long time, going into industry, I could see the engineers have a huge disconnect from a lot of the business. Me growing up doing freelancing, I kinda know how to handle all sides of it. And then when you go out and super smart engineers that have, little to no experience on what that actually means for the business, it was just like, that light bulb went off.

Like we really need to have people that understand, what the business goals are and, understand that and how it actually applies to the engineering side and what that actually means so your engineers don’t go off on a tangent and you just have to reduce stuff, but I just saw that as such a huge gap that needed filled. But I just, I needed it. I understood the engineering side, really needed to understand how the business was organized around engineering. So I could be that bridge. 

06:14 Chris: 

Technical understanding what your electrical engineering background. Now you have the business understanding, and you’re in industry a lot. So I’m sure our listeners would love to get your take on this. What are you seeing as some of the major challenges out there? 

06:27 Amos: 

Some of the biggest challenges are, some of the most exciting things actually. It’s the amount of new technologies that we have to deploy and the capabilities of those technologies. I think that IOT or IIOT devices, edge computing and cloud technologies, a lot of these can be very daunting. From a higher up stick, higher up sea level, pushing a lot of these things down cause they’re buzzwords and stuff, really understanding what a lot of those things mean and how to apply them in the lessons learned when you try to deploy these new technologies and, start to bleed over some of those OT type technologies into, cloud applications or, really outsourcing a lot of that. I think a lot of people aren’t very comfortable with that and there’s a lot of lessons to be learned in trying to really go after these new technologies. But on the flip side, that’s also the huge opportunity.

The people that get into it and actually just start doing it, take it slow, get some good things where you feel confident in it and it’s ability. You can overcome a lot of those hurdles and you can start to work through the problems of what you know, deploying these new technologies really means. At the end of the day, it’s really fun. I really liked doing it. I love seeing, the breadth of data. That’s really, we’re starting to get breaking down all these silos and starting to see the transparency between the departments and really starting to get a bigger picture of the whole business. And it’s pretty awesome to see what can come of it. 

08:04 Chris: 

Just by hearing your tone in your voice, you can tell those types of projects gets you pretty excited. Is that what you find is driving you right now and you’re getting the most joy out of are the projects like that?

08:17 Amos: 

Yeah. The new technologies it’s crazy because when I started, PLC fives were everywhere and it was really hard to go from one process to the other and really understand programs a lot of times, that kind of thing and their processing power, like what their processing power was, you can fit in your phone now.

Like it’s crazy to think that technology has come that. They can be so much smaller. There’s so much more capable and they can get so much better maintenance and support and just being able to spread that, the connections in the remote monitoring and start to use AI and machine learning to really go after some things that have been perplexing people, just the capabilities are pretty endless.

I think one of the biggest things is I like being in those because it’s always a lot of excitement at the beginning that, oh yeah, we’re going to use technologies. It’s going to fix everything, but people quickly start to, bang their head against the wall and go, I don’t know how to do this, but they’re not as complicated as you think, but they are completely different. And so overcoming some of those small hurdles make a huge impact on businesses. And you can really start to unlock a lot of potential. 

09:26 Chris:

No doubt. Absolutely. It’s great stuff and having people like you in the field and in front of this technology is only going to take us that much further as the country. And, these episodes, Amos, they’re really trying to inspire people to consider industry against consider engineering or to come to this vertical and work in manufacturing. What would be some advice you’d give a listener out there who wants to pursue potentially a career like yourself.

09:52 Amos: 

Get excited about what you can actually do. There’s so many places where you can make such a huge impact, if you just have one small idea and it’s crazy how sometimes it’s the lowest person on the totem pole that gives you just that one grain of information that just revolutionizes your process and your business, and really going after that.

I would say start prototyping. There is plenty of options out there for different devices different technologies. A lot of them are free, start messing around with them, start seeing and let you know, let your imagination almost run wild, honestly, that there’s just it’s crazy even over the last, like three years, the amount of data and pre datasets and that kind of stuff that are out there. Besides all of the huge edge computing and IOT improvements that have come the last couple of years. Start looking at a technology or a portion of it and start messing around with it, get your hands dirty. And you’ll probably want more, 

10:52 Chris: 

What about you personally, any areas that you spend time or resources you consume that point others to, that would want to enhance their personal knowledge or their area of expertise in some of these touch points? Just looking for some guidance for our listeners.

11:08 Amos: 

Yeah. Honestly seeing the proliferation of Python as a programming language and how it started to bleed over and just about everything that we can do. And honestly, it’s a pretty extensive toolkit. You can do everything from OPC servers to data visualizations to now and your machine learning AI up in the web, like the amount of capabilities around that language is just huge.

It’s definitely a awesome ecosystem to start looking into and it’s, at least last time I looked the most popular programming language out there. You learn that one thing, it’s in industry. If nothing else, it’s, little small programs that people have been making and maintaining on the side, but it’s getting into industrial applications and so knowing that programming language and its capabilities really allows you just expand and know that you’re not going to be pigeonholed on your career. 

So that’s been pretty awesome to see how it, lot of these technologies developed for other things have been changed and modified and, have grown where we can actually use them in industry and start to really just start messing around with stuff that you never thought you could ever do or you had to pay a hundred thousand dollars to get a machine to go and do it. No, You can spin that up for free almost to start doing that. 

12:30 Chris: 

Right. It sounds like if you also, if you get that skill and you fine tune it somewhat, it’s a great entry point. And like you said you’re not pigeonholed you have different options of different areas that you could go within industry, but sounds like a great area to invest time and to get better at if you’re looking for that entry. 

12:49 Amos: 

And, I don’t know how you guys feel about, even raspberry pies, which I wouldn’t recommend putting in industrial applications, but even just to start putting your hands on something, physical, some something prototyping, something that you don’t have to put a lot of money in to just concept something out, like developing those prototypes, you learn so much and why you shouldn’t probably be deploying raspberry pies out in an industrial environment if nothing else.

You start to get a better understanding of their capabilities and where you can take them. And then it’s almost, it’s hard to contain you. If nothing else, because if you’re the one that can generate some data and some good data, everybody loves data. As soon as you start showing them good information and in a way that they can understand. They’re ravenous. They just want more and more. So it’s really fun to start getting some of that prototyping out there and start seeing some of these things. 

13:43 Chris: 

Yeah, man. The snowball effect really takes into place, right? It just, you get that little win, then you get some cheerleaders and things start happening, you got more and more momentum and next thing you have these major projects and major evolutions in your career and great stuff, man. We also know through a lot of these conversations, Amos, that we were all progressed through our career here because people help us, people pour into us. There’s the importance of networking and just helping others. So are there any mentors that have helped you in your career that you’d like to give recognition to today?

14:17 Amos: 

Yeah, My mentor, going through college and he didn’t even probably know it until he was my advisor for my master’s in electrical. Steve Barrett out at Wyoming. I think he’s the co-department, head of engineering out there now, it was him seeing that there is some potential there. And, really, especially in college, you’re learning so much, you’re getting overloaded with so much. He really helped me start to break down. Okay what is the true path? You are capable and this and this, like where are you heading and starting to think about early in high school or early in college, although it’s never too late, but early in college there, whereas getting exposed to a lot of things and, he’s the one who helped me get my job and oil and gas industry. And, I helped him create the course for industrial automation and, having that support when there’s just so much possibility it really helped ground me and focus me on my true goals. That was really awesome. 

15:14 Chris: 

He was in your life at the right moment. Provided that guidance and mentorship. So thank you for sharing that, that example for us. And definitely can see how it impacted you. And I’m sure you’re taking opportunities to pour into others and help them in their careers as well as they grow. And, I also love to, to check with you, Amos, any highlights, man, any projects that you can look back on and you can say, I was a part of that. And that was awesome. And it may be this course you mentioned this course that you helped develop at the university of Wyoming. But just curious on what’s your take there from it from a highlight standpoint? 

15:46 Amos: 

I would definitely say the creating the course was pretty awesome. We took it from it was PLCs was a slight side topic in one of our classes to a full encompassing course that we got a lot of, engineers from not just electrical. You got some computer science, we got some mechanical and really start to expose the cross-functional nature and knowledge of those different departments was awesome to see a mechanical engineer, go through there and figure out how to program a PLC, and then what they can do with it on their bike that they were creating was just awesome.

Yeah, definitely a highlight, just seeing the capability. I love being there and, being there for support, like my mentor. And I see a lot of engineers, not really know where they want to go in engineering. And so helping them over those little hurdles really expose them to a lot of, what you could do and, nothing else respect for people that could do it well and industrial applications. And Seeing their light bulbs go off was awesome. 

16:51 Chris: 

That sounds like a really fun project to be involved with and can definitely see why you hang your hat on that. So was there any lab or hands-on portion of that, or was this a classroom environment? Talk to us a little bit more about that. What you developed there? 

17:05 Amos: 

Yeah, so I developed all the labs, so we actually had. Running some motors, run a little machine or a little car around, but the monitoring different parts of the maze, just some basic, valve stuff, but really, talking to people around, even some power monitoring, but talking to people around the capabilities definitely needed a couple more iterations to get the lab down perfectly, but it was.

Yeah, I created the lab, created a lot of the curriculum that they covered in the actual course. They covered the actual filling in the course details, like kinda helped guiding that a little bit, but yeah, I mean, and honestly, when I created that PLC fives for what we had, and it’s crazy to think about that now.

17:54 Chris: 

Are you able to get out there and sit in and, or visit the university and see how that class has evolved and in helping people now? 

18:04 Amos: 

I haven’t sat in, in one of the classes or been out there specifically, but I talked to Dr. Barrett every now and then just to see where he’s heading and if nothing else just, I think one of the biggest things in your life is the connections that you make. And like he helped me constantly check in on him just to see how everything’s gone with the engineering department. See if he has any bright upcoming stars that want to be out there doing a lot of what I’m doing. So I’ve heard little bits and pieces about how it’s evolved. But it’s awesome to hear about the people that are coming out of that and going right into industry and, just everywhere now. 

18:42 Chris: 

I’m just excited there’s a class out there to maybe lighting a passion or a fire in someone, you know, there may be some content in a lab that you developed that, brings the next engineer to industry that develops, the next thing for industry 5.0, whatever that may be. It’s really cool to think that type of exposure is out there on a regular basis to these young, bright minds. So man, hats off to you. That’s an amazing accomplishment. Thank you for sharing that highlight with us and, Amos, we also like to talk just about joy and fulfillment and where you find that moment in your current job and your current role where you’re having that where you’re the happiest, so if you had to sit back and analyze, what I’m doing now is as a lead system engineer, this is when I’m the happiest, what are you doing in those moments?

19:30 Amos: 

Honestly, it’s when it’s, when people actually start using the stuff that, that we deploy and them actually want to keep using it, you know, and get engaged in it. And a lot of these projects and especially the data side it’s hard to figure out what you exactly need to monitor and what you need to get in which plant, there’s a whole bunch of intricacies there, but when you can sit through the meetings with them. Everybody’s going through it and we’re banging our head against the wall for three months. And at the end of the day, you got to get something out. 

And so when you take all of those different things and the people that are going to be using it and everything, and develop a good user interface that gives them relevant data, actually exposes them to what they really are looking for it’s just awesome to see when their eyes light up like, oh, we have this now, we have this capability, oh man, I’ve been wanting this for 10 years, 15 years, it’s finally bridging that gap and, getting people to really see everything that they ever wanted to see, or, get to use something that they actually enjoy using and interacting with. An d that final piece is just awesome when they lgiht up. 

20:39 Chris: 

Yeah, no doubt. I mean that aha moment where you see it all come together. Right? I mean, that is awesome. And we love with these episodes Amos to just to get off the career the job path and talk a little bit about, you outside of work. So anything you like to do for fun, any hobbies or interests that you like to share? 

20:58 Amos: 

Do a lot of fishing and live at the beach, so definitely have to do some good boogie boarding. The waves were a little bit big for surfing right now, but yeah, honestly just being out in nature, coming from Montana and Nebraska and Wyoming. The open space has always interested me, so out and about walk through the woods. I think it, that clearing of your head, just not having to focus on work and really getting into nature and stuff really it refocuses you. Grounds you a little bit.

21:32 Chris: 

No doubt, my friend, we just got back from a family vacation, so I’m officially a semi-pro at boogie boarding. I’m assuming you’re a pro. 

21:41 Amos: 

Of course. I mean, you already bought your a, $150 boogie board, right? You really got to start investing. 

21:49 Chris: 

Yeah. I didn’t go with a 150, but I did go with let’s see, I think it was about 70 bucks, so it’s not the, I broke about four of the ones that are in Styrofoam. And after the fourth one, I throw it in the trash. I’m like, all right, I’m going to get a real boogie board. But it does make a difference.

22:04 Amos: 

I can attest to that. I’ve got a boogie board graveyard too. 

22:08 Chris: 

So now we just take those like you said, the graveyard of boogie boards, we take those to the pool now. Cause they’re still good floats, but that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good when the the oceans hitting us, man. It sounds like you have a lot of fun outside. 

22:21 Amos: 

Yeah. Yeah, no. And getting out there, kayaking, canoeing, too, like getting out there, fishing, especially being at the beach. It is amazing how your perspective on everything changes when you’re even 10 feet off of shore, yeah, there’s no traffic, there’s no one on around, and it’s just a completely different view than you ever thought.

22:41 Chris:

No doubt. It is awesome. And you’re right there in the heart of where we’re, that is the goal for me and my wife one day. Wake up and smell that salt water and feel it hit you that sand. And so I’ll be there one day, my friend, but enjoy it. It’s great. You got a lot of cool things happening and we also love to learn a little bit about families and think, you mentioned you’re from Montana, you’ve gone a lot across the country. Anything about your family you’d like to share with us?

23:06 Amos: 

Me and my wife have been together for a good portion of 15 years now, I guess it’s about that then been married for the last four. So, you know, it’s been interesting. I would definitely say, her support through all of this I’ve moved. I moved her from Wyoming out to Charlotte and bounced around in the Southeast. And she’s definitely a outdoorsy person, so that isn’t always easy bouncing around quite a bit. So if nothing else that, thank you to my wife. 

23:38 Chris: 

It sounds like you got a good partner there and hopefully you’re in Wilmington together and just a great environment there, man. So thanks for sharing that. Anything that you would point our listeners to that maybe you enjoy from a podcast or a book, anything you’re curious about just trying to dig a little deeper on things that you enjoy? 

24:00 Amos: 

Yeah. Honestly, Wall Street Journal as a couple of different, like short podcasts in the morning that are pretty good. The Tech Review and the Morning Briefing and NPR has I kinda liked the indicator, you know, that’s a little 10 minutes, short, little economic kind of thing, but I think they all, fairly quickly catch you up. And honestly, at the end of the day and say a lot of people probably get an information overload. So I try to keep it down the amount that I just spread out all of my attention, throughout the day. It’s kind of nice to get real quick, brief, and go on my way. But, those are definitely pretty good podcasts Tech Review from Wall Street Journal and Indicator from NPR.

24:40 Chris: 

Very cool, man. Very cool. Thanks for sharing those. Sure of some of our listeners would check them out and we’d love to wrap these up Amos with just the why because everybody has a different why in their life, they have a different drive, a different purpose. If you had to summarize that for somebody sitting at a coffee shop, what would that be? 

24:56 Amos: 

I think that there’s so much possibility and fun things to do in life. I think it really is find a passion and hold onto it, hold on for the ride and, you get your most satisfaction by seeing a job well done. And some results from the stuff that you do, so it can be hard work along the way, and definitely say that, but the why is seeing things, something done well throughout my life and just seeing, the results of that, it makes a huge impact in a lot of people’s lives. And hopefully a lot of businesses lives, just, being in it and really going after some passionate. And it makes you a healthier, happier person I feel. 

25:33 Chris: 

No doubt, man. We can definitely hear, the passion and behind you and the things that drive you. And just thank you. You are definitely one of our heroes, Amos, and I really appreciate you taking the time to unpack your personal story, provide inspiration knowledge to people on things that they could consider for their journey. So thank you for your time today. It was a, it was an honor to have you on EECO Asks Why.

25:56 Amos: 

All right. Thank you guys so much.