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Alumni Profile

Steve Mustard

Steve Mustard

BEng Digital Systems Engineering 1989

Steve Mustard graduated with a BEng in Digital Systems Engineering in 1989, and is now President and CEO of an independent automation engineering consulting in Texas. National Automation, Inc, based in Houston provides a wide variety of services to customers in businesses in oil and gas, water and wastewater, food and beverage, and transportation.

Steve, originally from Sunderland, moved to Spring in Texas with his family in 2008 looking for a life changing experience. Although his last role in the UK had been as managing director of a company, he decided to follow his real passion and focus on engineering.

Steve is also an active volunteer with the International Society of Automation (ISA), and among one of his most interesting experiences with the Society he met with executive branch staff at the White House to discuss cybersecurity. He will be President of the Society in 2021.

“My family and I decided to emigrate to the USA to start a new life and do something different. As part of this I sold my stake in the business I started from a Management Buy Out and set up a new business,” he said. “I did choose a bad time to do it, in 2008, as that was right at the start of the Great Recession. I already had a significant hurdle to overcome, given that I had no business network in the USA at the time, and had expected it to take a while to establish myself. The Great Recession meant it took a lot longer.”

He continued: “As is true in most cases, there was a lot of good fortune as well as hard work, and that enabled me to progress my business. I was fortunate to be introduced by a business associate from the UK to the International Society of Automation.

“One of my first paying consulting roles was through someone I had met while working in the UK. Another project I got involved with was through someone I met who was originally from Scotland but had moved to Houston; and a close friend from the UK had moved to Houston not long before we did, and we collaborated (and still do) on many important projects.”

Steve’s previous and current client list includes: the UK Ministry of Defence; NATO; major utilities, such as Anglian Water Services and Sydney Water Corporation; major oil and gas companies, such as BP, BG Group and Shell; Fortune 500 companies, such as Quintiles Laboratories; and other leading organizations.

Talking about some of the projects he has been working on, he said: “Some examples of projects include monitoring pressure in the water distribution network in Costa Rica; monitoring and controlling the lighting, elevators and escalators on the Panama Metro system; and training users in fault finding in robots used in food manufacturing.

“My main consulting work these days is cybersecurity of automation systems, because that is a major issue. The failure of an automation system due to a cybersecurity incident can cause loss of life, an environmental incident, or a major production outage.”

Although there is more than 30 years since Steve graduated from the then Sunderland Polytechnic he still has vivid memories of his time as a student.

He said: “Being from Sunderland, I was destined to end up as a miner or shipbuilder, but a chance meeting with a lecturer at Wearside College resulted in me attending Sunderland Polytechnic to study Digital Systems Engineering.

“I spent three great years from 1986 to 1989, mostly in the Edinburgh Building. As a member of Sunderland Polytechnic Students’ Union, I saw Cutting Crew (“(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight”) in Wearmouth Hall (November 29th 1986; ticket £2.95 in advance, £3.50 on the door).”

He added: “Sunderland Polytechnic was full of amazing lecturers and I learned so much from them, not just my technical subject but how to learn and how to apply my knowledge. The Control Engineering department was where I spent most of my time and I am forever grateful to the amazing staff there, especially Professor Chris Cox, Dr Ian Fletcher, Dr Ian French, and my final year supervisor Mr John Hargrave. I would not be where I am today without them or Sunderland Polytechnic.”

Steve is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), ISA Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®), UK registered Chartered Engineer (CEng), European registered Engineer (Eur Ing), GIAC Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional (GICSP), and Certified Mission Critical Professional (CMCP).

He also writes and presents on a wide array of technical topics and is the author of ‘Mission Critical Operations Primer”, published by ISA. He has also contributed to other technical books, including the Water Environment Federation’s “Design of Water Resource Recovery Facilities, Manual of Practice No.8, Sixth Edition”.

Steve Mustard

Steve Mustard (on the right) taken in a shipyard in South Korea. They are standing at the top of the platform that is being constructed there for deployment in the Gulf of Mexico.

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