Kalra says he found his voice in 2016 after becoming a member of the IEEE student branch at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in Dwarka, Delhi. Before joining, he says, he feared that sharing his knowledge with others would dilute his own.
“That was the misconception I had,” he acknowledges. “But when I joined IEEE and explored public speaking and even the management of the student branch itself as chair in my final year, I got the feeling that IEEE was my place, and that it could help me grow personally as well as professionally.”
He boils down the benefits of IEEE membership into three themes: participation, volunteering, and networking. For the past six years, he’s been doing all three.
BUILDING HIS SKILL SET
Kalra says he knew he wanted to become an engineer after his mother bought him a science kit for his 11th birthday. He decided on a career as a computer science engineer after learning HTML and Java in the 11th grade. For a class project, he wrote management software for his local bank.
While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha, one of his professors encouraged students to join the newly established IEEE student branch there. It was the first time Kalra had heard of the organization. He became the branch’s first computer science student and “broke the misconception that IEEE is only for electrical and electronics engineers,” he says.
“My main intention for joining,” he says, “was to explore, volunteer, and participate.”
For the first two years, he was the branch’s webmaster. During his senior year in 2019, he served as its chair. He credits his time with the branch for helping him acquire skills such as event planning, team management, and finding sponsors to support the branch’s programs.
“I got the feeling that IEEE was my place, and that it could help me grow personally as well as professionally.”
He was also busy writing research papers on each of his computer science projects including biometric authentication, smart metering solutions, and traffic management using 5G and edge computing. In his first semester, he created a program to speed up checking out books from the university’s library. For his efforts, he received the school’s Technocrat Award.
Word got out about Kalra’s programming skills. The director of India’s largest national broadcasting company, All India Radio, in New Delhi, learned about Kalra’s library checkout program and asked him to write software to streamline the broadcaster’s accounting processes. The project took six months.
“That was the first time I got recognized as an engineer,” Kalra says. His programs are still being used today.
Kalra has an Indian patent application pending for an automatic bus ticketing and verification machine, which allows citizens to use their thumbprint to purchase a digital bus ticket. He was inspired to create the system after waiting in many long lines to purchase a ticket with money.
Several of his papers have been published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library. Once again, his membership proved valuable.
“When I started my journey in research paper writing, I wasn’t aware of how to write a research paper or even how to write one using proper technical English, which is required,” he says. “IEEE resources, including the IEEE Author Center, actually helped me out a lot.”
Kalra has been invited to present his research at several IEEE conferences. He credits the public speaking opportunities with helping him strengthen his English.
VOLUNTEERING PAYS OFF
Kalra says that in his final year of school, he was so busy working on IEEE projects, writing papers, and presenting at conferences that his advisor admonished him for neglecting to search for a job after graduation. But Kalra’s time volunteering paid off.
His volunteer activities and background in event management and team management, as well as his communication skills, helped him land a job in 2019 as a project engineer with Wipro. The interviewer and the HR representative of the IT services company in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, were impressed with the work Kalra did for IEEE, he says.
Kalra credits IEEE for giving him the confidence to talk about his abilities.
Kalra left Wipro in 2021 to join a cloud computing organization in India. There he spreads the word about IEEE, encouraging his colleagues to join and explore the benefits.
Even with his new job, Kalra still finds time to volunteer. As an IEEE brand ambassador, he educates students and others on how to properly display IEEE branding on websites, newsletters, banners, event materials, and other items. He gives workshops about the guidelines to student branches.
In his role as an IEEE Impact Creator, he shares his insights on engineering, computing and technology with the media.
In addition, he is the founding chair of the Quarter Tech Talk Table, which was initiated by Young Professionals and Impact Creators. As the new editor for IEEE IC Vaani, he contributed to transforming it to a digital format, which was recently launched.
He encourages preuniversity students to pursue an engineering career. He is a member of the IEEE Educational Activities Board’s preuniversity education coordinating committee. He participates in IEEE TryEngineering, IEEE Women in Engineering’s Student-Teacher and Research Engineer/Scientist (STAR) program and its new Project-Based Learning Camp for students in Grades 7 to 12.
And if he wasn’t busy enough, last year he wrote Idea to Product: A Research Pathway for Students, published by IEEE-USA. The book is free for members, and he also described the process in an IEEE Collabratec hosted session.
His next book, he says, will be on his participation, volunteering, and networking model. It will cover the benefits of IEEE and aim to encourage members to remain with the organization, he says, so they, too, can feel that it is their professional home.
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Kathy Pretz is editor in chief for The Institute, which covers all aspects of IEEE, its members, and the technology they're involved in. She has a bachelor's degree in applied communication from Rider University, in Lawrenceville, N.J., and holds a master's degree in corporate and public communication from Monmouth University, in West Long Branch, N.J.