During October, IEEE members around the world celebrate IEEE Day, commemorating the anniversary of the first technical meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the society that eventually merged with the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1963 to become IEEE.
IEEE is renowned for its conferences, publications, and standards. But IEEE’s members—each and every one of its members—are the key, the secret ingredient, to its continued success as a world-class global technology association.
Why do people join IEEE? As the editor of IEEE Spectrum, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to many members about what they do and why they choose to stay close to IEEE. Sometimes these member stories come from unexpected sources.
I once went to a new dentist and found, to my surprise, copies of Spectrum in his waiting room. Why? Before he turned to oral surgery, he’d taken an undergraduate EE degree at what was then the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he became a student member of IEEE. A big fan of Spectrum, he’d kept his membership going long after he became an oral surgeon. He liked keeping up with new technical developments, and I think he also had some lingering “what ifs”—what if he’d pursued his interest in chips and computer programming instead of implant technology and imaging?
Other professionals become and remain members for more directly practical reasons—to network with their colleagues or meet new ones, to stay current with rapidly changing developments in technology, to publish in IEEE’s many important journals and transactions, to develop “soft skills” like people management and résumé writing.
For me, the networking component is very important. In an age when you can go online and idly scroll through your phone to research the most ridiculously complicated subjects, still nothing beats a conversation with a fellow carbon life-form to learn something new—while making a new friend or two along the way. Vint Cerf—one of the “fathers” of the Internet, Google evangelist, and IEEE Fellow—says, “It’s the interaction among people, the side conversations, and the chatting in front of a whiteboard that makes IEEE so valuable.”
But, as is the case with most things in life, you get back what you put into whatever group or community you belong to—your school, your company, your family and friends, your IEEE chapter, section, or region.
Are you an active IEEE member? Do you attend meetings, volunteer? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Why did you become a member? Do you come from a long line of members? How has being a member helped you? Be sure to include your name and member grade when you send me your story. Or post your comments online.
We are 374,778 members strong, in 160 countries, with 3,005 student branches and over 2,000 chapters uniting local members. Our members are engineers, scientists, and allied professionals whose technical interests are rooted in electrical and computer sciences, engineering, and related disciplines. Happy IEEE Day!