IEEE Young Professionals Steps into the Spotlight

The group is busy holding networking events, forming strategic partnerships, and creating new ways to communicate

23 August 2016

Members of the IEEE Young Professionals affinity group seem to be at just about every type of IEEE activity nowadays. This month in Regensburg, Germany, members from Region 8 along with student members from the region held a joint congress and discussed how to develop soft as well as technical skills. Other Young Professionals members took part in workshops on leadership and innovation, and networked with accomplished innovators at the Future Leaders Forum in July in New Orleans. In June group members were in New York City toasting award recipients at the IEEE Honors Ceremony.

The group has worked on technology applied to humanitarian activities, and has held networking events at IEEE conferences.

IEEE members who have graduated from a university within the last 15 years automatically belong to the IEEE Young Professionals group, while others can join when they renew their IEEE membership.

The increase in activities is no accident. In 2014 the newly renamed IEEE Young Professionals affinity group, formerly known as the Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD), launched a plan to bolster its visibility within IEEE and improve what it offered its members. It did this by organizing more networking events, forming partnerships with other IEEE groups, and improving communications with members.

“We are finally starting to break away from the stigma of the old Graduates of the Last Decade name,” says IEEE Member Mario Milicevic, chair of the IEEE Young Professionals leadership committee, who says many perceived that GOLD, the group’s acronym, meant old. “And we’re beginning to see that the IEEE Young Professionals program could become one of IEEE’s most popular programs.”

There are now 166 IEEE Young Professionals affinity groups (compared with 150 in 2014) and more than 120,000 members. And the growth is expected to continue, according to the five-year business plan the Young Professionals leadership plans to present in November to the IEEE Board of Directors.

LET’S MEET

Surveys have shown that the affinity groups’ members consider professional networking to be their most important benefit. Accordingly, last year Young Professionals launched a host of targeted events. They can be held almost anywhere—in conjunction with other IEEE events, regional meetings, and technical society conferences; as standalone gatherings at a bar or restaurant; or during paintball games and backyard barbecues. Other networking events include company tours, workshops, and lectures.

“There are lots of opportunities to be creative with these,” Milicevic says.

What’s more, the events are free. That’s because event organizers can receive up to US $2,000 to help offset the cost of refreshments and other expenses. The funding comes from both the IEEE region in which the event is held and from IEEE Member and Geographic Activities, which supervises the Young Professionals program.

Making the networking events successful takes a lot of work. So much so that the Young Professionals leadership holds training sessions on how to run them and has developed an activity guide for organizers—which includes a checklist of things to do and the best times to do them.

PARTNERSHIPS

To help the group decide which IEEE events will help raise its visibility, the Young Professionals leadership forged partnerships, including a task force to work with IEEE’s technical societies. Each society has a Young Professionals liaison, who works with the group’s volunteers to organize panel sessions, for example, on subjects of interest, or hackathons, receptions, or breakfasts.

“We want to bring local Young Professionals members to an event and connect them with conference attendees from around the world to create a powerful networking experience,” Milicevic says.

At this year’s IEEE International Microwave Symposium, held in May in San Francisco, for example, the Young Professionals group held a panel session on millimeter waves’ expected impact on 5G wireless. Entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, and government representatives shared their views. At a reception afterward, the group’s members mingled with the speakers and others.

To assist members who are budding entrepreneurs Milicevic joined the IEEE Entrepreneurship Committee, which organizes online and in-person events at which entrepreneurs meet. The committee also gives startups opportunities to connect with venture capitalists and others who can help get their companies off the ground.

Young Professionals members are gearing up to attend two IEEE N3XT meetings—one on 17 September in Austin, Texas, and the other on 1 October in Toronto. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are expected to share their know-how at the events.

Young Professionals members also volunteer for humanitarian efforts. Project Jatropha in India, for example, is an initiative spearheaded by Young Professionals that aims to reduce carbon emissions by promoting biofuel made from a perennial shrub that does well in tropical climates. The project’s main goal is to enable farmers to grow the shrub on an economically viable scale.

IMPROVING COMMUNICATION

IEEE Young Professionals also has developed new methods to communicate with its members. This year it launched the Young Professionals community in IEEE Collabratec, the online platform that helps engineers and technology professionals meet and work together in virtual spaces. The community, which has more than 7,900 participants, offers news articles, a list of job openings, and a calendar of upcoming IEEE conferences and networking events.

And the Young Professionals Impact blog includes posts on technical topics, plus issues of interest to members, such as mastering the transition from engineer to manager. The group’s monthly webinars cover wide-ranging topics such as personal finance, IEEE insurance benefits, leadership skills, and cutting-edge technology. The blog also posts podcasts of interviews conducted by IEEE Young Professionals leaders with notable IEEE members. One interview was with Daniel Camacho, the Young Professionals representative for the IEEE Electron Devices Society, during which he talked about his work as an Intel design engineer in Heredia, Costa Rica.

“We continue to strive for ways the IEEE Young Professionals leadership committee can have a local impact,” Milicevic says.

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