Think about the last time you met with other IEEE members or volunteers face to face. Has it been a while? Or perhaps you’ve never done it at all?
If you haven’t gotten involved with your local IEEE community yet, you might be missing out on the most important part of membership. Meeting in person gives you the chance to network with peers, find mentors (or become one yourself), and discuss new developments in your field. It might even make you happier. A study by psychology researchers at Nottingham Trent University in England asked 4,000 participants to rate their overall happiness and satisfaction. The more people felt connected to a group, the more satisfied they felt, the researchers found.
What’s the best way to make belonging to IEEE—an organization with nearly half a million members around the world—feel as personal as participation in a neighborhood book club? A great first step could be volunteering or attending a local meeting. Not sure how to get started? Here are some ways to get involved.
IN YOUR BACKYARD
The first step is to contact your IEEE section, according to Chris Wright, marketing specialist with IEEE Member and Geographic Activities, the group that oversees recruitment and retention strategies.
“You can ask section volunteers what’s going on in your area, and how you can help contribute,” Wright says. “Or you can offer to do something for the section if it’s not already being done.”
If you’re not sure whom to contact, start with the IEEE regional world map, which lists the websites of the organization’s 10 geographic regions. Each region’s website provides links to its sections.
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
You also can find a number of IEEE groups that bring together members who have shared interests. The IEEE Young Professionals group, for example, holds events around the world. Members who graduated from college fewer than 15 years ago are considered to be part of Young Professionals, but those beyond that mark can join as well. Events include career workshops and industry visits as well as casual gatherings, like barbecues and happy hours.
Students can take advantage of the many networking opportunities their university’s student branch has to offer, such as contests to show off their technical skills as well as bond with classmates. The annual IEEEXtreme Programming Competition, for example, involves solving software-design problems within a 24-hour period. Participants compete in teams of one to three students. Last year more than 8,300 students competed worldwide. Students also can volunteer to help promote and run the event by becoming IEEEXtreme ambassadors. This year’s event is scheduled for 20 October.
Student branches can organize professional-awareness programs, at which engineers from industry talk about their career. The events can include panel discussions and hands-on activities, all with the goal of sharpening students’ technical skills and “soft” skills including communication and time management.
Life Member affinity groups are for members who are older than 64 or who have belonged to IEEE long enough that the sum of their age and years of membership equals at least 100. If a group does not exist in your area, you can form one by submitting a petition to the life members committee.
IEEE Women in Engineering is dedicated to promoting female engineers and scientists and inspiring girls to pursue a career in a STEM field. Men can join too. There are more than 800 WIE affinity groups around the world. Aside from attending or helping to organize local WIE events, there are a number of other ways to get involved, including mentoring and participating in educational outreach programs. WIE holds a number of summits around the world, including the annual IEEE WIE International Leadership Conference, to be held this year on 21 and 22 May in San Jose, Calif.
Members can contribute on the local level to IEEE humanitarian projects. One is Engineering Projects in Community Service in IEEE (EPICS in IEEE), a program that brings together members and student members with high school students who collaborate with organizations on engineering-related projects. Or members could get involved with IEEE Smart Village, which helps entrepreneurs supply electricity to remote, off-the-grid communities.
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Do you have an idea for an engineering project that would benefit your community, but lack the funding or resources to do so? Check out the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT). It provides up to US $20,000 to members who want to start a humanitarian project and teaches them how to go about it through free training and webinars.
If you want to help educate the next generation of engineers, you can sign up for IEEE’s Teacher In-Service Program. Volunteers help prepare STEM lessons and hands-on activities for professional-development workshops so preuniversity teachers can teach the topics. Or you can run a TISP workshop. Get involved through your IEEE section or start a group in your area.