Where do the candidates for 2013 IEEE-USA President-Elect and Member-at-Large stand on the key issues? Their responses should help you decide how you’ll vote when you receive your ballot in August.
Candidates for IEEE-USA 2014 President-Elect
This year’s candidates are Peter (Pete) Eckstein and James (Jim) Jefferies. Following are their responses to questions IEEE-USA in ACTION (UIA) posed to them in recent interviews.
UIA: Tell us about yourself and your vision for IEEE-USA.
Eckstein: I’ve been an IEEE volunteer since 1984. I’m the past vice president for IEEE-USA Government Relations, and am presently Region 1 director. I see IEEE-USA as a driving force for increased employment here in the United States–working not only with the federal government, but also with state and local officials to reduce outsourcing. I also see IEEE-USA as the go-to people for STEM education matters.
Jefferies: My long IEEE-USA involvement includes PACE coordinator, section leader, a former vice president of both IEEE-USA Professional Activities and Government Relations, and Region 5 director. I also have worked throughout the United States as an engineer, an executive and an entrepreneur. IEEE-USA’s mission to build careers and shape public policy has never been more relevant. We should be a source of information and networking, as well as a path to advocacy.
UIA: What are your strongest personal traits from which your leadership of IEEE-USA stands to benefit?
Eckstein: From my experience in both industry and academia, I understand the challenges faced by our members in both areas of our profession. I am committed to supporting members’ career and public policy interests.
Jefferies: I understand the career issues facing members, and I have the engineering, technical management and business experience to support the staff/volunteer partnership. I’m a Life Member, because I believe in the basic professional values that IEEE-USA supports, and I can turn them into programs that build IEEE-USA’s reputation.
UIA: What is your favorite aspect of your IEEE-USA involvement?
Eckstein: I enjoy working with people who are as dedicated and devoted to furthering our profession, and the IEEE, as I am.
Jefferies: I’ve enjoyed communicating the importance of technology policy to congressional leaders and regulatory staff in Washington. Their choices in IEEE-USA policy areas directly affect our members’ careers. It’s also a great experience to take things to the grassroots level, talking with members about policy matters.
UIA: What is IEEE-USA’s most critical challenge? If you’re elected, what will you do about it?
Eckstein: Our biggest challenge is our declining membership. (See Eckstein’s response to question on declining U.S. membership below, for more.)
Jefferies: IEEE-USA needs to increase its visibility in career programs and policy formation to connect more members to its resources and improve external visibility to attract new members. U.S. members get extra value from IEEE-USA membership, but with so many career support programs that cover members’ career life cycles, it’s challenging to deliver on the promise. I would review those programs to determine which we’ll offer directly, and those we can broker to others. We could expand visibility with a marketing campaign that connects the IEEE-USA brand to the many existing policies and activities.
UIA: How should IEEE-USA address the issue of declining membership?
Eckstein: Employment outsourcing is a major cause of declining membership. This complex issue starts with foreign students who study in the United States, and then return home where living costs are lower, and they compete with American workers. Also, many non-U.S. residents are employed in the United States on guest-worker visas held by employers who pay them sub-standard wages. IEEE-USA has been working diligently in Washington to stop this practice, but we must also work with state and local officials who can apply additional pressure. Further, I want to reactivate an IEEE-USA committee whose mission is grass-roots efforts, and coordinate its activity with what’s being done at the federal level. Finally, we need to do a better job of telling members what we’re doing.
Jefferies: I see two strong opportunities for IEEE-USA. One is carrying our message to all potential eligible members in our fields of interest, reaching beyond electrical and computer engineering. Career support and public policy appeal to all professionals in engineering, science and technology. Many of our policies and the focus of our Washington-sponsored events, such as the Congressional R&D Caucus, already cross over disciplinary lines. The second opportunity is students, whose U.S. numbers are growing. They relate to both policy issues and the specific needs of launching new careers.
UIA: How can IEEE-USA attract more young professionals to join?
Eckstein: Beyond the policy reform efforts I’ve already discussed, we must make employers aware of opportunities IEEE offers to enhance their employees’ technical skills through our seminars, conferences, journals, and the like. I hope to convince employers that when their employees join IEEE it also helps their company.
Jefferies: We should develop a new message targeted to those students making the transition to full membership and launching new careers. Part of that is increasing our use of social networking and outreach tools to keep IEEE-USA relevant with younger professionals. We also should partner with more organizations committed to advancing science and technology.
UIA: How can IEEE-USA improve employment opportunities for members and other U.S. technical professionals?
Eckstein: I’ve addressed that in my comments addressing declining membership and attracting more young professionals.
Jefferies: IEEE-USA is not a direct creator of jobs, but we can be a significant force in helping members understand the job market and trends that are changing careers, if we improve information sharing in this area. We should continue to advocate for R&D spending support that would promote innovation and lift STEM employment throughout the economy.
UIA: If you are elected, what do you hope to accomplish?
Eckstein: I hope to increase IEEE-USA’s influence in public policy decisions affecting those in our profession, and to greatly improve public awareness of these efforts.
Jefferies: I will enhance our visibility as a force in public policy through greater recognition by members and in Washington. IEEE-USA’s offerings will be more accessible in consulting, entrepreneurship and continuing education. We will also increase the number of partnerships with career support organizations, other professional societies and industry groups.
UIA: If U.S. IEEE members were an automobile, what would its characteristics be?
Eckstein: In a word: reliability. Our U.S. members are hard workers who never give up when faced with a challenge–the car that keeps going, no matter how rough the terrain.
Jefferies: It would be the most recognized brand on the market, with a reputation for reliability. It would come with all scheduled maintenance, at no added cost. The option list would be streamlined and reasonably priced. Owners (U.S.members) would be proud to own and drive it, and constantly tell their friends that they should get one, too.
Candidates for IEEE-USA 2013-2014 Member-at-Large
The candidates are Thomas (Tom) Habetler and Scott Tamashiro; below, they respond to questions UIA asked them.
UIA: Tell us about yourself and your vision for IEEE-USA.
Habetler: I’ve been an active volunteer for 25 years, coming up through technical activities; I’ve been president of the Power Electronics Society and Division II delegate on the IEEE Board of Directors. I’ve also served on the Member & Geographic Activities (MGA) Board, and was IEEE Membership Development chair. I intimately know the many activities that provide excellent value to members, and also the threats and challenges facing IEEE-USA due to declining U.S. membership.
Tamashiro: I’m a Senior Member, and I’ve been involved with IEEE for over a decade. I’ve served in many capacities, from my local IEEE Reliability Society chapter to several ExCom offices in Region 6. I’ve also served on the Reliability Society AdCom, and have been GOLD representative to IEEE-USA and Standards. I’d like to see IEEE-USA as the “go to” organization for technical expertise on domestic policies, and as a key contributor to smart technical decisions on green and humanitarian policies.
UIA: Many members don’t understand what IEEE-USA is about and what programs, services and tools it offers them. How would you address this?
Habetler: Surveys show that members highly value IEEE-USA’s work in government advocacy and professional activities. But we need to improve members’ awareness of other valuable programs and services. We should bring timely issues and opportunities directly to their desktops through emails requiring very few clicks to get to the items of interest.
Tamashiro: One way to address the lack of visibility is to respond to every reasonable concern–whether via email, Facebook, Twitter, or in a forum–suggesting IEEE-USA, or IEEE programs, that can address it. Others will see these responses, and they’ll not only learn about IEEE-USA and IEEE programs, but also know someone is listening.
UIA: What is the most critical challenge facing IEEE-USA and, if you’re elected, what will you try to do about it?
Habetler: Our main challenge is declining income, due to declining U.S. membership. Besides increased membership efforts with MGA, IEEE-USA has already started creating new revenue streams, such as the IEEE-USA Conferences Committee. Since its inception, which I was part of, the committee has quickly developed conference activities. Workshops and other kinds of symposia are being planned.
Tamashiro: The decline in U.S. higher-grade memberships is a major challenge, as more companies shy from supporting their employees, because employers don’t see it as an advantage in career advancement. IEEE works hard to persuade students to become higher-grade members, and maybe this works for a year or two, but I’d like to reach those who dropped out five or 10 years ago, and let them know what they’re missing.
UIA: What do you think your main objectives should be as IEEE-USA Member-at-Large?
Habetler: My objectives will be:
- More timely communication of the value proposition of IEEE-USA activities
- Diversified revenue streams to maintain the important functions of IEEE-USA
- Present the important advocacy functions of the Government Activities Committee to members, and their employers, in an easy-to-understand way.
Tamashiro: I want to:
- Bring diversity to the IEEE-USA board, including ideas, skills and demographics
- Identify committees where my various backgrounds–for example, probability and statistics/systems engineering, teaching/leadership skills and IEEE GOLD experience–can serve an immediate need. But I also will challenge myself on committees outside my usual comfort zone, such as Government Relations.
UIA: If elected, how will you reach out to members?
Habetler: I’ve already mentioned several methods, but I also believe in reaching out to members on a personal level. It can be very effective to both inform people about IEEE-USA, and to cultivate future volunteers and get them excited about our programs.
Tamashiro: I will listen to members and see what topics or information they would like to hear about that they aren’t already getting from IEEE-USA communications vehicles. If there are questions or complaints, I can also be contacted easily by email, phone and Facebook.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991-2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.