Students & YPs

IEEE Young Professionals ‘Disrupting the Future of Technology’

By Chris McManes

Remember how your teachers used to tell the unruly students to stop disrupting class? A group of IEEE Young Professionals (YP) must not have been paying attention. They’re now disrupting society-and for the most part-that’s a good thing.

Guru Madhavan, IEEE-USA vice president of professional activities, thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the YPs’ thoughts, with a panel session at the 2015 IEEE-USA Annual Meeting in Milwaukee.

Diana Vasquez, Rob Vice, Nicole Skarke, Elie Rosen, Ramesh Nair and Devon Ryan kept a room full of mostly older attendees entertained for 90 minutes during their 16 May session, “Disrupting the Future of Technology.” Madhavan and Mario Milicevic co-moderated.

“Disruption, to me personally, means being so obsessed with solving a problem that you see beyond the limits of the current technology,” said Ryan, the YP representative on the IEEE-USA Board of Directors. “That’s being disruptive.”

One thing that makes today’s college graduates different from past new graduates is that they grew up practically tethered to technology. What millennial doesn’t have a mobile device to make sure they see their texts right away, and can easily check their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts?

As cyber citizens, they are continually thinking of innovative ways to apply technology to their lives. Many of their ideas save people time and money. Others make connecting with people you know or have lost track of easier.


However, not everyone embraces these new ways of doing things.

Skarke, chair of the IEEE-USA Student Professional Awareness Committee, recalled going from working for a large company to a small one without many younger workers, and suggesting a lot of changes. She said her supervisor told her a few months later it was unusual hearing so many suggestions for change from a new employee.

“He said “that’s not normal,’ but we need to find out why that’s not normal,” Skarke said. “I think part of that was being a young professional. ” I brought in a different perspective–and I wasn’t afraid to share that–and kind of disrupt what was going on.”

Upsetting the Apple Cart

Technology advances are usually incremental, occasionally monumental. Some cause such upheaval that they are changing–and even threatening– entire industries.

Uber and Lyft have turned the taxicab industry upside down, leading to unrest in Mexico and rioting in France. Ryan, who writes a YP column for IEEE-USA InSight, cited Uber, WhatsApp (messaging) and Airbnb (travel experiences) as disruptive companies with a common denominator.


“They either provide or create goods or services, or they lower the cost of goods or services–or both,” he said. “And they do it to a large portion of the market in such a short amount of time, and that’s the reason they’re disruptive.”

Rosen sees another big game-changer coming in transportation, with the advent of autonomous vehicles, which he studied while working on his master’s degree. He thinks the biggest remaining challenge is the ability to navigate through extreme weather.

“That’s literally the last frontier now to the full adoption of self-driving cars on all the roads,” Rosen said. “So really, by the year 2030, we’re going to have cars that drive themselves, and this status quo of, “Oh, I have to drive to work,’ that’s not going to happen anymore.”

Vasquez described how she tries to drive “disruption and innovation” at her company.

“How can I improve [a process], how can I make it more effective, and how can I educate myself to the level that allows me to improve?,” Vasquez said. “That’s what drives my own experience at my workplace and makes sure that my job is not going to be boring.”

IEEE Young Professionals

The IEEE Young Professionals Program has replaced GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade). The new group, which members can opt into free of charge during renewal, is for those who have received their first college degree within the past 15 years. U.S. IEEE regions have more than 28,000 of these early career professionals.

“Everything we’re doing is based on the strong foundation that’s built up over the past 20 years in the GOLD program,” said Milicevic, chair of the IEEE Young Professionals Committee.

The IEEE YP chair added that he thinks professional networking is the new organization’s “strongest selling point.”

 ”We’re trying to engage our members across the world by holding receptions, panels [and] networking events at global conferences, at global events,” he said.

Just this year, IEEE YP had a presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and the International Microwave Symposium in Phoenix. Each event was organized by the local IEEE section. They’re also planning to be at the Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland, 3-5 November 2015.

Each of IEEE’s 10 regions has “$2,000 of special funding” to run YP events.

“We’re trying to establish opportunities for young professionals to network with other people in their fields of interest,” Milicevic said.

To find out about the many benefits of joining IEEE Young Professionals, see

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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