Where the Candidates Stand

Candidates Gordon W. Day and Joseph V. Lillie weigh in on important IEEE issues.

8 September 2010
Day GORDON W. DAY Retired researcher and manager, U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology
Life Fellow
Photo: May Truong

The election for 2011 IEEE president-elect is at hand, with ballots sent out last month. To help you choose between candidates Gordon W. Day and Joseph V. Lillie, The Institute asked them to weigh in on important IEEE issues.

What would be your top two priorities if elected president?
DAY My overarching goal is to help IEEE fulfill its vision of "Advancing Technology for Humanity." To do that, we need to become stronger and better able to help our members advance technology. We must embrace globalization—helping members adapt, providing members around the world with access to resources and activities, and assuring equal opportunities to participate and be recognized. And as the world's largest organization of applied technologists, we have a responsibility to explain to the world how advancing technology creates a better quality of life and increases prosperity.

LILLIE The IEEE president is in a position to create the agenda for IEEE. If I am your president, our agenda will be focused on making IEEE a truly global organization and on increasing member engagement opportunities worldwide. To accomplish this we must develop a strategic process to determine members' needs and requirements in all areas of the world and give all members the opportunity to fully participate in IEEE—to be part of Team IEEE. If we do this, we can ensure that we will maintain our elite status as the largest technical professional society in the world and meet our core mission of fostering technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

What differentiates you from the other candidate?
LILLIE I have had the privilege of serving the members of IEEE at the board level since 1998, including serving on the IEEE Board of Directors for six years, two years as a regional director, two years as your treasurer, and the past two years as the Member and Geographic Activities vice president. This experience, combined with my 38 years of engineering management experience, has prepared me to serve as your president. I am experienced, dedicated, and focused, and I commit to you that I will work hard for the members and the profession.

DAY My leadership "tool kit" is unusually broad. It's based on my career as an executive in a large technical organization and my experience in all of IEEE's major business activities—publications, conferences, membership development, standards, education, professional development, public policy, and financial oversight. It includes serving as president of both the IEEE Photonics Society and IEEE-USA, experience in dealing with news media and interacting with high-level public officials, and many years of international experience.

lillie JOSEPH V. LILLIE Consultant, AT&T
Senior Member
Photo: May Truong

In which technical areas should IEEE be more involved?
DAY We know the growth technologies of today: energy, communications, robotics, IT, and nano- and biotechnologies, to name a few. In these cases our challenge is to harness the full resources of IEEE to develop and expand the products, services, and leadership that technologists in these fields need. At the same time, we should be more systematic in mining our publications, conferences, and members' experience for insights on new directions and opportunities that will emerge in the future.

LILLIE As the various areas of technological interest and the diverse scientific areas come closer and closer together, it will be increasingly difficult to determine the true IEEE fields of interest. The good news is that IEEE plays a role in a wide range of technologies. I don't think that it is about where we should go, but it is about how we get there. The IEEE Technical Activities Board should be continuously reviewing the technology landscape and identifying areas where IEEE should have increased involvement and then develop a plan to get there.

Why do you think only about 15 percent of members vote, and how can this number be increased?
LILLIE I think that the majority of our members do not vote because they do not know the candidates. We need to come up with better ways to engage the members and involve them in the process. We need to use the technologies that our members have created to bring members closer to the election process.

DAY Members tell me they don't vote because (a) they often don't know the candidates, (b) they are sometimes dissatisfied with the choices, and/or (c) they don't think their vote will change anything.

The way to increase member voting is by increasing member awareness and engagement. People vote when they understand they have a real stake in the outcome. We need to better identify the issues that are of concern to members and nominate strong and diverse slates of candidates who are willing to tackle those issues head-on. We should also be doing much more to communicate election information to our members.

What more can IEEE do to help its unemployed members?
DAY Unemployed members need access to job listings, advice on how to conduct an effective job search, information on employers and employment options, and access to retraining and refresher courses. Just as importantly, we need to help members expand their technical skills and develop skills in areas such as leadership, management, organization, and communications that will enable them to survive and thrive through employment disruptions and career transitions. As more members turn to consulting or become entrepreneurs, we need to understand and support their needs.

LILLIE We need to provide help to members throughout their professional careers to keep them from becoming unemployed. My management experience taught me that individuals become unemployed in part because of gaps in their nontechnical skill areas. To address this, we must continue to develop and expand professional development programs at the local level in all areas of the world. We must also increase the effectiveness of the IEEE Center for Leadership Excellence, where we can provide all members with access to online soft-skill development programs. [The CLE, when fully operational, will be the repository for all the organization's leadership and volunteer training materials.–Editor]

What can IEEE do to retain students as members after they graduate?
LILLIE Current students are the future of IEEE, and we need to make them part of Team IEEE. As these students begin their professional careers, we need to fully engage these members and introduce them to the entire scope of IEEE. The GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) program provides us with the framework to make this happen. We need to make sure that we have an active GOLD affinity group in all sections and that these affinity groups have access to adequate resources. The affinity groups need to fully engage the GOLD members to welcome the new professionals into full membership and to ensure that these members fully understand what IEEE can do for them.

DAY We must work to provide them with positive experiences as student members and help them recognize the value of lifelong professional society membership. We should draw more heavily on the expertise and capabilities of IEEE GOLD members and boost the IEEE GOLD–Student Transition & Elevation Partnership (GOLD-STEP), which is designed to facilitate the transition from student member to young professional. We should proactively explain the value of membership to graduates who drift away; over time, many may return. And we should expand our use of social networking services as a tool for staying in touch with the emerging generation of technologists.

Is it important to attract more women to engineering? Why?
DAY Absolutely. Building a talented, innovative, high-tech workforce is the key to competitiveness for every country and region of the world. Those that fail to develop the talents of half of their populations will lag in quality of life and prosperity. This also applies to other groups that are underrepresented in the high-tech workforce. And there is a bonus: A more diverse workforce is a more creative workforce, more able to solve difficult problems and envision greater opportunities.

LILLIE Yes, it is very important that we attract women to engineering and all technical programs. The profession requires the knowledge, experience, and viewpoints that are provided via the active involvement of all the diversity available to IEEE.

Does IEEE need to improve its global reach? If so, how?
LILLIE We in leadership positions in IEEE must work hard to improve our global reach, and I have made this my top priority. All IEEE members want to be a true part of IEEE, to contribute to the growth of IEEE, and to share in IEEE's accomplishments. It is time for us to assess members' needs in all areas of the globe and to put plans and programs in place that will allow the local leaders to meet the needs of their members. We need to recognize the diversity of our members and allow the entire membership to benefit from this diversity and to be a part of Team IEEE.

DAY IEEE needs to become globally integrated, for the same kinds of reasons companies like Honda, IBM, and Siemens have become globally integrated: because technology is developed globally, technologists are globally dispersed, and many of the opportunities to fulfill our vision, "Advancing Technology for Humanity," are global. A lesson we should learn from successful global companies is that we must adjust our products, services, and methods of delivery to local needs. That means, among other things, that we will need to have offices in more areas of the world.

What new benefits do you think IEEE should offer?
DAY Younger technologists will hold many more jobs during their careers than past generations, and many more will become contractors, consultants, and entrepreneurs. We must support their needs with opportunities for continuing technical education, nontechnical professional development (e.g., leadership, management, organization, and communications skills), job search resources and skills, expanded peer-networking tools, and business development skills, among others.

Easy and inexpensive access to IEEE publications, once a core benefit for all members, now eludes many and should be restored. Among the many ideas and requests I receive from members, this is the most frequent.

LILLIE We need to offer programs to members to help them develop their nontechnical skills. We currently do a very good job of providing members access to technical information at conferences and via publications, but we can do a better job in what we offer relative to nontechnical skills development. The IEEE CLE is a step in the right direction, and we need to continue this effort and make these benefits available worldwide.

Given its increasing popularity, what role should social networking play in IEEE?
Social networking provides IEEE with the opportunity to engage members in a way that they have indicated they are willing to participate. We can use these networks to form virtual societies where members create groups that do not match up with our current society structure but utilize the technical content of parts of several societies. We can also "push" certain information to members of these groups and "pull" information on technical interests of the participants. The more we know about our members, the better we can serve them.

DAY Being a part of a huge network of technical peers is one of the most valuable benefits of IEEE membership. Social-networking sites have already added to that value and have the potential to expand it dramatically. The opportunity and challenge for IEEE will be to facilitate and enhance the trend while maintaining a community of trust.

One reason members give for not renewing is that dues are too high. What would you do to address this issue?
DAY We need to improve the cost-benefit ratio for membership. As president, I will work vigorously with volunteers and staff to (a) identify opportunities to increase the value of IEEE membership and (b) look for efficiencies in operations and business processes that will allow us to constrain or even lower the cost of membership. Where costs deter technologists from joining, we should continue to experiment with electronic membership and perhaps other lower-cost membership options.

LILLIE The Member and Geographic Activities Board led a study to determine whether a new membership model was feasible. One of the outcomes of this study was the development of the electronic membership option, where members would pay lower membership dues and then receive all information in electronic format in lieu of print. The IEEE Board of Directors approved deploying this model in 124 developing countries. The plan is to evaluate the use and acceptance of this option and then determine if the electronic membership option can be deployed to all areas of the world. If successful, we can move to a lower dues structure. Another area to evaluate is the allocation process currently used to spread member dues to various entities within IEEE. A change in this allocation process could lower member dues without reducing services.

What can IEEE do to boost membership in IEEE societies?
LILLIE IEEE societies play a very important role in exposing our members to current developments in various technological areas. I would ask TAB to determine if we can use technology to package the information that they have in improved ways to better serve the members. The concept of virtual societies should be explored to determine if we can allow individuals to combine parts of societies to create their own virtual society. If we allow members to create their own “society,” we will increase overall society membership, and at the same time expose a greater number of members to the technical information they need to increase their contribution to humanity.

DAY When I was president of the IEEE Photonics Society (then the IEEE Lasers and Electro Optics Society), we achieved a 17 percent increase in membership in one year. We increased membership benefits, expanding access to journals and conference proceedings, making conference presentations available online, providing tutorials, and increasing networking opportunities, among other initiatives. We marketed these benefits aggressively throughout the world, particularly targeting both IEEE members and nonmembers who published in our journals and attended our conferences but were not members of the society. I’m convinced that the recipe for success is creating membership value and marketing it effectively.

What do you consider IEEE’s greatest strength and weakness? How would you improve IEEE?
DAY Our greatest strength is our members: their technological expertise and breadth, their love for an organization that has served them well, and their willingness to serve it as volunteers. Our reputation for excellence is another important strength. Our greatest weakness is that we are slow to respond to the changing world we live in. We must adapt faster to emerging technologies, to the changing career needs of our members, and to a world in which technology is a thoroughly global enterprise. Our vision for the future, “Advancing Technology for Humanity,” is excellent. We must enable our members to fulfill it.

LILLIE The greatest strength of IEEE is the reputation of our brand within our technical arena. Our greatest weakness is that outside of our technical arena the general public knows very little about IEEE and the contribution IEEE members have made to society. Our current public visibility efforts are having an impact, but much more must be done to educate all of society as to the important role IEEE members have played in the development of technology. We can accomplish this by engaging members at the local level and have them prepared to provide information to the public as opportunities arise. We can do a better job of telling the IEEE story.

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