Late last month, I received my brand new IEEE Life Senior Member certificate and membership card. This means that, as of the 2017 membership year, I will be age 65 years or older, and have been a member of IEEE for at least 35 years. One of the benefits of being a life member is that my annual IEEE membership dues will be waived. I remember that in my early years, the annual dues were a significant personal expense, and I questioned the value of my membership each year before renewing. It was often a difficult decision because I was not engaged in many IEEE activities, nor did I utilize IEEE services to a significant extent, and as a result, the value proposition was only marginally compelling. Over time, the perceived value improved as I increased my utilization of IEEE services and participation in local Section and technical society activities. In recent years, the value of my IEEE benefits significantly outweighed the cost of membership. In addition, the annual dues represented a smaller proportion of my personal income and were less of a factor in my membership renewal decision process. However, I have discovered that the cost side of the equation is less important than the benefit side, which is measured in terms of engagement rather than dollars. Even the “free” membership that comes with my Life Senior Member status is of little value unless I continue to remain engaged in IEEE activities. As it is with most activities in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
As an analogy, consider the value proposition of an automobile. The purpose of owning or leasing an automobile is for transportation and, unless it is a collectible, if it is not driven then it is of little value. Even if the automobile is driven, often more economical means of transportation are available. The value is appreciated in terms of convenience, comfort, accomplishment, prestige, a sense of freedom, and other factors related to enjoyment of the driving experience. Therefore, just as the joy of owning or leasing an automobile is relative to its operation, the value of membership in IEEE is relative to engagement in activities and utilization of services.
It is relatively easy to get engaged in IEEE activities, but it is up to the individual to take the initiative to join in rather than to rely on being invited in. Generally speaking, members of existing groups within organizations tend to socialize with each other and do not necessarily reach out to new members. It is not that they are unfriendly or exclusive, and if one takes the initiative to join in, they usually find themselves accepted in short order. This is especially true in nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteers to conduct their operations. More hands to share the work are almost always welcomed, and new volunteers will quickly find themselves totally immersed in a variety of activities.
There are many opportunities to get engaged in IEEE activities. By way of example, my own experience was to get involved through technical conferences in my field of interest. It is fairly safe to say that there are IEEE conferences in every field of interest that are considered to be the key gatherings of academicians, technical practitioners, government agencies, and/or industry to meet, make technical presentations, display new products, network, and socialize with each other. If a conference does not exist, it is a great opportunity to organize one. New IEEE members should identify and attend the key IEEE conferences in their technical field of interest, present technical papers, and volunteer to organize or lead sessions at these conferences. After some time and experience, the members will be prepared to serve on conference organizing committees, offer to be the local host for future conferences in their cities, and chair the conferences. The goal is to become recognized first as a “player” within the community and eventually a leader.
A related opportunity to get engaged in IEEE activities is through the technical societies. When IEEE members identify the key conferences in their technical field of interest, they should also join the IEEE technical Societies that sponsor these conferences. Membership in technical Societies expand members’ opportunities to obtain the latest information in their field of interest, interact with peers in their field, participate in the development of relevant IEEE Standards, recognize others or be recognized for professional achievements, and interact with other professionals sharing common interests through participation in local Chapter activities. These activities tend to lead to greater involvement and leadership opportunities with the technical Societies.
An added benefit of membership in an IEEE technical Society is the opportunity to participate in Society Chapter meetings within your local Section. Attending Chapter meetings is another way to meet professionals with common technical interest, share ideas and experiences, build networks, develop friendships, and grow professionally. In my case, there was no existing local Chapter of my technical Society, so I worked with other Section members to create one. I have met many new colleagues and established meaningful personal relationships as a result, and so can you.
These are but a few of the ways to get engaged in IEEE activities. There are many other ways to participate including the development of IEEE Standards, publication of IEEE Journals, serving as an IEEE ABET program evaluator, joining special interest groups, etc. Check out these opportunities and get engaged in a way that you find meaningful and rewarding. It is a great way to boost your career.
Walt Downing is an IEEE Life Senior Member, and executive vice president of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.