By David Ball, telecommunications project manager at Environ Laboratories and membership vice president for IEST
So, how’s your career going? Are you satisfied with your place in the industry? Have you reached the pinnacle of your profession? Do you know as much as you’d like to know? Are you looked upon as the technical go-to person in your organization?
Do you know anyone who would answer positively to all these questions? I know some of them. I belong to several professional societies, am active in one or two, and see these people all the time. I see these people at trade shows, at local events, and sometimes on the job. These are the people who are at the top of their game, and one of the reasons for that is their affiliation with, and participation in, professional organizations within their industry.
One such organization that I am deeply involved in is Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST). It’s been around since the 1950s, and has a broad appeal to anyone involved in either cleanroom activities or product-development design evaluation and reliability testing. IEST also covers a wide range of industries, including aerospace, medical devices, military, automotive, and telecommunications. This broad appeal has given IEST a unique ability to pull together some of the best minds in their respective fields for the advancement of testing technologies and practices.
Joining isn’t enough
Simply joining such an organization in and of itself does not make you an industry leader, nor does it give you instant credibility. There’s much more to these organizations than just signing up and getting a card; there’s the dreaded “I” word-involvement.
For those of you I haven’t lost after invoking the “I” word, those of you who are serious about your careers, and those serious about the work you do, let’s continue. Let’s talk about involvement; let’s talk about how you only get out of something what you put into it. Haven’t we all heard that one, and isn’t it so true?
Let’s say I sign up, pay my membership dues, and get a card. What then? I have a card and a number all my own. Wow! And, I didn’t have to commit my weekends and half my life’s savings to do so, right? Let’s get real here for a minute-involvement doesn’t mean giving up your home life, nor does it require a second mortgage. I am what you might call moderately to heavily involved in the business of IEST, and I can tell you that it has meant only that I spend time working on myself. So, during downtimes, instead of surfing the ‘Net, I spend time on my career. In fact, I need to spend only a few hours a month doing the business I need to do, and it has paid off in so many ways that I would actually consider it some of my most productive time.
Now, let’s take that membership and the access it affords, and make some use out of it. There are literally hundreds of ways to get involved with IEST that help you and your company succeed. There are also a multitude of networking opportunities available to you. Let’s examine just a few of them, their benefits, and even how much of your time they may require.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an industry specification and asked myself, who wrote this, and where did they go to school? I’m sure many of you have done so, too. Well, stop whining about them, and join the many working groups writing some of the leading-edge best-practice documents in the world. This way, you’ll know you have been involved in generating documents that help the entire industry interpret them properly.
If you are a technical person and you like what you do, these groups are where you want to be. This is where you get the best of the science and the technical expertise that IEST has to offer. Whether you are at the top of your field sharing your expertise, or a young scientist or engineer looking for some of the experts, wanting to learn more, you need to be on these groups.
The amount of time and energy required for this type of involvement is moderate, yet it can be some of the most rewarding time you’ll spend. Sometimes, even, it can be very entertaining. Generally speaking, these groups meet twice a year at the conferences, but most communication occurs electronically. Have you ever sat in on a working group, where passionate people are arguing opposing views? Now that’s stimulating entertainment.
Journal of the IEST
Who are the people everyone looks to as the experts? What do they do that you do not? They publish. That’s right, they do the same technical work you do every day-they crunch the same numbers, do the same experiments, perform the same testing as you, and overcome the same technical obstacles. The difference is that they document it, put it into a paper, and publish it. And after they do some good work over time and publish some worthwhile papers (which, basically, help to promote themselves), they become the sought-after people earning the high salaries and being asked to speak at events and so forth.
Is there anything that makes these people special or better than you? Of course not. They simply have the drive and motivation to do things so many of us want to do but fail to because we talk ourselves out of them. We come up with the same old excuses-and, yes, they are excuses. It’s okay to admit it; we all do it.
How much commitment does it take to write these papers and to get published? In most cases, these papers aren’t written as pure science experiments; they’re written from people’s experiences. Are you working on anything interesting at this time? Are you taking data and writing reports on your findings? You might find that the basis of a great paper is lying right in front of you in a folder or on your computer right now!
Get it done, help yourself, obtain some prestige in your industry, and promote both yourself and your company. There are only positive things that can happen from doing this type of work. Indeed, we do want to hear what you have to say. There are people interested in your findings, no matter what you might think.
Present at the conferences
IEST makes it so simple to present papers that there is no reason not to jump on board. A presentation of 20 to 30 minutes is all it takes, and you become one of the people everyone else listens to for a while. The process is similar to writing a paper, but easier. If my motivational speech about writing for the Journal still left you skeptical, then perhaps this avenue may be more appealing to you. After all, you could very well have a good presentation on your computer today. Haven’t you done a short presentation for your own technical group, or presented findings on a problem you’ve helped to overcome? See? Most of your work is already done.
The commitment time for this area is really low. In almost every case, these presentations come from real-world problems we’ve all faced, and most of the work is done on the job. Moreover, these are great promotional opportunities not only for yourself, but also your company. Let others know what your organization has to offer; what you have to offer.
All right, enough is enough. Here are a few last words, though (I can’t help myself sometimes). I just ask that you take a few minutes to think about yourself. Yes, think about yourself. Are you getting what you want out of your profession? Are you satisfied? IEST can provide you an opportunity to make your career even better, but an organization can only give you the opportunities. Ultimately, it is always up to you, and you alone, to take advantage of those opportunities.
Need to know how? It’s simple. Just call the IEST headquarters office at (847) 255-1561, and ask anything you want or need to know. We have a great staff that is willing to help-all you have to do is ask. You can also go to the IEST Web site at www.iest.org for any necessary information.
Now, get up, and do something for yourself…join in!
David Ball is the vice president of membership for the IEST. He has been supervising and managing telecommunications laboratories for over 17 years. He currently serves as the Telecommunications Project Manager for Environ Laboratories in Bloomington Minnesota. Ball is also a member of the Society of Cable Television Engineers (SCTE), and has been a past member of the International Institute of Connector and Interconnection Technology, Inc. (IICIT).
Associations advance America
More than 135,000 trade, professional, and philanthropic associations exist at the local, state, regional, and national levels in the US. They provide a wealth of resources and support, such as:1
Information – Associations are vital sources of research and data. They collect and disseminate information on industries, issues, and trends.
Standards setting – Their standards-setting and certification programs control the size of government and save taxpayers money. Associations invest over $1.1 billion per year setting and enforcing standards and certifications, according to an ASAE Foundation study conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Research. These association programs allow entire industries to regulate themselves and safeguard consumers so that new government regulations are not required.
Skill-building, professional development – Americans continue to learn, though their associations, after they leave school. In fact, 95 percent of associations offer skill-building and professional development programs to their members-the single most common association function. Thanks to associations, America’s work force remains competitive and skilled in the latest techniques, trends, and technologies.
Community service – Associations preserve America’s sense of community. Americans devote more than 173 million volunteer hours each year-time valued at more than $2 billion-to charitable and community service programs through their associations. Members pool their talents and resources to help the needy, provide disaster relief, mentor youth, clean up the environment, and more.
Economic impact – Associations are economic engines that fuel America’s prosperity. Associations pump billions of dollars into the economy, and create hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Their meetings and conventions generate billions of dollars more in revenue for cities. Although associations operate as tax-exempt organizations, their operating expenditures generate billions of dollars in tax revenues annually from property taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, and 35 other types of taxes.
1 From “What Lawmakers Should Know About America’s Nonprofit Associations,” American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), February 2006.