I am an IEEE Young Professional—at least in spirit. I stand behind the Young Professionals with enthusiasm and encouragement as they shape the future of IEEE. One of my focus areas as president was our Young Professionals, and I am so proud of them.
As our world changes, so will IEEE, because members of our Young Professionals group understand what is needed to keep IEEE relevant for the next generation.
They have been working hard, spending countless hours to develop programs, products, and initiatives that appeal not only to them but also to every IEEE member. I would like to highlight three of their efforts in hopes that you will join me in congratulating and supporting the people who are creating a new face for IEEE.
First, I’d like to give a little background on who the IEEE Young Professionals are and what they stand for. A Young Professional is an IEEE member who has graduated with her or his first professional degree within the past 15 years. But any IEEE member can join the group at no additional cost. The YP community is made up of members from all over the world and includes recent graduates, entrepreneurs, experienced professionals (like myself), and people from every field of interest to IEEE—which is pretty much anything related to technology that benefits humanity.
As with all IEEE members, Young Professionals desire to elevate their career, build and expand their network globally, unite with their local peers, and support their communities—both physical and virtual. I want to emphasize the latter, for this generation of IEEE members truly cares about each other, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or gender.
The group’s activities are guided by a three-year business plan, which it developed and then refined based on input from “young-at-heart professionals” such as yours truly. The group also secured funding.
The plan aims to increase relevance of the YP program to young members and to make it a more valuable asset to IEEE as a whole. It also seeks to increase young members’ satisfaction and, consequently, increase retention rates and increase the number of Young Professionals by 2 percent. Lastly it aims to provide concrete, plausible, and sustainable solutions to some of the main challenges faced by young IEEE members and volunteers.
The challenges include investigating offering discounts on IEEE technical content, developing a platform for volunteering opportunities, providing more money for local projects, and creating a program that recognizes loyal volunteers. The progress on the challenges has been impressive.
In the Works
A number of initiatives are underway.
- IEEE Flex. Access to the IEEE Xplore Digital Library is one of the more valuable aspects of membership, yet it can be cost-prohibitive for young professionals. A pilot is underway to provide a “rental” model that includes low-cost, limited access to articles and that will not jeopardize IEEE revenue.
- Micro-volunteering (μVolunteering). For a young professional, time can be a scarce resource because of a new job, new home, or new family. Such priorities put demands on a young professional’s time, leaving little room for volunteering with IEEE. The concept of a micro-volunteering platform lets busy people find opportunities to volunteer that are beneficial yet not too time-consuming. The first pilot was completed last year, and another is going on now. The final platform is scheduled to be released next year.
- Loyalty program. Recognition is key to making YP volunteers feel valued and connected to IEEE. Not through traditional prizes and awards but ongoing “thank you” rewards for continued contributions. Because our organization is complex, the development of a loyalty program has taken a lot of time and effort. Those responsible for developing the program, who are demonstrating their creative thinking, hope to launch it next year.
- Signature events and meet-ups. Involving more young people at technical and social IEEE events is a great way to build their skills and networks, find new members, and ensure that future events are appealing to young professionals. Holding meet-ups alongside major events for young people is another. A portal on the YP website was created to help organizers fund their events. To gauge whether participation is increasing, tracking and metrics programs are being developed.
- Seed funding. Young Professionals are passionate about creating local activities, programs, and initiatives. One of the barriers they face is funding. With seed funding, organizers can apply for small grants of up to US $750. More than 30 activities have been funded thus far.
The second accomplishment is the new IEEE mobile app. It was designed and implemented by a team of Young Professionals with support from IEEE’s IT department. “Your IEEE at your fingertips” is the app’s opening greeting. It brings you a fresh way to stay current and find what you need. The app has a news feed, with the latest articles from The Institute, IEEE Spectrum, and other IEEE sources. Users can locate and communicate with other members and schedule, manage, and join informal ad-hoc meetings. Members also can use the app to update their IEEE profile and preferences. The app is free (of course) on Android and iOS. Download and use it today.
The future of IEEE is in the hands of our Young Professionals, and I am confident they will evolve IEEE into the organization that they call their family for life, just as I have done. For more information, visit the group’s website.
Karen Bartleson was the 2017 IEEE president.