IEEE, 2014 and Forward

IEEE faces several challenges ahead

8 December 2014

When you are president, you get only four of these columns during your term to write about topics you’re interested in. In the past, I have shared my thoughts on the emerging technologies of the day, the role IEEE is playing or could play there, and the issues that all of us, as engineers, must focus on. But what of IEEE itself?

We are more than just conferences, or just publications, or just members and volunteers. We are a vibrant community, growing every year, producing more diverse and insightful work than any similar organization in the world. We are all this, but we are much more.

In the past year, we have seen our Women in Engineering affinity group hold its inaugural International Leadership Conference. It was a resounding success, and it should serve as inspiration for similar future endeavors throughout IEEE. Another important effort under way is to organize our humanitarian technology activities to guarantee that IEEE will increase its impact in this most important area.

Likewise, we have seen tremendous growth in our program Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) in IEEE. In this outreach program, section volunteers mentor IEEE student and graduate student members as they work with high school students on engineering projects that can help their communities. EPICS is affecting young technologists the world over and changing the lives of individuals and communities.

And even more exciting possibilities arose this year. Chief among them was a demonstration model of IEEE’s Professional Productivity and Collaboration Tools (PPCT), an online community where IEEE members and other technology professionals in similar fields can connect, collaborate, create, and save time managing research collections and discover new ideas or career opportunities. PPCT will be a significant step forward in addressing a long-term need of the IEEE membership. It has the potential to be a transformative agent of change within our global community.

Another promising development for IEEE is the evolution of its role in continuing professional education. Throughout 2014, we dedicated time, energy, and expertise to this important field. As technology evolves exponentially and R&D, innovation, and production become increasingly global, technology professionals must continue to learn throughout their careers.

It is imperative that IEEE be one of the driving forces in professional education. We must take advantage of modern online platforms and our unique worldwide volunteer corps, which can provide a local perspective on the skills needed by local businesses almost anywhere on our planet.

IEEE must still focus on answering several questions, however:

  • How do we enhance the membership experience and provide content and value to those who choose to be part of the IEEE community?
  • Is our current infrastructure of regions, councils, sections, and subsections the best one and if it’s not, what should a new structure look like?
  • What is the best way to expand our preuniversity offerings to encourage more young people to pursue science, engineering, and technology careers?
  • How can IEEE best improve its engagement with industry and with the countless numbers of professionals working within industry?
  • How can IEEE change its business model to adapt to the new reality that people expect raw information for free but are willing to pay for value-added services that result in knowledge that helps solve the problems they are working on?
  • What will be the role of professional organizations such as IEEE in a future where people increasingly use social media platforms to satisfy their need for networking and professional information exchange? Finding an answer to this is already a challenge, and it will become more so with the evolution of social media tools.
  • How can IEEE keep its volunteers motivated and engaged so that it can continue to be the leading source of trustworthy and unbiased information, which is essential to its success in an increasingly cyberfocused society?

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the challenges facing IEEE; it is merely a brief list of what must be paramount in our thinking in the coming years.

I do know one thing about these questions. No one individual among us, including myself, has all the answers to all of them. But together, as the global IEEE community, we can—and will—answer these questions.

All the programs I mentioned are the result of dozens, hundreds, even thousands of individuals working within the world of IEEE. A future of promise and possibility lies ahead. We in IEEE will build that future as we have been doing since 1884—together.

I thank you all for an extraordinary year and would like to hear your thoughts on IEEE’s future. Please share them with me at president@ieee.org.

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