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Anni Feng

Anni completed a four-year master’s degree in Computer and Communications Systems Engineering at the University of Birmingham, UK, in 2012.

She joined Arup soon after graduating and now holds a Senior Engineer role at the company, where she leads the information and communications technology infrastructure design and manages a portfolio of data centre projects.

“My volunteering relationship with the IET began after attending several fantastic lecture events and speaking to enthusiastic volunteers,” said Anni. “I was a wide-eyed graduate and keen to absorb as much knowledge as I could.

I was really inspired by how brilliantly passionate the committee members from the IET Central London Local Network were about their work and volunteering.

The art of persuasion

Anni joined the IET Central London Network Committee in 2013 as the Social Media Officer. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but everyone on the committee was so enthusiastic that I thought I’d give it a go,” she said. “I loved the team dynamics – it was wonderful working with everyone on the committee and I soon learned that it takes a lot of hard work and behind-the-scenes coordination to run a successful event.

“I was responsible for promoting events on social media channels. I also helped out with suggestions for event topics and guest speakers, hosting event stands and general logistics, to make sure events ran smoothly. These activities definitely helped me to hone my communication skills and I always considered it a privilege to be able to chair lecture events and get the discussions going.”

In 2015 Anni became a Young Professionals Member of our Lecture Committee (now known as the EngTalk Committee). She said: “We organised events that were of particular relevance and interest to Young Professionals – we wanted to inspire and excite younger members about the future of engineering and technology.

“I found it quite scary at first to present my ideas to committee members who have many years of experience and expert knowledge in their fields, but I soon became skilled in the art of persuasion. Importantly, I also learned that everyone’s contribution has value, regardless of their experience, seniority or background.

“One of the highlights for me was chairing a live broadcast of the ‘Bringing Drones Closer to People’ lecture. It  was daunting and exciting in equal measure!”

Magical experience

In 2016 Anni moved to Toronto, Canada. She joined the Local Network and held the role of Treasurer for three years. “I was responsible for setting and reviewing budgets, sorting out payments and reimbursements. I quickly learned the importance of good record-keeping.

“I also participated in outreach activities as part of the Local Network. One of my personal highlights was a Saturday Club event when I taught schoolchildren about coding using the BBC micro:bit and helped out with some engineering-related games. I would hate to think that I had more fun than the children that day, but I probably did!

“There’s something about inspiring young people that always makes the whole experience very satisfying – seeing the sparks in their eyes when they realise what science can do is magical.”

Anni returned to the UK in 2019 and rejoined the EngTalk Committee at the start of 2020.

Governance roles

Anni’s rich and varied volunteer history gave her the knowledge, experience and international perspective she needed to maximise her contribution to – and get the most out of – her new governance roles, which run from October 2020 for three years.

“I felt ecstatic and super excited to join Council,” she said. “I recognise that I have a lot to learn, but I intend to put my listening, observational, critical thinking and analytical skills to good use.” Anni was also given a seat on the VEB.

There’s no holding Anni back. Within a matter of weeks, she had become the Deputy Chair of Council for the 2020/21 session; joined the Council Agenda team; and taken on responsibility for assessing the effectiveness of the way meetings are run and for proposing improvements.

The first few governance meetings went really well, according to Anni: “Although they were virtual rather than face to face, we were able to express ourselves in the chat channel and by using digital reactions, like raising hands, applauding and giving the thumbs up.”

Anni believes equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are core aspects of governance that are also fundamental to shaping a sustainable society. “The IET has a key role to play in influencing and informing the industry on this topic,” she said. “I’m keen to implement what we learn about EDI to our engineering and design work, including by developing guidelines for inclusive environments and challenging current standards that don’t promote EDI values.

“I also want to engage in deeper conversations with the IET community and wider industry about intersectionality – the convergence of different identities (things like race, gender, age, education and abilities) and the levels of discrimination or unconscious bias experienced. I’m interested in how we can celebrate that diversity and create a fair and inclusive environment for all.”

Top tips

When asked how she makes time for her many volunteer commitments, Anni replied: “At an IET event, someone said that if you’re really passionate about something, you will always find time to do it, no matter how busy you are.

“Work can be hectic sometimes, but I see volunteering as an important part of promoting the profession and communicating the significance of the impact that engineering makes on our everyday life. As volunteers, we are spokespersons for the work we do every day and we are inspiring new generations of engineers and technologists. That is time worth spending!”

Anni offers the following advice to prospective and current volunteers: “There is something for everyone, so try out different volunteer activities to see if they suit you – there may be something you want to change for the better, of course. And make good use of the resources and experience of those around you.”

 

If you’d like to explore how you can engage with IET volunteering, please contact volunteer@theiet.org