The annual IEEE election process begins in August—be sure to check your mailbox that month for your ballot. To help you decide whom to choose for 2016 IEEE president-elect, we interviewed the candidates: IEEE Senior Member Karen Bartleson and IEEE Life Fellow Frederick “Fred” Mintzer. Here they speak of why they first joined the organization and their goals for its future.
First, some background. Bartleson is senior director of corporate programs and initiatives at Synopsys, an electronic design automation company, in Mountain View, Calif. Her responsibilities include creating programs for technical standards development and software tool interoperability, building relationships with universities and research institutions worldwide, and engaging customers with social media. She joined Synopsys in 1995 as manager of its standards group and was director of quality from 2000 to 2002.
Bartleson received the 2003 Marie R. Pistilli Women in Electronic Design Automation Achievement Award. She also authored a book, The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards: Practical Insights for Creating Technical Standards, published in 2010 by Synopsys Press.
She was president of the IEEE Standards Association in 2013 and 2014. During her term, she led the development of a new strategic plan; furthered OpenStand, a set of principles for developing global standards; and finalized IEEE’s membership in the Global Standards Collaboration, a volunteer group that promotes collaboration in communications standards development.
Mintzer joined IBM in 1978 and spent the early part of his career investigating signal and image processing. He later managed projects that developed image-based digital library technologies and applied them to joint projects with museums and libraries, including the Egyptian Museum, in Cairo; the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia; and the Vatican Library, in Vatican City. From 2001 to 2005 he was senior manager of IBM’s visual technologies department, which worked on computer graphics, data visualization, and digital imaging.
From 2005 to 2013 he was program director for IBM’s Blue Gene Watson supercomputer facility and associate director of its Deep Computing Institute, both at the company’s T.J. Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. He retired on 1 January 2014.
Mintzer holds more than 25 patents and has written more than 50 technical papers. He was twice named an IBM Research Master Inventor.
He was vice president of IEEE Technical Activities in 2012 and director of Division IX in 2008 and 2009. He was 2009 chair of the IEEE Employee Benefits and Compensation Committee and has served on many other committees, including the IEEE Nominations and Appointments, Governance, and Investment committees. In 2009 he served as Region 1 liaison to the IEEE Technical Activities Board.
Mintzer was president of the IEEE Signal Processing Society in 2004 and 2005. As president, he helped launch the society’s IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security publication. Mintzer was a candidate for IEEE president-elect in last year’s election.
Why did you first join IEEE? And what has been your favorite project with the organization?
I joined IEEE as a student because I was encouraged by one of my professors to become a member. He explained that IEEE was a great organization that could help me develop my career and make professional connections. He was certainly right.
The most rewarding project I worked on with IEEE is also my most recent. Along with many dedicated expert members, I contributed to the latest update of the IEEE Standards Association’s patent policy, which was approved by the IEEE Board of Directors in February. It is my favorite project because it was difficult and challenging; it solved real problems faced by industry, judicial systems, and consumers; it will have a global impact as an example of IEEE’s growing involvement in public policy; and it directly supports IEEE’s mission to advance technology for humanity.
It allowed me to work across IEEE and to help lead a globally significant accomplishment.
I first joined IEEE in 1975. I was a graduate student and came to understand that belonging to IEEE was an important part of being a member of the engineering profession.
Perhaps my favorite project has been IEEE Technical Community Spotlight, a digital magazine that republishes articles on emerging technologies from 41 IEEE society and council magazines with information on how to become involved in those areas. I helped create Spotlight while I was vice president of Technical Activities in 2012 and currently serve as its editor in chief, selecting which articles to republish.
This project gives me the opportunity to learn about emerging technologies, which I love. It also gives me the ability to target the interests of the broader IEEE membership, which includes industrial employees and young professionals. It also allows me to experiment with new ways of communicating with IEEE audiences—one of the great challenges of this social-media era—and the chance to collaborate with some wonderfully talented and enthusiastic colleagues.
Which IEEE services and benefits do you use the most, and why?
My professional interests are centered on new technologies and where they will take us. IEEE magazines, which include those produced by IEEE’s technical societies, IEEE Spectrum, and The Institute, are a prime source of my information. All are technically sound and well curated and they are often organized as topical issues, which adds valuable perspective.
Beyond the magazines, I am very interested in the thoughts of colleagues working on emerging technologies. Consequently, I am an enthusiastic member of several IEEE online emerging technology communities and of several communities piloted in IEEE Collabratec for technology professionals working in common fields of interest. Collabratec will provide a suite of online tools with which to network, collaborate, and create—making publishing faster and easier.
As a professional and an employee of Synopsys, IEEE standards are the most important IEEE offerings that I use. I’ve led Synopsys’s standards program for 20 years, helping make our business successful while meeting our customers’ demands for interoperable products. IEEE standards are crucial to the electronic design automation industry and, in turn, the whole semiconductor industry.
Personally, I’ve benefited from IEEE’s insurance programs and educational resources. From free e-books to IEEE conferences to Spectrum magazine, IEEE continues to offer valuable information that enables me to do a better job and stay current on technology trends.
If you had only 30 seconds to tell people about why they should volunteer for IEEE, what would you say?
Here are three important reasons why you should volunteer with IEEE: You will enhance your technical skills and visibility by working in areas of emerging technology and by publishing your work products, cultivate an enduring support network of professional connections, and fulfill your sense of social responsibility.
Through volunteering, you will receive much more than you give. Interacting with IEEE colleagues will help you stay technically current. You will also have great opportunities to grow your leadership and communication skills, and develop a global perspective. Also, volunteering will provide opportunities for you to serve the profession and humanity in ways not open to those not part of the organization.
Many members see continuing education as a way to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing industries. How will you help members get the resources they need to stay ahead of the curve?
Many members currently receive the information they need to stay relevant—and we should continue to provide it. However, I also believe IEEE should do more to serve members working in the private sector. Those members should anticipate having several minicareers during their working life and should always be preparing for their next job.
They need information that is concise and well curated to fit into their busy schedules while targeting the job skills they need. I would establish practitioner and entrepreneur communities with our Collabratec platform. I would refocus online efforts on webinars and technology updates to provide more educational value for members in industry.
I would also continue to focus on emerging technologies, which will be at the center of tomorrow’s jobs. All IEEE members benefit from having more information on these topics. I would strengthen our ties to industry so we don’t lose our connection to the new technologies that are at the heart of the tech industry.
IEEE offers a variety of continuing education resources for our members. It’s most important to raise the awareness of these resources to members and potential members. I will do this through my support of IEEE’s Public Visibility Committee, during encounters with members in large gatherings or with individuals one on one, and at every opportunity I have to present IEEE to industries, academic institutions, and governments around the world.
The follow-on to increased visibility is giving feedback to IEEE about what is working and suggestions from members for improving our continuing education resources.
Over the past 15 years the percentage of women members has held at about 10 percent. What ideas do you have to recruit more women to join IEEE?
This is a complex issue—more complex, I’d say, than designing a 10-billion-transistor IC. For the past 40 years, from the time I was a student, the percentage of women I’ve observed in my profession has remained around 10 percent. This also reflects the number of women who are members of IEEE. Before we can recruit more women to join IEEE, however, we need more women in the profession to begin with. This starts by bringing more girls into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
I’ve read countless theories about why girls have not been attracted to STEM. No one has been able to come up with a solid explanation to my satisfaction. Indeed, some theories are downright ridiculous. In my travels, I observed significantly more girls studying STEM in universities outside of the United States. The problem in these countries is that once graduated, the young women do not stay in STEM but instead pursue family life or other interests. So the challenge is twofold: How can we appeal to girls to concentrate on STEM studies and then keep them in industry and academia after graduation?
STEM has been misrepresented as sterile—lots of mathematical equations with antisocial brainiacs for colleagues. What excited me when I learned that the field of engineering existed was that I could actually make things that would help the human condition.
This aspect of STEM is certainly appealing to anyone who wants to choose a path in which one’s life can really matter. If we can get this message out to girls and young women all over the world, I am hopeful that the number of women in STEM will swell and the percentage of female members in IEEE will grow accordingly.
When I have attended IEEE Women in Engineering Leadership meetings, I heard that women have often not been welcomed into the tech industry. IEEE’s women leaders need to be able to share experiences with their colleagues to better deal with workplace problems and create a more welcoming environment for the next generation of women tech professionals. We should expand the venues to do this.
I also support creating other venues that focus on young professional women who are now entering the tech workplace. They would greatly benefit from mentorship by their predecessors and from opportunities to share one another’s experiences they have found beneficial.
I believe we learn most from colleagues when we are working together. I would encourage IEEE women members to jointly undertake activities that educate preuniversity women about the opportunities in the tech industry, which is changing the world in many positive ways.
In February, The Institute highlighted several IEEE projects in developing and underserved nations. What would you say is one of the biggest causes that IEEE can help with?
It is important to make better use of the world’s resources—air, water, and energy—and its people. All satisfy vital needs. Technology can be used to do this, as shown in IEEE’s work on smart cities, smart villages, and humanitarian projects. Improving the utilization of these resources, for those who rely on them, is the big cause that IEEE should address.
However, addressing problems in developing nations involves more than solving technical problems. Sustainable solutions require building a community with local members who understand the technology and the local culture and can call on technical expertise from around the world; a means of communication to bring that community together; and energy to power that form of communication and any technology delivered. Building such a sustainable infrastructure should be a first step when IEEE addresses a problem in an underserved nation. The scope of IEEE uniquely qualifies it for this task.
From Argentina to Zimbabwe, IEEE puts into practice our mission of advancing technology for humanity. Underlying every project is at least one IEEE standard. Our standards serve causes such as smart grids that bring electricity to more people. Standards also enable Internet access in remote areas. Even disaster prevention and relief rely on IEEE’s safety standards. Rather than choose a single cause, I’d say expanding our global standardization efforts helps with all causes simultaneously. And that’s powerful.
If you had to write a strategic plan for IEEE for the next three years, what three items would it include?
I actually worked on IEEE’s strategic plan last year as a member of the Strategic Planning Committee. Building on foundational work done previously, the committee identified and refined items for the IEEE strategic plan to focus on. Three of these items are supporting the technology life cycle, the role of IEEE in participating in global public policy activities (which I was assigned to), and coordinating strategies across IEEE. These align with the priorities of IEEE, which are essential to our strategic plan.
One element would be to continue enhancing our forthcoming Collabratec collaboration tool so that it enables greater collaboration among IEEE members in geographic, technology-centric, career-based, and volunteer-based communities.
A second element would be to increase our efforts in emerging technologies. They strengthen our connection to industry and help members prepare for tomorrow’s jobs.
A third element would be to enhance the activities and services we provide in regions outside the United States to better serve IEEE members around the globe.
What must IEEE do to stay relevant?
IEEE needs to quickly recognize and embrace emerging technologies, which are the centers of excitement in our profession and centers of future job growth.
IEEE needs to act more globally so it is more relevant to all its members. Being more aware of local technical needs so they can be served is part of this. Humanitarian and emerging technology projects are part of this, too, demonstrating as they do IEEE’s global interests better than words. Enabling non-English speakers to better participate in our communities is yet another part of it.
IEEE also needs to transform the way it communicates with its members. We need to master social networking to increase the interactivity of our communications and move away from providing static content to providing a forum for discussions. Social media makes this possible and is especially attractive to IEEE Young Professionals, who are adept at this form of communication.
IEEE must stay relevant in our ever-changing world, not only technologically but also socially, economically, and culturally. IEEE must recognize, embrace, and deploy change to provide ongoing value and service to our diverse membership. We can do this by reinventing our activities to fit the modern world and by diversifying our leadership by age, gender, and geography.
We can hold maker fairs in addition to our traditional conferences. We can support entrepreneurs through crowdfunding of technology incubators. We can also offer a risk-free platform for our members to envision the future in wildly creative ways.
Our relevance will be virtually guaranteed if we provide an environment for each new generation of technologists to contribute to a positive future for all of society.