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Chennai LN rises to the COVID-19 challenge

Chairman Dr Dhanasekaran Devaraj is proud to lead a team that works on a foundation of mutual respect and trust for all members. He said: “We get a lot of innovative ideas and we are always open to constructive feedback.”

This positive approach is reflected in the CLN’s creative, collaborative and supportive approach throughout lockdown.

Teambuilding and wellbeing

When lockdown was introduced in March 2020, Dr Devaraj identified the need for support. “The switch to home-working was a dramatic change in everyone’s life,” he said. “I wanted to keep team spirits high and make sure the committee members felt they were part of something innovative and impactful for the CLN community.”

From left to right  Rajkumar Ramareddi, Prasanna Bharathi Sankara Raghavan, Dr. Dhanasekaran Devaraj, Dr. Cloudin Swamynathan, Dr. Rathinam Ananthanarayanan, Vivek Ram Vasan

From left to right Rajkumar Ramareddi, Prasanna Bharathi Sankara Raghavan, Dr. Dhanasekaran Devaraj, Dr. Cloudin Swamynathan, Dr. Rathinam Ananthanarayanan, Vivek Ram Vasan

One of the committee’s first actions was to introduce fun teambuilding activities on Zoom every two weeks. “Each team member came up with creative activity ideas that would help strengthen our team spirit,” said Dr Devaraj.

“We also had regular ‘sync up’ meetings, to help familiarise ourselves with the various virtual tools available and stay connected with other members. We made sure we always talked about the wellbeing of other committee members and the extended members of the IET CLN.”

Social media

Soon after lockdown started, Committee Member Vivek Ram Vasan thought long and hard about how the CLN engages with its members and the non-members of the engineering community.

He said: “In this time of despair we decided to expand our reach and create an online community to support young engineers and showcase to the world what’s going on in the IET Chennai Local Network.”

Aided by a capable team of young professionals, Vivek spearheaded the introduction of a new social media platform (#IETChennailn), posting regularly on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. The early communications centred on how to keep safe from COVID-19 and the importance of mental wellbeing. The committee also posted useful advice on working from home and set a fun ‘declutter challenge’, to inspire people to improve their new work environment.

Virtual events

With all in-person events cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic, the committee organised a range of sessions that would allow IET members and non-members to connect virtually with industry and continue to feel part of it. It was hoped that the programme of events would prove particularly attractive to young professionals.

Vivek said: “To help build up a strong following we targeted colleges that offered engineering courses and posted events on their wall. We soon found that our contacts in industry and academia were actively promoting our virtual events with their networks, which was a big help. We constantly updated our online content and we shared our posts in multiple engineering web pages across India.”

The committee ran a series of free workshops, with subjects ranging from Space Engineering to Tele-health. Committee Member Rajkumar Ramareddi arranged national and international speakers to deliver talks on engineering ‘hot topics’, including the Future of Work, the Internet of Things and the Future of Mobility.

Prasanna Bharathi Sankara Raghavan said: “We broadcast a virtual tour of Nokia’s manufacturing plant – this was IET India’s first-ever virtual factory visit. And we launched the Space and Rocket Engineering Programme, which gave young professionals an opportunity to learn about space entrepreneurship. All these initiatives kept the audience going during lockdown.”

The CLN committee worked tirelessly to deliver its annual Industry Institution Summit in a new, virtual format. This popular event aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry, brings together top manufacturing professionals and always attracts an audience of industrial experts, students, faculty members and research scholars.

In all, more than 1,500 people took part in the 2020 Summit and the committee is proud to have delivered this important digital event seamlessly. “We encouraged industry and academia to emerge from behind closed doors to showcase emerging technologies for the benefit of the engineering community, including young professionals,” said Dr Rathinam Ananthanarayanan. “Judging by the positive feedback we received from participants, we achieved all our event objectives.”

The CLN went on to share health and COVID-19 best practices with the community at large through a series of informative webinars, supported by technology partner Nokia Solutions and Networks Pvt Ltd, the multinational telecommunications and data networking company. The ‘Tele-medicine and e-health’ webinar delivered by expert surgeon Dr M Ramakumar proved hugely popular with young professionals, not least because the speaker also talked extensively about India’s engineering career pathways.

Committee Member Dr Cloudin Swamynathan said: “We also worked closely with Nokia to run a corporate training session for Nokia employees in April. It included an enlightening webinar – Unravelling COVID-19 and Emerging Tech opportunities in pandemics – presented by Shubham Saraff, the 2017 Global Winner of the IET Present Around The World competition. He spoke about the opportunities and technological innovations which can change our world for the good."

In July, during the course of five days, the CLN ran a 10-hour virtual corporate training programme that was open to all: ‘Empowering Industry 4.0 with Artificial Intelligence’. It provided a fantastic insight into Industry 4.0, plus emerging and disruptive technologies like ‘Factory in a box’. Prasanna said: “Participants and senior members of the IET were very complimentary about both the event and the Nokia employees who gave detailed explanations about many industrial use cases.”

Outstanding achievement

The tenacity, enthusiasm and commitment of the CLN and its many volunteers ensured that a vibrant and varied programme of events was available during lockdown for IET members and non-members around the world.

The statistics are remarkable. Within two months, the CLN had attracted more than 100,000 views: 65% are engineers and 20% are academics and researchers from the field of engineering. Around 85% are based in India.

The committee members rose admirably to the COVID-19 challenge, working together to support the engineering community. They continue to find that volunteering for the IET is a mutually beneficial activity. “It has really kept us going for these many years,” said Dr Devaraj.

“We have made friends, exchanged ideas, aided each other’s personal development, provided a platform to grow and offered support during difficult times. It’s why we often find ourselves referring to the committee as our IET CLN family.”

The IET Chennai Local Network was the worthy winner of the 2020 IET Volunteer Core Values Award for Teamwork.

 

If you have a story to share about how you’ve adapted your IET volunteering, please contact the Volunteer Support Unit on volunteer@theiet.org