IEEE-USA President’s Column: Let’s Get Industrious!

IEEE-USA President’s Column: Let’s Get Industrious!

The majority of U.S. IEEE members work in industry. According to the 2016 IEEE Member Segmentation Survey, 62% of IEEE members in Regions 1-6 work in industry, or as entrepreneurs or consultants. These members may work directly for companies, be consultants doing projects with companies, be entrepreneurs starting their own companies, or even be professors who work with or start companies.

IEEE offers a number of valuable benefits to IEEE members who work in industry, as well as to companies who employ technology professionals. Connecting with – and creating greater value for – IEEE members working in industry, and their employers, should be a key element in strengthening our connections with IEEE members and improving IEEE member recruitment and retention.

Why is industry engagement important? Fair question. Even if you don’t work in industry, industry is important to IEEE for many reasons. Yes, it’s great that companies employ IEEE members and potential IEEE members. But beyond the numbers, industry determines where the jobs are, what the hottest technologies are, what the latest hiring trends are, etc. In short, industry is a critical player in the tech market – and so is IEEE – so it makes sense that we find ways to work together for the common good.

For the past three years, IEEE has had an Industry Engagement Committee, first as an ad hoc committee, and since 2018 as a full IEEE Board of Directors-level committee. I had the privilege of serving on this committee in 2017 and 2018. During that time, we examined levels of participation in IEEE activities among members working in industry, created a set of trend papers for various industries, and explored new ways to engage companies (as well as government entities) and their employees. You can find out more about the IEEE Industry Engagement Committee’s activities here: https://www.ieee.org/about/industry/introduction.html

The Industry Engagement Committee has helped launch “new style events,” which are designed to appeal to companies and their employees more than traditional academic-focused IEEE conferences. Such industry-oriented IEEE events include the IEEE Infrastructure Conference, held in San Francisco in 2018, as well as events put on by the IEEE Entrepreneurship program. The IEEE Infrastructure Conference’s website is a great example of useful ideas, planning tools and models for industry engagement at IEEE events: https://infrastructure.ieee.org

IEEE also has an IEEE Corporate Partnership program, which can help companies strengthen their business intelligence, take advantage of workplace development opportunities and boost public visibility. The Corporate Partnership Program offers a customized package of resources, including discounted IEEE membership for employees, and a host of benefits tailored to a company’s specific goals and technology interests, among other perks. You can find out more about the IEEE Corporate Partnership program at: https://www.ieee.org/membership/ieee-corporate-partnership-program.html.

The IEEE Standards Association is one of the jewels of the organization. IEEE Standards are used in many industries to ensure interoperability. Companies, as well as individuals, can be IEEE Standards Association members. Some of the more recent developments in IEEE standards have derived from various IEEE Future Directions activities, yielding new IEEE standards efforts that will be valuable to future business. You can find out more about IEEE Standards at: https://standards.ieee.org.

Some of IEEE’s technical societies, Regions and Sections have their own initiatives to engage people working in industry and their employers. While I was Region 6 Director, we would look up senior executives at major companies in our region. If they were IEEE members, but not senior members, we would reach out to them and offer to help get them elevated to senior member grade. This simple outreach effort helped build invaluable relationships with influential industry leaders who might be willing to participate in future IEEE activities.

Likewise, Region or Section leaders might consider looking within their own membership for people working at local companies and offering to connect them with IEEE senior members or fellows who can help to elevate them to senior members.

These are just some of the myriad resources that IEEE volunteers can reference to help them engage with IEEE members who work in industry and companies who employ technology professionals. Industry engagement is an important element to realizing greater value for IEEE members, and increasing our membership and member retention in the USA. So, let’s get industrious!

Tom Coughlin
IEEE-USA President, 2019


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