The Value of Membership
IEEE Offers Much for Your Money
Recently I read an interesting article on the Internet. The author, who was born in 1947, wrote that he had found a record of his own childbirth and that the total cost was US$70. It is interesting to note how different the perception of that cost was by those who paid that invoice from the one we may have about it. The article went on to calculate that, fully taking inflation into account, the equivalent cost of that delivery today would be under US$800. But in modern hospitals, the price of such a service ranges from US$10,000 to US$20,000. And what about the cost of education? It has skyrocketed over the last several years.
People talk about the “education bubble.” The perceived values of things are changing quickly. Who would have imagined in the 1950s that the cost of an undergraduate degree 60 years later might exceed US$200,000? But there are values and services that haven’t changed much over the years. One of them is a membership in IEEE. Depending on what career stage one is in, IEEE can offer a lot of value.
Many of us, myself included, began our IEEE association by reading magazines, especially IEEE Spectrum. It provides a very interesting assessment of new and modern technologies and articles that offer qualitative and quantitative assessment engineering breakthroughs, new and revolutionary concepts in different disciplines of engineering, new technologies that have the potential of changing our lifestyles, and provides a list of job offerings by many prominent employers.
Other publications, like IEEE transactions, of which there are many, represent the state-of-the-art research articles that many IEEE Societies offer. Their reputation has always been very good, and the transition to quantitative assessment using impact factors confirms that perception for many of them. In addition, IEEE produces electronic newsletters on a variety of technical topics.
Part of a Community
One of the important aspects of IEEE activities is involvement with the wider community. This is established through Chapters and Sections, which are organized when there are a sufficient number of IEEE members interested in obtaining technical content through presentations, workshops, and other informative technical meetings.
The success of these activities greatly depends on the quality, enthusiasm, creativity, and drive of the volunteers in charge. For many IEEE members, this is the most convenient approach to concrete interaction with IEEE. It also provides an excellent opportunity for volunteer service and leadership training, as well as for networking opportunities.
As Internet-driven applications such as “my IEEE,” which represents a personalized gateway into IEEE membership, are becoming more abundant, Chapters and Sections may take a back seat to some of the global interaction and networking opportunities that such applications provide. They may truly open IEEE to global networking. But there is a lot to be said about the opportunities to do things within one’s own community, to organize events and network with one’s friends and colleagues.
IEEE provides tools to assist members with their careers. The IEEE Job Site provides information about employment opportunities. Career Alert is a weekly e-mail newsletter that offers career advice and other interesting and useful information from the IEEE Job Site.
IEEE organizes continuing education events. Many Chapter events qualify for continuing education credit; members like and appreciate that, often actively participating in the program creation that leads to organization of such events.
Beginning in the last few years, IEEE provides scholarships for talented students who apply. One may wonder why would a professional association like IEEE be in the business of supporting education through scholarships? The answer is simple. The companies who employ our members are experiencing a demographic gap, and employment opportunities for many engineers are exceeding the available pool of candidates. There are several reasons for that, but the age demography of our membership is weighted toward the mature end of the spectrum. Providing scholarships, both as financial assistance and as a reward for excellence in education, is also an excellent way to familiarize future members with a variety of services that are provided by IEEE and to possibly recruit them as volunteers. It is also a great resume enhancer to say that one’s education was supported by an IEEE scholarship.
IEEE also publishes an e-magazine, Today’s Engineer, which is focused on issues affecting members’ careers. In addition, there is a database intended to match technical consultants with clients, known as the Consultants Database.
And Other Benefits
There are other benefits to IEEE membership. The IEEE Member Digital Library, through a subscription, provides access to up to 25 articles a month from any IEEE publication or conference proceedings through IEEE Xplore. Publications like Proceedings of the IEEE are one of the best resources for in-depth articles on many subjects of professional interest for electrical engineers. It also provides tutorial information and reviews on subjects of great interest.
And, of course, there are insurance services, financial services, home and office services, as well as travel services. They are designed to assist members in meeting the needs that sometimes are not fully provided by employers or enhance existing coverage, as is the case with insurance, to those members who need it. Some of those programs are not internationally available, but we are investigating how to meet the needs of our membership worldwide and design programs and services tailored for different environments, cultures, and communities.
In addition to all the goods and services mentioned, IEEE consists of focused technical Societies. Some of our members belong to multiple technical Societies. Others choose to remain members just of a single technical Society, like our IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES), that provides many additional benefits and services to members who are more narrowly focused on different engineering disciplines (in our case, those interested in power and energy systems). PES provides special programs for young members (Graduates of the Last Decade, GOLD), underrepresented membership groups (Women in Engineering, WIE), and many others. We also organize a large number of technical conferences, workshops, symposia, and other events around the globe. Some of them are fully financially sponsored by PES, while others are technically cosponsored. The papers presented at those conferences are available in IEEE Xplore, a database consisting of all journal and conference papers published by IEEE. Many companies and universities provide access to that database for their employees and students.
By belonging to a technical society like PES, members get the opportunity to expand the scope and depth of their technical knowledge and to expand their professional networks and interactions with like-minded colleagues. Through activities in various technical committees, members participate in creation of the documents (reports, guides, standards) of common interest. Participation in standards development can influence the direction of entire industries. Many of our members particularly value the opportunity to participate in developing standards as part of their professional involvement with IEEE.
Become a Member
Perhaps this list of benefits, which is just a short overview of some of the main features of IEEE membership, is not sufficient to justify someone’s interest in joining. If you are reading this article, chances are that I am preaching to the choir. You are already a member. Think about the colleague or a friend who has not yet, for whatever reason, taken advantage of the opportunity to join IEEE. Perhaps you can bring him or her along to the next technical meeting of your Chapter or Section. Perhaps you can share an interesting article in IEEE Spectrum or in IEEE Power & Energy Magazine. It does not require great effort, and your colleague, especially a young engineer, maybe grateful to you for doing it. PES membership has grown nearly 50% in the last five years. In the early parts of every year, membership tends to dip, only to pick up later in the year. Some members renew later, while others join PES as an opportunity to combine membership and registration for a conference they desire to attend.
Whatever the cause, we should remind ourselves of the many reasons that have brought so many of us into IEEE. Its history stretches back to 1884:
- Luminaries such as Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Proteus Steinmetz, and William Hewlett were among its past officers.
- Over 3.3 million articles are stored in IEEE Xplore.
- There are 38 technical Societies and over 400,000 members in IEEE (and nearly 30,000 currently in PES).
- There are close to 900 active IEEE standards and over 500 standards under development.
- A wealth of medals and awards await deserving members every year, funded mostly by IEEE Foundation resources.
- IEEE sponsors annually more than 1,000 conferences and technical meetings worldwide.
It is that time of the year. Who says that there are no deals to be had in 2013?