President Jim Jefferies On Opening the Doors of IEEE

To grow in size and stature, we must broaden our thinking on new possibilities

1 June 2018

When we open the doors externally, we connect the public to the impact that IEEE and our members have on technology. We can open those doors wider to cultivate partnerships that can leverage the best IEEE has to offer. When we open the doors internally, we embolden cooperation and inclusiveness across our full field of interests.

We should open the doors to innovation in our own thinking and approaches to new models. Open the doors and ease the path to deeper engagement opportunities and broader participation from our valued members, including showing students a wide-open portal to a career.

IEEE is unique in that our members create so much of the organization’s value. Whether they are writing papers, editing journals, organizing conferences and meetings, developing standards, promoting education, or meeting policymakers in capitals around the world—IEEE members do it all.

However, members and volunteers cannot succeed in all we try to accomplish without IEEE’s professional staff. A large part of our success lies in our being a strong volunteer-led, membership-based organization with a well-supported staff. With the doors open, we must work continuously to encourage and empower our valued volunteer-staff collaboration to yield the full potential in meeting IEEE’s mission.

This also includes creating a unified front that embraces our individual society, section, chapter, and region initiatives and outreach. IEEE is more than a collection of autonomous, independent units. While societies, for example, are technologically specialized, they share common needs, challenges, and ambitions. We must leverage IEEE’s resources across all its elements to generate a critical mass of interest with the end goal of cooperative workshops, standardization efforts, and interactions with industry, government, and other organizations if we’re to demonstrate the broader value that IEEE brings.

To tell the story of IEEE is to share the impact our members are having around the globe. There is a rich opportunity to grow our public visibility and increase the public’s understanding of the contributions to society made by countless members seeking to advance technology to benefit humanity.

By projecting our global public policy voice, we can position IEEE as the world’s trusted source for information and insights on emerging technology and trends in the marketplace. By celebrating the pride and prestige of our professions, we can demonstrate how engineers, scientists, and technologists contribute to our global community, helping to build today’s technologically advanced world. By increasing our organization’s publicity, renown, and interests, we can entice potential members to join and existing volunteers to lead, as well as encourage the next generation to explore the possibility of engineering and science careers.


Our members include those studying, teaching, practicing, inventing, and advocating for technology. To engage these diverse audiences in meaningful ways, we must develop membership value propositions and be open to alternative membership models tailored to differing needs. We must ask the important questions: Why did you join IEEE? Why would you stay a member?

It is interesting to note that in the global population, there are more millennials than the baby boomers they will replace. As markets and trends change by generation, so do members’ expectations. Many young professionals hold a different perspective regarding the value of membership and how they want to participate in a membership organization. IEEE must engage them on their terms and allow them to take on roles and responsibilities that matter to them. The energy, innovation, and fresh perspectives they offer are essential in these changing times. There is a place for them in IEEE’s top leadership. An open perspective will also enhance our humanitarian and philanthropic expansion.

Because the world’s most important and pressing issues lie at the convergence of technologies, their solutions require teams from multiple disciplines working together, whether that’s big data driving medicine and agriculture or cloud computing integrating the data, education, and entertainment streams of daily life.

We can create a culture of open inquiry at IEEE in which our varied members bring together their diverse experiences, viewpoints, and interests to yield extraordinary accomplishments. That is what unites us in a truly global community as engineering professionals and as IEEE members defined by a commitment to advancing technology to benefit humanity through our work. It is already embodied in our mission and values. Opening the doors wider will only help to maintain IEEE’s position as the world’s leading technical professional organization.

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This article appears in the June 2018 print issue as “Open the Doors of IEEE.”

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