A Conversation With the Candidates for 2015 President-Elect

Mintzer and Shoop respond to members’ questions and concerns

6 June 2014

The annual IEEE election process begins in August—be sure to check your mailbox for your ballot. To help you decide whom to choose for 2015 IEEE president-elect, we interviewed the candidates: IEEE Life Fellow Fred Mintzer [above, left] and IEEE Fellow Barry Shoop. We asked them questions submitted by members, as well as some of our own. Each candidate shared his vision for the future of the organization and the changes he proposes to make if elected.

First, a bit of background. Mintzer was program director for IBM’s Blue Gene Watson supercomputing facility and associate director of the Deep Computing Institute from 2005 until he retired six months ago.

Early in his career, he conducted research on digital signal processing algorithms, applications, and architectures. He led a team at IBM’s Watson Research Center that developed technologies to support image database systems that emphasized image quality and security. The work garnered numerous awards.

Mintzer went on to develop new applications for secure printing and new techniques for document watermarking. He became senior manager of IBM’s visual technologies department, which developed 3-D graphics and scientific visualization systems. Mintzer has coauthored more than 50 technical papers and holds more than 25 patents.

He was a member of the IEEE Board of Directors and director of IEEE Division IX in 2008 and 2009. He served as vice president of IEEE Technical Activities in 2012, and he was a member of the IEEE Audit, Investment, and Employee Benefits and Compensation committees, among other leadership positions. He received the IEEE Third Millennium Medal in 2000 and the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s Meritorious Service Award in 2009.

Shoop, a professor of electrical engineering, is head of the department of electrical engineering and computer science at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in New York. He is responsible for a department of 79 faculty and staff members. He joined West Point in 1993 and has served in a number of leadership positions, including director of the Photonics Research Center. While on sabbatical in 2006 and 2007, he served as chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which addresses the IED problem worldwide.

A fellow of the Optical Society of America and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), he received OSA’s 2008 Robert E. Hopkins Leadership Award and SPIE’s 2013 Educator Award. He also received the 2013 IEEE Haraden Pratt Award.

Shoop served on the IEEE Board of Directors from 2006 to 2010. He was 2010 vice president of IEEE Member and Geographic Activities (MGA), IEEE secretary in 2008 and 2009, and Region 1 director in 2006 and 2007. As leader of IEEE’s Enterprise Engineering team in 2006 and 2007, he led the transformation of the Regional Activities Board into the MGA Board. He has served on the IEEE Executive, Strategic Planning, New Initiatives, and Audit committees.

Why do you feel you’re the best candidate?

MINTZER: The needs and expectations of today’s engineers are changing. We need to provide more that is of current value to them, such as increased technical community participation and greater involvement in emerging technologies. I have a firmer agenda for creating such value and a record of success in doing so.

IEEE technical communities are where colleagues work together on a common interest such as a technology, conference, regional meeting, educational activity, standard, or publication. The value of participating in them is high. Attending a conference is an especially effective way of staying technically current because of its interactions. Community discussion of a topic via social media can provide insight beyond any article’s text. Many volunteers learn about leadership and interacting in a global business culture through their IEEE community participation. By enabling more and better community interactions, I would add current value.

Emerging technologies include topics such as smart cities, big data, and the Internet of Things. My industrial experience has taught me that these technologies are at the center of tomorrow’s jobs. By adding activities and opening new communities in this area, I would add current value.

SHOOP: I have been an active IEEE volunteer leader for more than 28 years and bring diverse leadership experience from three other professional societies and a career spanning over 34 years. My IEEE experiences provide me with comprehensive knowledge of the operations of IEEE across the breadth of the institute.

I am a collaborative leader. I listen to people, understand the issues, and have a demonstrated record of bringing diverse groups to consensus. I have led change in IEEE by focusing on the member, developing products for the practitioner, and improving our strategic positioning. I have a vision, a plan, and the experience to lead IEEE to be the professional society of choice for technical professionals around the world.

Would you consider lowering membership dues, particularly for those who can’t afford them?

SHOOP: As a community where dues are based on fairness, we have worked hard and continue to develop programs that address this important issue. In 2010, while I was vice president of MGA, we initiated the e-Membership option for members who reside in countries with low per-capita gross domestic product. In 2013 we had more than 27 500 e-Members.

We have special circumstance categories for retired and unemployed members and those with low income, as well as a full discount for those who are permanently disabled. In 2013 we had more than 5700 recent graduates who received discounts in their first year of higher-grade membership. Student members also receive reduced membership dues, with more than 120 000 in this category in 2013.

MINTZER: I would love to lower member dues for all. However, at current expense levels, we cannot sustainably do this while continuing to provide the level of service IEEE members expect.

Some IEEE expenses relate to investment. IEEE has been investing heavily in enhanced services to its members and customers, including collaboration tools for its technical communities. Other professional societies are aggressively developing such tools for their communities. We must do so as well or risk losing our communities.

I believe IEEE has an obligation to all members of our profession. IEEE currently provides reduced-rate membership fees for members falling in several categories of special circumstances, including those from developing nations. I support this and favor its expansion where sustainable. In addition, IEEE has opened some of its technical communities to all—free of charge. I support this as well and favor its expansion where sustainable.

How would you improve the IEEE support infrastructure, such as the response time to members’ queries?

MINTZER: IEEE is a technology-centric organization with a dedicated staff. Our members are top professionals in their fields. They expect us to use leading-edge information technology systems to provide excellent member support.

Social networking is a vital cog in the operation of any modern dynamic technical community. We should harness its power, using the collaboration tools being developed to support technical communities, to be more responsive to members’ queries.

SHOOP: For a society focused on members, responsiveness to our members’ inquiries is essential. With IEEE’s wide variety of products, services, benefits, and offerings, navigating the IEEE support infrastructure is often challenging. We have made important strides in customer service, and I will advocate for additional improvements.

As one recent example of an effort to improve responsiveness, in 2012 we deployed IEEE Knowledge Base to provide searchable self-service access to information to improve the response time to common questions. In conjunction with Knowledge Base, we introduced a service called Chat that enables members to communicate with staff at no cost with the option to request a return telephone call from the IEEE Contact Center at the member’s convenience. I understand the importance of supporting our members and am committed to this effort.

What are your plans for growing the membership of female engineers?

SHOOP: The future of our disciplines, profession, and world is far too important to entrust to any single subset of society. Diversity is our greatest strength and therefore must be a priority. Addressing this will require multiple approaches.

First, I think it is critical that we have female role models in leadership positions—to inspire and serve as mentors. Next, for our profession, IEEE needs to provide modern collaboration and networking tools that provide opportunities for expanded engagement beyond traditional boundaries in a global community. And finally, looking to the future of our profession, we must develop programs that will encourage young women to consider careers in our disciplines.

MINTZER: I find technology extremely exciting—and getting even more exciting every year. We are changing the world! I find it disappointing when others do not share that excitement. We need to reach women at a young age and tell them about the technology world’s awesome opportunities. I will participate in delivering that message.

Because of the number of young women we need to reach, delivering this message will be a significant challenge. It will require building a large, skilled, and enthusiastic community of IEEE leaders that interacts with future engineers. I believe we have leaders who will welcome this challenge. I will support building that community and will participate in it.

In addition, I will help women in our technical communities find leadership positions. Their leadership can help demonstrate that many exciting opportunities are available.

What new benefits would you offer members who work in the business sector?

MINTZER: Industrial members need to stay technically current; knowledge of emerging technologies will help them do so. I recently helped create two related benefits. The IEEE Technical Activities Board (TAB) created online technical communities, open to all members, centered on the emerging technologies managed by the IEEE Future Directions Committee. I would increase the number of these communities. TAB also created an e-magazine, IEEE Technical Community Spotlight, which provides all IEEE members with selected articles on emerging technologies and how-to information on participating in related communities. I would enhance this e-magazine.

Talks by speakers who work in industry are especially attractive to industrial members. I would offer more industry-focused meetings such as the Metro Area Workshops and IEEE Industry Days, which feature plenary talks by industry leaders and discussions of the technologies most likely to shape the future.

SHOOP: As vice president of MGA, I developed the Metro Area Workshop, which provides professional education and certification to equip members to compete in an increasingly challenging job market. The target audience is practicing engineers and technical professionals who are innovators, have a desire to learn more, or are in career transition or considering a career change. The workshop addresses emerging technologies that are in demand within the local geographic area.

These have been a huge success—well attended, with high satisfaction rates—and have attracted new members. Additionally, using new modalities of information delivery, we have the opportunity to create and deliver knowledge rather than just more information. By combining both traditional and application-oriented papers with online interaction, videos, databases, simulation tools, and wikis, we can enrich knowledge content for all our members.

What do you see as the future of IEEE? As president, how would you help us get there?

SHOOP: I see an IEEE that is valued by our members, our profession, and the public. All our members have access to individualized tools, products, and services that support professional growth and career security. IEEE’s brand provides increased recognition and prestige for our profession and influences public policies worldwide.

Engineering, computing, and technology careers are sought after by young people. IEEE is a truly global organization—in every sense. We have successfully developed new modalities of knowledge distribution that create and deliver knowledge by combining traditional papers with online interaction, videos, databases, simulation tools, and wikis, all to enrich knowledge content.

And finally, we have created a structure and culture of innovation, one that proactively identifies new markets and potentially disruptive innovations and encourages diversity, experimentation, risk taking, and collaboration. I believe I can help in getting us to this future by first articulating this vision, bringing together diverse teams of experts, applying a collaborative leadership style to bring these groups to consensus, and, finally, securing the resources necessary to create this future.

MINTZER: IEEE will become a dynamic organism of technical communities in its fields of interest. It will quickly organize new communities around emerging technologies and interests. It will share insights more quickly and broadly within its communities. Its publications will be enhanced with interactive discourse—often in multiple languages—for which social networking will be the backbone. That future IEEE will provide better mission fulfillment and better member satisfaction.

As president, I will persistently focus on strengthening our technical communities and will strongly support the development of the information-technology ecosystem needed to support them.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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