Students & YPs

Young Professionals’ Voice: One Powerful Choice That Will Steer Your Life

By Devon Ryan

We are a product of our choices. Every single choice you make will eventually affect you in some way. Your past will have an influence on your present choice, and your present choice will have an influence on your future. Even more, your choices can ripple through time, and affect other people. Of course, some things are completely out of our control, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s talk about just one choice that will have a huge impact on who you are, or will become-the one that will increase or decrease the likelihood of your success. What is this choice? It has to do with people.

The people you choose to be in your network will ultimately shape you. They could define you. The type of people you choose to surround yourself with will most definitely influence you. More importantly, the people in your network will, most likely, change what you will do with your time.

When I was 10 years old, I remember my grandfather telling me stories about the invention of the transistor, and how it revolutionized the world of technology. He also stressed to me the importance of math. So, it’s no mere coincidence that I had a natural affinity towards math and science. I graduated with an electrical engineering degree 15 years later.

Every single person can think of someone in their past who influenced them to make a decision. With this insight in mind, consider your goals. What do you want to accomplish? From fitness to career goals, surround and align yourself with people who support you, not deplete you.

Studies have already shown you are more likely to be fit if you surround yourself with active people. Apply this mindset to your career, and other facets of your life. Surrounding yourself with supportive people is the first step in aligning yourself toward real success-in becoming the architect of your life-instead of a passenger.

I developed a supportive network by volunteering for the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technology-the IEEE. My motivation was to be more effective, and to achieve full impact in my chosen field of study.  And IEEE seemed to be the relevant choice. It made sense.


When I graduated from college, the only people in my professional network were people I knew from my university. So, at the time, I was mostly a new college graduate, with a small network of college buddies. Then, my network grew a bit more with the colleagues from my first job. I could have been content with that”¦

But I made the choice to volunteer for IEEE. As a result, in 2014, I found myself half way around the world, at a conference, sitting in a room filled with 1,000 engineers from 90 different countries. Some of these engineers invented fiber optics, the first video game console, and even better-the IGBT transistor. Notice a pattern here?

Joining IEEE vastly expanded my network, opening many doors for me. In fact, I am sure that would not have happened had I been content with just being a hardworking engineer at my day job. Yet, here I am drafting this article in the airport, on the way to yet another IEEE conference, where the inventor of Java programming will be receiving an award. Is it a mere coincidence? No, it started with a choice.

So what do you want to do? Who do you envision becoming? Find people who are already doing it, or are already successful in their fields. Build rapport with them by being willing, able and reliable. Read my article on how to use just two words to effectively build relationships and make things happen. Diversify by seeking people with different backgrounds, who took very unique paths.

From there, doors will begin to open up for you. Assuming, that is, you make the right choice“¦

Devon Ryan is IEEE-USA’s Young Professionals Voice columnist; and the Young Professionals Representative on the IEEE-USA Board of Directors. 


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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