STEP to the Next Level

IEEE helps student members stay involved post graduation

10 July 2013

Engineering students in Toronto attend a GOLD biotech event, where they learned about the medical technology sector in their community.

Mario Milicevic is the IEEE Member and Geographic Activities GOLD-SAC liason, and the vice president of Industrial Relations with the IEEE Toronto GOLD Affinity Group.

The IEEE STEP (Student Transition and Elevation Partnership) program was designed to encourage and facilitate the transition of IEEE student members to their next level of IEEE membership, through exciting and unique events that embody the IEEE vision of building a global technical community. STEP events are meant to engage both student and GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) young professional members through a broad spectrum of technical areas that would ultimately result in a highly positive impact.

The program aims to introduce graduating student members to their local IEEE GOLD community of young professional and graduate student members. STEP events are traditionally organized and run by local GOLD affinity groups to strengthen the student transition to higher grade IEEE membership, and for the networking benefits of attendees during the onset of a career or graduate studies program.

However, no two STEP events are alike. Organizing sections or GOLD affinity groups are encouraged to choose creative themes for their events in order to maintain a fresh interest in IEEE activities among attendees. Several highly successful past STEP events include: seminars, panel discussions, poster sessions, and formal dinners. Industry guests and participants are often invited as an attractive networking incentive for both students and GOLD young professionals.

GOLD affinity groups and sections are encouraged to collaborate with their respective student branches in order to deliver a high-impact STEP experience to their student and young professional attendees. Each section or GOLD affinity group is eligible to receive US $500 annually to organize a STEP event, provided that the event and its agenda are inline with the objectives of the STEP program. Collaboration between sections is also encouraged to allow for bigger events that cater to a wider membership.

Each year, about 25 to 50 STEP events are held worldwide by local IEEE GOLD affinity groups and IEEE sections to share the opportunities and benefits offered through IEEE membership and volunteering. Several examples of stellar STEP events held to date in 2013 include:

  • Student Thesis Poster Competition, Blekinge Tekniska Högskola (BTH), Karlskrona, Sweden
  • TechnoVate, collaborative event between Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi sections
  • Keynote and networking session at IEEE Region 1 Student Conference, MIT, Boston, USA
  • Welcome to Industry barbecue, Saskatoon, Canada
  • Technological entrepreneurship seminar, Lima, Peru

In addition to my role as liaison between the Member and Geographic Activities GOLD and Student Activities committees, I am also involved locally as Vice President of Industrial Relations for the Toronto GOLD Affinity Group. Toronto GOLD was fortunate to run a very successful biotech STEP seminar in 2012, which featured three, 20-minute talks and a very well-attended networking session. The keynote speakers included: Dan Hosseinzadeh, who spoke about his experiences of starting digital pathology software company, Pathcore Inc.; April Khademi, who talked about the development of image processing algorithms at GE Healthcare; and Jason Silver, who shared the story of his transition from a technical role to business development at Tornado Spectral Systems. The free seminar talks were attended by IEEE members, students, and guests from a number of technical fields beyond biomedical engineering, and a highly-energetic, two-hour networking session followed.

Keynote speaker, Dan Hosseinzadeh, shared his thoughts on the Toronto GOLD biotech STEP event:
“The biotech seminar held in Toronto last September brought together young engineering professionals, students and industry experts for a night of presentations and discussions about Toronto's medical technologies sector. This event was a huge success and highlights the interest in biomedical engineering among GOLDies. I was happy to participate in such an organized and well-run event. Toronto GOLD is an innovative group that continues to enjoy widespread support among its membership and has continued organizing successful events around networking and other themes of interest.”

Richard Abrich, a student attendee, said:
“As an engineer and aspiring entrepreneur in the medical field, I found the IEEE GOLD biotechnology seminar to be an extremely valuable experience. Events such these are a powerful motivator and the perfect forum for exchanging ideas and meeting like-minded individuals, both of which are necessary for innovation to flourish. It is both exciting and humbling to participate as Toronto solidifies its position as a global medical research and innovation hub, and I look forward to attending more of these events in the future.”

Toronto GOLD is just one example of a group that is running extraordinary STEP events. Many sections and GOLD affinity groups worldwide are actively looking for creative ways to engage their members, and develop high-impact events for students and young professionals. The STEP program provides the means and funding to do so, all the while facilitating and encouraging the transition of IEEE student members to GOLD young professional members.

If you would like to get involved with STEP, email

Photo: Mario Milicevic

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