Using Society Membership to Your Advantage

Belonging to an IEEE society means more than just receiving monthly subscriptions and discounts

6 October 2009

For some people, belonging to an IEEE society means simply receiving monthly journal subscriptions or discounts on conference registration fees. But for others who are active in their societies, it can mean much more, such as an invitation to present a paper at a conference, getting a sneak peak of new research as a tech-paper reviewer, and picking up management skills by running a conference. In short, society membership can be invaluable to your career.

“The value of IEEE society membership is not quantifiable because the rewards are so numerous and immeasurable to our careers,” says IEEE Member Bill Pontikakis. A member of the IEEE Computer, Circuits and Systems, and Solid-State Circuits societies, Pontikakis is pursuing a Ph.D. at Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal.

Pontikakis joined IEEE as a student at Concordia University, also in Montreal, and found key papers in the IEEE Xplore digital library for his senior design project. He submitted his project for a session at the 2001 IEEE International Conference on Microelectronics and also to the 2002 International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS). He received a cash prize from a microelectronic research group for his contributions.

“The relationship and the rewards coming from my association with IEEE did not end there,” he notes. Since then, he has had papers published in nine conference proceedings, and he also has reviewed technical papers submitted to the ISCAS and IEEE Potentials, the student magazine.

“The chance to review technical papers is a great asset,” he says. “You not only gain access to cutting-edge research that has not yet been published, you also are exposed to other research because you have to thoroughly review the cited references.”

The opportunity at conferences to meet other professors and students from his own research areas is “not only invaluable for our professional success but mandatory,” he adds.

SKILLS LIST
April Khademi, an IEEE graduate student member at the University of Toronto, listed the skills she picked up as a conference organizer: experience managing people and becoming an effective listener, and being a team player and a leader. She developed those talents while helping run the IEEE Conference on Multimedia and Expo and the Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering; each draws about 600 attendees. She has been involved with managing the registration of attendees, assigning tasks to other IEEE volunteers, as well as selecting the venue and arranging for food.

“Such experiences are extremely hard to come by as a student,” Khademi says. “Not only do they offer valuable lessons, they also show prospective employers that I have a broader set of skills in addition to my technical abilities.”

A member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, she is the student representative for Region 7, and chairs the Toronto Section’s Graduates of the Last Decade group. She has reviewed papers for IEEE Transactions in Medical Imaging and Letters in Signal Processing, as well as conference papers.

“I have been able to get a bird’s-eye view of what a reviewer is looking for—which has helped me in writing my own papers,” she says.

For Tathagat Varma, membership in IEEE has helped bring him “closer to the community of researchers and practitioners” and has given him “access to thought-provoking and game-changing ideas” in his discipline. Varma is general manager of the Bangalore Engineering Center for NetScout. The company provides network and application performance management technology and systems.

Varma, chair of the IEEE Technology Management Council’s Bangalore chapter, says he has learned new skills from initiating several projects, including the launch of a chapter newsletter and collaborating with other professional organizations.

“I have gotten a lot of ideas that I have applied in my workplace from the dedicated volunteers in my chapter,” he says. “I have even shared things with the group that might help them in their careers, including job opportunities that I knew about. Overall, I think society involvement has been a great way to build and enhance my professional network.”

IEEE Senior Member Michael Nager, who belongs to the IEEE Power & Energy Society, points to a misconception that society membership can benefit only those in engineering or engineering management. Nager is involved with product development and sales in the Industry Management–Americas section for Phoenix Contact, a company in Harrisburg, Pa., that develops and manufactures industrial electrical and electronic equipment.

“The technical information that the societies publish is also a great resource for those of us working in marketing, sales, and product development,” he says, “because it helps us understand industry trends—which helps us design and position our products for the marketplace.”

Visit the Societies section of the IEEE Web site to learn more about IEEE’s 45 societies and councils, and join!

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