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Meet our volunteers - Preetam Heeramun

Preetam’s volunteer work has given him a growing skill set and global networking opportunities

 

“I think we often underestimate how much we learn through volunteering and through the work we do with the IET. I think if I had to make a list of everything I’ve learnt, it would be a very long one!"

 

Introduction

An active member since joining the IET as an undergrad at the University of Surrey, Preetam began volunteering for the IET when he joined the Young Professionals Committee on campus.

Preetam became very interested in what the committee was doing for students, initially helping out with the events. Gradually he moved on to organising events as he noted that there weren’t many that brought the student community and professionals together and so began an initiative to change this.

When he finished his studies and took on a graduate job in Reading he decided to find out about the Local Network (LN) there, the Berkshire LN. The younger members section of the committee was very small, however Preetam persuaded the then chairman to keep it going.

A turning point in his volunteering career

“There were just two or three of us but we managed to still organise some events during the year. Gradually we took steps to get more volunteers on board,” he says. “I think this was probably the turning point in my volunteer involvement, as I was no longer just helping organise events, I began getting more involved in really making things happen for the network as a whole.”

Since then Preetam has moved up the committee’s ranks. For a while he was treasurer and for the last three years he has been its chairman. He has worked to continue getting a real mixed group of engineers involved with the LN, and also worked closely with neighbouring networks.

“I have been keen to try and help neighbouring networks,” he says, “I try to step away from just thinking locally, to seeing the bigger IET picture as well. It came down to things like sharing best practice – not only with other IET LNs but also other engineering institutions that have a local presence here. I found a lot of us were trying to do the same thing but weren’t talking to each other.”

The power to influence change

Preetam’s interaction took another step forward when he also began serving on the IET’s Young Professionals Board. Here he discovered he had the power to influence change.

“I was fortunate to meet people from the other networks around the world. We had an opportunity to influence the strategy for younger members across the globe,” he explains. “During my time on the board I represented the IET on the European Young Engineers (EYE) network’s council.”

Although this board was disbanded, Preetam continued his relationship with EYE when in 2010 he managed the IET hosted EYE conference in Glasgow.

The opportunity to manage an international event

“That was quite an experience, we did it very successfully as well,” he says. “We brought together 120 young engineers from all around Europe for three days in Glasgow at the University of Strathclyde. The theme of the conference was innovation.

“It was a mix of technical visits to local companies and interactive workshops with some social gathering and cultural visits thrown in. I had a team of about nine people who helped put this together. Most of them were already IET volunteers with some based in Scotland and others from the south of the UK. We worked very successfully together, even though we were not all geographically based in Glasgow. We managed to deliver a fantastic conference,” he enthuses.

He has now been asked to help oversee the next conference, this time held in Geneva.

Using your skills in the best possible way

Preetam wears the passion for the work he does on his sleeve, and he thinks this love is key to successful volunteering. He believes people should consider their skills and passions when considering how to volunteer, and he’s happily guided people in the past.

“I think that’s a good thing to consider. When somebody comes and wants to help out on my committee I don’t try to pigeonhole them into one area. I’m very keen to understand what the person’s passion is, why do they want to volunteer and then to try and find the right opportunity within the committee for them to do that. At the end of the day, this person is giving away their time which is limited. If they can use that time effectively to do something which they are really passionate about, that’s where you’ll get the most out of their involvement,” he explains.

How volunteering improves your career opportunities

Preetam is also keen to highlight how he’s benefited from volunteering for the IET. Not only does he get a great deal of satisfaction in the knowledge that his work will make a difference to someone, he believes he’s gained a number of career supporting skills and had some amazing networking opportunities.

“I think we often underestimate how much we learn through volunteering and through the work we do with the IET. I think if I had to make a list of everything I’ve learnt, it would be a very long one. IET volunteering is a friendly platform where you can try things, but you don’t get sacked if you get it wrong!

“It gives an opportunity to meet other like minded people. Being part of a local committee and volunteering, you meet other people who are in the local area who may want to work together to set up a particular event. The networking opportunities that you get from a business perspective are really great as well!”