IEEE-USA InFocus

Get To Know the Candidates in the 2016 IEEE-USA Elections

By Helen Horwitz

The IEEE Annual elections are right around the corner, with ballots mailing later this month. U.S. members are encouraged to cast your votes for the two IEEE-USA positions that are on the ballot — IEEE-USA President and IEEE-USA Member-at-Large.

Candidates for 2017 IEEE-USA President-Elect

The candidates for 2017 IEEE-USA President-Elect are Ed Perkins, Sandra (Candy) Robinson and Charles Rubenstein. To help with your selections, following are their responses to some questions we posed to them recently:

Q: Tell us about yourself and your vision for IEEE-USA.

Ed:
I’m a long-time volunteer, starting in Worcester County, Mass., and now in Oregon. As PACE Chair in Oregon, I developed many career-focused programs and workshops. I chaired the IEEE-USA Career and Workforce Policy Committee, was on the IEEE Board as Region 6 Director, chaired the Membership Recruitment and Recovery Committee, and was IEEE-USA Vice President of Professional Activities.

IEEE Professional Activities is going global. IEEE-USA was first, and my vision is that IEEE-USA will lead it, acting like a society, with a focus on policy and the professional aspects of a career. This means we’ll have local interest groups (chapters), organized activities, a conference program with proceedings and publications.

I will be entrepreneurial in determining what increases IEEE-USA’s relevance: communicate about what IEEE-USA does for U.S. members; mobilize members to address policy issues; provide training for volunteers and members; and develop conferences addressing key areas.

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Candy: I’m a software engineering manager for Lockheed Martin, and have experience in the R&D community as an engineer for Lawrence Livermore and the Super Collider Laboratories. I received a BSEE degree from UT-Austin, an MSCS degree from UC- Davis and an MBA from the University of Dallas. I have served as IEEE Region 5 Director and have held many offices. As the first Region 5 Women in Engineering Coordinator, I received the Regional Activities Achievement Award; and as Dallas Section Chair, we received the Outstanding Large Section Award. I spearheaded the Teacher-in-Service Program for Dallas, and also served as Region 5 Government Activities Coordinator.

My vision for IEEE-USA is to continue supporting members’ careers, while also understanding their needs. We must provide greater public awareness of engineering and make policy recommendations to Congress that promote U.S. prosperity. We nurture the future of our profession through Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE), pre-college outreach, and strong IEEE student branch connections.

Charles: Not merely content to plan IEEE activities, I have a track record of creating new conferences; turning around conferences about to be cancelled and making them generate surplus; and empowering volunteers. Since 1982, these activities have earned me IEEE’s Robert S. Walleigh Distinguished Professionalism Award; the IEEE-USA Citation of Honor; IEEE’s Centennial Outstanding Young Engineer and Third Millennium Medals; and the Regional Activities Board Innovation Award for “outstanding leadership and example in integrating student activities with all facets of IEEE activities and “¦ in the S-PAC program.”

Our IEEE-USA President is the face of IEEE-USA’s activities, mission and goals to the public; and our spokesperson for jobs for American engineers and technologists to the U.S. Congress, to external organizations–and internally, to IEEE’s technical and geographic units. IEEE-USA needs to continue working to revamp H-1B and address its abuses, as well as re-establish a strong grassroots PACE infrastructure.

Q: What are your strongest personal traits from which IEEE-USA stands to benefit?

Ed:
I’m easy to work with, patient, tenacious, reliable, conscientious, insightful–and I want to leave the organization better. I also possess teaching and mentoring skills. I’ve succeeded in my career and as an IEEE volunteer because I could learn, adapt and innovate. I have experience leading cross-functional teams, managing programs and projects, and in strategic planning. My 30 years of IEEE volunteerism covers local and national levels, policy, professional activities, conferences and membership; with service on the IEEE Board, IEEE-USA Board, and as an IEEE-USA VP. For IEEE-USA to thrive, we must evolve, adapt and innovate. Addressing IEEE-USA’s challenges fits with my abilities: to create a vision and understanding that addresses the root cause of our issues; develop an effective strategy; build relationships with other IEEE entities, staff and volunteers; and inspire confidence.

Candy:  My purpose in running for this office is to serve IEEE-USA, its members and the profession. I am persistent, and will follow a strategic approach to work through and with others to be highly effective and get things done. I have excellent communication skills ” written, verbal and interpersonal. I will serve with integrity and purpose. My career has spanned different industries and functions, as an individual contributor to functional manager, from R&D environments to the defense and financial industries. I have been involved in career guidance, professional activities, and mentoring others my entire career. I am a strong proponent of IEEE-USA’s mission, including building careers; shaping public policy; and serving our members, the public and the profession.

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Charles: Creative strategic thinking, hands-on tactical leadership and a depth of knowledge of IEEE and IEEE-USA activities, helped me in serving four years on the IEEE-USA Board of Directors; the 2010-2011 IEEE Board of Directors; and the Educational Activities, Member & Geographical Activities, Publications and Technical Activities Boards. IEEE is a big business. Education, conferences and publishing products generate income to provide benefits and services to our members. For the past decade I’ve concentrated my leadership on conference activities. As the first chair of IEEE-USA’s Conferences Committee, I took our portfolio of a few technically co-sponsored conferences and created, chaired, or been treasurer for a variety of conferences and joint Region 1 and 2 WIE events, generating over $30,000 a year in income for IEEE-USA projects.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of your IEEE involvement?

Ed:
Helping members with their career success. For example, I was deeply involved with the “Career Survival in the New Millennium” workshop that the Career and Workforce Policy Committee presented in cities across the United States, as well as creating the “Technologies for Sustainability” conference for the 2013 IEEE-USA Annual Meeting. As Vice President of Professional Activities, I instituted direct PACE funding grants for innovative Section projects, and also rebranded and refocused student programs to provide the flexibility that addresses the needs of today’s students.

Candy: I enjoy working with IEEE members toward common objectives–the Teacher-In-Service Program, judging science fairs, and traveling to Washington to speak with our Congressional representatives on important legislation that will support our country’s best interests. I enjoy meeting members and inspiring them to get involved. I started an annual Senior Member upgrade program for Fort Worth that allows us to meet otherwise dormant members. As former Membership Chair, I enjoyed growing our membership.

Charles: My greatest satisfaction is in working with fellow volunteers–mentoring them, engaging them in creating conferences, observing their pleasure in volunteering and providing benefits for our members. Equally enjoyable has been working with our Section and Region volunteers on a variety of PACE projects; and participating in IEEE-USA’s Congressional Visits Days with other volunteers–trying to improve the future of engineering and technology; and trying to keeping high-tech jobs in the United States.

Q: What is IEEE-USA’s most critical challenge? If you’re elected, what will you do about it?

Ed:
Some members view IEEE as “old fashioned.” The U.S. membership decline reduces IEEE-USA’s funding. New and younger members are looking for relevant, useful information that will benefit their career and networking opportunities. Much essential work done in Washington on policy, STEM and careers is not translated effectively to the local level. I will address these challenges to improve IEEE-USA’s relevance by: effectively communicating what IEEE-USA does for members; forming and enabling local groups to provide a focus for action; mobilizing members to address policy issues; providing training for volunteers and members; and developing conferences addressing our key issue areas.

Candy: IEEE-USA’s most critical challenge is to engage members. U.S. membership has been steadily declining. We have not done a good job of communicating the benefits of membership and involvement to members, or to their employers. We must keep pace with the change around us, and meet our younger members where they are. The pace of life precludes traditional meeting models, and demands better use of technology for remote engagement, as well as encouraging micro-tasking–as opposed to full traditional committee membership. Employers must be aware of the benefits of the leadership and communication training afforded from volunteer engagement.

Charles: Like all other volunteer organizations, IEEE’s demographics are constantly changing. Once primarily a U.S. organization, during our U.S. membership decline IEEE’s global growth has shifted the majority of members elsewhere. Coupled with so many distractions for our student and younger members, our challenge of maintaining relevance is increasing. Addressing these challenges is difficult. As Region 1 Student Activities Coordinator, I work with students throughout the Northeast to increase IEEE’s importance to them, and their future. If elected, I will continue my work with students, young professionals, WIE colleagues and our Life Members to create meaningful programs engaging all members.

Q: How should IEEE-USA address the issue of declining membership?

Ed:
Increasing membership requires efforts across the organization, especially at the local level. We need to make IEEE more relevant, useful and valuable to join and be part of, understand how to meet member’s professional as well as technical needs; and then respond to the needs of our members, students and the public in a timely, effective manner.

Candy: We need to better communicate the benefits of membership and involvement to members, potential members and employers. We should make better use of the available segmentation data to listen to the needs of each unique Region and Section. We also need to expand current membership programs to provide increased support to Sections, and to share best practices across the country.

Charles: We all need to address a world seeking instant gratification head-on, by using our primary assets–our leadership, Senior and Life Members–in innovative ways to increase the public/non-member awareness of what IEEE-USA can do for them and their careers; and show that IEEE is where technology grows, and STEM flourishes.

Q: Is there a need to better understand the Millennial Generation to better meet their needs? If so, what are some of the changes IEEE and/or IEEE-USA need to make to address this changing demographic?

Ed:
In some sense, Millennials are much like other generations. But they have grown up with the web and “new media” communications styles that don’t mesh with traditional organizations. We have surveyed what they want–and they want good managers and meaningful work. We need to adapt our communications styles to meet their needs; it will probably help to improve communication with our other members, too.

Candy: Every generation has its unique characteristics, including Millennials. This is why businesses offer seminars on how to work with different generations most effectively. Millennials came of age with text messaging and social media, so they need a responsive IEEE environment–whether it’s quick career advice; or how to get involved and truly make a difference. They want to know that their opinions and insights are heard.

Charles: Our experimentation with alternative conference models, like the Future Leaders Forum (where I serve as treasurer) is one way to better interface with younger members and Millennials. Empowering them and our IEEE-USA Board Young Professional to create new events and programs will be essential to addressing their needs. That said, IEEE-USA also needs to continue to address our other membership populations by revitalizing our PACE Network to assure continuity of currently successful programs and projects.

Q: How can IEEE-USA improve employment opportunities for members and other U.S. technical professionals?

Ed:
Employers claim shortages of candidates, but wages are flat. Outsourcing is suppressing wages and displacing Americans from jobs. To level the playing field, we need to continue spotlighting abuses in the H-1B guest worker system; and promoting the use of green cards. We must also support our members in creating their own jobs, via startups or consulting.

Candy: IEEE-USA Career Manager already includes consultant and salary services, and professional development webinars, to help equip members with job-hunting skills. We must assist with resume writing, interviewing skills, job search tactics, networking opportunities, and information about local opportunities and events. Influencing Congress is also important to support U.S. engineering jobs.

Charles:
Increasing member participation in our annual Congressional Visits Day is the key! Working with Congress, we can revise the H-1b visa and green card rules; promote jobs and careers for our members; increase awareness of engineers and technologists; and press the need for increased support of R&D and STEM programs.

Q: If you are elected, what do you hope to accomplish?

Ed:
I want to improve IEEE-USA’s relevance and responsiveness to the needs of our members, practitioners, students and the public. I also hope to improve communication about what IEEE-USA does and reinvigorate our communication pathways for the 21st century. Further, I want to provide transition from national efforts in support of the profession to local actions–by developing the capability to form local interest groups that will connect and mobilize members; and also provide training for volunteers and members–that will help them develop conferences that address key focus areas.

Candy: The year of President-Elect provides time to best understand the current climate, support our strengths, and plan any course corrections for the organization’s health. Recruiting the right volunteers is critical to a vibrant organization. I hope to inspire, motivate, and work hard to move IEEE-USA in the right direction–while also increasing the numbers of engaged members. I have the full support of my employer, Lockheed Martin, backing my efforts.

Charles: As IEEE-USA President, my goal would be to increase the visibility of IEEE-USA through relevant conferences and programs for practicing engineers and technologists, their companies, and our younger members.

I would also strive to improve our public image–by increasing awareness of IEEE-USA’s efforts in Congress; and in student, PACE and STEM programs. The hoped-for result of this increased awareness would be an improved job environment for all our members.

Q: If IEEE-USA members were an automobile, how would you describe its characteristics?

Ed:
The vehicle is a minivan, whose interior can be configured to meet passengers’ needs. An internet connection and GPS provide data that enable the driver to take the optimal route. The engine/power source is the volunteers; and member and public needs inform the steering/direction taken by the Board, volunteers and staff.

Candy: This automobile is quick, nimble, and full of high-tech features. It has a solid base that rides comfortably–but is fun to drive. Its electronic features are logical, with dynamic responsiveness. It has steering that responds crisply to user commands, and it is predictably reliable. It ranks extremely well among its competitors.

Charles: Alas, most U.S. IEEE members are 1969 Dodge Chargers–sleek and trim–but older models, with well-defined programs that enjoy being washed, waxed and traveling locally. Our YPs are more like the new hybrid vehicles. They breathe “eTechnology” and ache for the open road.  Our leaders try to be crossover vehicles–empowering all.

Candidates for 2017-18 IEEE-USA Member-at-Large

This year’s candidates are Wole Akpose and Peter Winokur. Here are their responses to questions we recently asked them.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your vision for IEEE-USA.

Wole:
I am an engineer, an entrepreneur and a longtime IEEE volunteer. I’ve had the pleasure of serving in various volunteer leadership roles for IEEE-USA, MGA, Technical Activities, and Standards; and at the Regional and Section levels. In my roles, I’ve had the honor of serving alongside other volunteers and recruiting future leaders. I cherish the opportunity to be the voice of other members and our community.

Peter: I am a Life Fellow of IEEE. I have been a dedicated volunteer in IEEE and IEEE-USA throughout my 46-year career in government and industry. I have served on IEEE-USA’s Aerospace and R&D Policy Committees. From 2001-2004, I served as an IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow, where I learned first-hand the legislative and political processes that are important to advancing policy in the interests of IEEE-USA members. My vision for IEEE-USA is an organization that enables technology policy solutions to the nation’s problems in cybersecurity, transportation and energy; while addressing the challenges engineers face seeking employment and sustaining rewarding careers.

Q: Many members don’t understand what IEEE-USA is about and what programs, services and tools it offers them. How would you address this?

Wole:
IEEE-USA is the primary advocacy organization for electrical and related engineers in the United States. A member of the global IEEE family, IEEE-USA provides various career, employment and policy services to enhance the life of engineers, particularly U.S. members. Available resources include Career Navigator, training resources, the Consultants Networks, and a fantastic opportunity to have your voice heard in Washington.

Peter: I believe the programs, services and tools IEEE-USA offers must be more effectively communicated to our members. One way is through increased use of social media and action alerts. I receive these alerts from other organizations. It’s also important for IEEE-USA to routinely survey its members on how to best serve them. The needs of the Millennials and later generations must be identified, as well as the specific needs of engineers in industry.

Q: What is the most critical challenge facing IEEE-USA and, if you’re elected, what will you try to do about it?

Wole:
Members continue to ask what the value of membership is. Changes in IEEE business models over the years, exacerbated by technology trends, have eroded some of the perceived value. IEEE-USA has to re-imagine the concept of membership and help members tap into its rich set of tools that can add value to members’ careers. To do this, we have to be more strategic and communicate better.

Peter: IEEE-USA’s most critical challenge is staying relevant to its membership. It’s especially important to provide a value proposition that is attractive to young professionals and students entering the workforce. IEEE-USA must strive to communicate its advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill–to advance policy in the interests of U.S. IEEE members, and the engineering profession. IEEE-USA must fully embrace the incredibly important role engineers have to play in addressing challenges in climate change, national security, cybersecurity, transportation, and energy; as well as continuing to tackle such important professional issues as outsourcing, STEM education, workforce diversity, pension security and work-life balance.

Q: What do you think your main objectives should be as IEEE-USA Member-at-Large?

Wole:
My main objective will be to represent the members; and be their voice on the IEEE-USA Board; while helping to foster solutions that speak to our collective hopes–and also harnessing the various resources at our disposal. In addition, I will help to get the message out, and make sure members are informed.

Peter: My objective as MAL will be to listen to and serve as an advocate for all U.S. members in deliberations of the IEEE-USA Board and Assembly. The position entails advising the IEEE-USA President and Board on matters of concern to members, attending regular meetings, providing regular reports, and assuming responsibility for assigned tasks. On a personal note, I am familiar with the challenges engineers face seeking employment and sustaining challenging careers. I will support efforts to remove obstacles that hinder women and minorities from contributing to the engineering profession.

Q: If elected, how will you reach out to members?

Wole:
Luckily, we now have many asynchronous and synchronous modes of communicating, including various social media outlets. I will work with other members of the Board to more actively use both social and traditional media to reach our members, and the community-at-large. We can make engineering cool again–and also make being a U.S. member cool, too.

Peter: I will make creative use of social media to communicate with the membership on a continuing basis about important policy initiatives and advocacy efforts on a grass-roots level. If elected, I also plan to meet with members as opportunities allow–and write articles on relevant issues for IEEE-USA’s publications. One example is “How Congress Works,” an article I wrote capturing my experience as an IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow on Capitol Hill.


Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

Helen Horwitz

Helen Horwitz was an award-winning freelance writer in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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