Want to aid your professional development as well as inspire others? The IET provides a plethora of ways for you to become actively involved in local and technical communities and build new relationships, globally.
IET Communities are instrumental in helping the IET to deliver its charitable remit - providing public benefit. The majority of physical community activities are free to attend and open to everyone, and many virtual community activities and discussions can be joined online. The IET has thousands of active volunteers, many of whom are working engineers and technicians with expertise and extensive professional networks, ideally placed to help the IET share and advance knowledge. IET volunteers are ambassadors, helping to raise awareness of the Institution around the world, often in locations where the IET has no other presence.
“Communities are not just owned by our members, they are our members,” highlights Fiona Dew, community communications manager. “Communities are groups of members that are brought together by having something in common with each other – traditionally the geographic area they live in or a technical specialty. They provide both members and non-members with a forum for discussion and debate, knowledge exchange, and networking. They also promote science, engineering and technology to the general public, encourage young people to enter careers in engineering and technology and encourage membership of the IET,” she enthuses.
It is you, the members, that make things happen and the IET is hoping that its new Communities landing page and professional networking and collaboration platform MyCommunity - launched this month - will inspire more members to get involved.
The ownership is with the members and the IET is giving them the ability, through these new tools, to start and develop their own communities around subjects of interest. No idea is too small – if there’s something that interests you or you’d like to turn into an event, share it with others and watch it grow.
There are many ways members can get involved with IET communities and not all involve a huge time commitment – something that may have put people off in the past. By volunteering you can share your already established skills with the wider community in a role that focuses on your strengths, or perhaps develop new skills by taking on more of an unknown, challenging role.
“There are a number of roles on committees – the traditional chairman, secretary, treasurer etc., but also roles to support marketing and publicity, online development, event organisation and various liaison roles with academia and industry,” notes Dew.
“In the past, volunteer groups have tended to operate via a formal committee structure, but as ways of working are changing, and demands on people’s time are increasing, more and more volunteer networks are choosing to operate in different ways,” explains Alex Taylor, community development manager.
“Many people are keen to get involved, but don’t feel able to commit to a three-year term on a formal committee. They want to have the flexibility to be able to help to deliver one or two events, or focus on developing skills that they may not have the chance to use in their day jobs. Many volunteers who have moved up the governance structure of the IET often say that they started at a Local Network level as they were keen to develop their finance skills, or learn how to chair a meeting and one thing led to another,” she highlights.
New Zealand-based Alice Chan has worked closely with the IET as a volunteer since 2001. She feels she has gained many transferable skills from this work, which has spanned the Auckland Young Professionals Section, the Membership and Regions Board, the Asia Pacific Regional Board and more recently the IET’s Board of Trustees and is keen to see more members get involved.
“The IET communities model allows for much greater flexibility so it really is up to the individual as to how much they can and want to contribute to their community,” she explains. “You could serve as a technical expert or a LN chairperson, but this flexible model will create a wide variety of roles that will appeal to more members. It’s always good to bring new ideas into the organisation so I would encourage all members to get involved.”
There are many benefits to becoming active in an IET community both on a personal and larger scale. Together, communities have the opportunity to drive change forward and collaborate on a global scale.
“Members all over the world will be able to get together virtually to exchange information and ideas and as a result you’ll get to know more members on a global scale, which is a great benefit,” says C.S. Chang, a senior volunteer and chairman of the Communities Committee Asia Pacific (CC-AP).
“It will also benefit the community at large as it grows and members begin to hold events and get-togethers in their region,” he adds.
For each individual, volunteering provides the opportunity to develop professional skills and new career networks.
“It’s a way of meeting people in your profession or areas of interest, good for networking and developing new skills that you don’t necessarily practice in your day job,” highlights Rowan Joachim, incoming chair of the IET Railway Network.
Rowan feels she’s gained a lot from being an active member. “I’ve had an awful lot out of it – I’ve got really great contacts right across my area of professional expertise, I’ve become quite well known in the industry and I’ve been lucky enough to be nominated for an award,” she says. “I think being asked to do a lecture on a particular passion of mine was hugely flattering and got me over the fear of public speaking to a more senior audience, for example. It made me realise that I had something valuable to say.
“It’s a great part of career development but the networking also helps you in your day job,” she adds. “It helps you find answers to challenges you’ve come across at work through the people you meet, ways of tackling things in different ways.”
The IET is keen for its members to come forward with original ideas for events and also to stand up and shout about the issues that are important to them.
One recent success story comes from Neil Hall of the IET London Network – Central, who put forward the idea of hosting an event that delved into the world of engineering electronic music, a personal passion of his. Not only did he create and develop a successful IET event, he also gained a lot personally from the experience including new friends and skills, which he’ll be using to develop new music.
Then there’s Kafil Ahmed, a PhD student who put forward his idea for a technical event for young professionals. He came up with an idea of developing a series of workshops where young professionals could make strong links with industry experts in their specialist areas.
“Young professionals should really come forward and get involved,” he says. “When you’re working on this you get to share knowledge with experts - something hugely beneficial when you work in a specialised area like me. I also got to network with experts and people from industry. Networks are very important and these may be useful future contacts for my career.
“I’m gaining new skills and experience for my CV too. When you consider your future career you have to manage staff, projects, work in teams, convince people, present, and manage time well. I used all these skills during the organisation of this event.”
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