In my September column, I began with a quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, who reminded us “everything changes and nothing stands still … and you cannot step twice into the same stream.” Heraclitus was right. Not only because the stream changes; the person changes as well.
This also applies to organizations like IEEE. We have changed in the decades since our founding. So has the world and the professions we serve. We began as an organization founded and led by some of the leading industrial figures of the time. Over the years, we have become an indispensable partner to engineering professionals in academia and in the research and development community, but we have lagged in our relevance to industry professionals.
For IEEE to stay true to its promises, possibilities, and achievements, we must return to our roots. It is imperative that IEEE reconnect with those driving the advancement of technology in industry and entice these valued professionals back into our community. IEEE is at its best when we bring together the totality of our offerings with the rich diversity of our global community of professionals from academia, government, and industry to solve the problems facing humanity.
As stewards of IEEE’s future, we ignore our past at our peril. The number of IEEE members who count industry as their employer has been declining. Since 2000, the percentage of IEEE members from industry has dropped from roughly 60 percent to 39 percent. Our content is losing relevance for those in industry, as it has become progressively more academic. Our career-development efforts are not optimally aligned with emerging industry needs. As an organization, we are at a crossroads, and IEEE has a choice to make.
NEW STEPS, NEW STREAMS
These past few years have seen great strides in IEEE’s efforts to engage with industry, coupled with an urgency to provide technical professionals the tools and information they need to excel. The IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on Industry Engagement, led by IEEE Fellow Dejan Milojicic, and the entire IEEE Board of Directors have demonstrated vision and dedication in their efforts during the past two years to move IEEE forward. We are interacting extensively and diversely with industry to bring forth products and services of value and importance to technical professionals in industry.
Last year we met with more than 175 industry leaders from 45 companies in China, Germany, Japan, and Silicon Valley. This year, we met with 250 leaders from 47 companies in Canada, China, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. Our goal was to collect feedback on IEEE’s current offerings to industry, identify needs, and develop strategies to best serve industry professionals.
And we have begun taking steps to address the value proposition of IEEE membership to industry. One new product that serves the engineering community is IEEE GlobalSpec’s Engineering360 information and collaboration platform. It provides first-rate content about electronic components straight to the desks of today’s engineers. In addition, we established InnovationQ Plus through a partnership with IP.com that combines a powerful platform and IEEE content with IP.com’s global patent and non-patent literature to aid innovators around the world.
We are opening application programming interfaces for the IEEE Xplore Digital Library to enable personalized experiences based on second-generation analytics. These APIs allow IEEE customers and third parties to query the IEEE Xplore content repository and retrieve results for manipulation and presentation on local Web interfaces. We can deliver highly relevant content and progressively evolve intelligent personal assistant capabilities.
Additionally, we are exploring the creation of an IEEE industry awards program and looking for ways to better recognize industry professionals through our Fellow Program. We are developing papers on technical trends that highlight the key technologies shaping the world around us and influencing the daily working life of IEEE members.
A major new initiative, the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems will ensure alignment and consensus across a range of stakeholders to identify trends and develop the road map for all related technologies in the computer industry. With the launch of the IRDS program, IEEE is taking the lead in building a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the computing ecosystem, including devices, components, systems, architecture, and software.
Our progress in this important area must continue. IEEE is accomplishing more, in a variety of pursuits, than our founders would have dreamed possible in 1884, or even in 1963, when our two forerunner societies merged to form IEEE. We are able to do this because IEEE, as a community, knows the best future is the one we build for ourselves, one in which the needs of all technical professionals—in academia, government, or industry—are not only addressed and met but exceeded.
I welcome your perspectives or suggestions on additional opportunities for IEEE to better serve our industry members. Please send your input to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appears in the December 2016 print issue as “Stepping Twice Into the Same Stream.”