• Young Professionals interview with Jacek Zurada: Candidate for IEEE President 2019

    Jacek Zurada with Robot
    April, 11 2022, Robert Sacks

    Every year the IEEE Young Professionals dive deep in order to get the know the Candidates for IEEE President. This year three excellent candidates have been presented to us, so how do you decide who to vote for? Our short interview with all of the candidates should provide you with more insight. Our editor in chief, Eddie Custovic had the pleasure of meting all of the candidates and getting their opinion on a few important elements for our membership. Today we spoke to Jacek Zurada. He is best described by IEEE Young Professionals as someone who always has a smile on his face and is approachable by all.

    Who is Jacek Zurada?

    As a professional I am a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Louisville, USA, with 11000 citations to technical work, IEEE Life Fellow, enthusiastic volunteer in IEEE since 1986, Past TAB Chair, Periodicals Chair and Periodicals Review Chair and Society President.

    As a person, I believe I am collegial, friendly, supportive of others, full of energy and optimism. I received many awards and distinctions, but I think lots of credits received should go to others who worked with me such as young professionals like my 22 PhD students and other professional colleagues and family. My hobbies are music, reading, skiing and foreign cultures. These make us richer and more complete human beings. More on me at http://www.jacekzurada.org/bio

    Going back in time, describe to us Jacek Zurada as a young professional.

    While I was trying to establish myself professionally, I have faced some difficulties as I had no membership in a network of like-minded professionals. The only interactions, typical for this period when I was an YP by age, have been at conferences, where we had a chance to meet colleagues. But this used to happen once or twice a year. I felt the need for stronger interaction with them, but IEEE at that time had no affinity groups that would facilitate technical and professional connections, mentoring, growth of my social and technical competencies via a network. So, in a way, the current YP generation can be considered itself lucky. Internet connectivity, social networks and existing YP environment make it so much easier for todays’ YPs to be and feel as a part of the community.

    What are some of the major challenges that IEEE faces in the coming years and how do you plan to address them?

    We are facing several serious challenges in the near future. They concern membership decline and revenue decline but also challenges of the Intellectual Property (IP) marketplace.

    a) Students face steep membership fee increases when transitioning from Student to Member grade in IEEE. As a result, we have attrition in the range of 70%. We need to offer gradual membership fee increase spread over several years to keep students as members. Another challenge is to keep them as engaged members. Here, I see an important role of YPs and other affinity groups.

    b) In addition, we need a better value proposition for industrial members, more career services, mentoring programs that boost leadership and technical services that young professionals and other members need in their workplaces. We have many volunteers who are ready to serve as mentors for our junior members, this talent and resource should be used for to its full potential.

    c) At present, intellectual property of IEEE can be accessed only as papers, the traditional way. They provide the readers with information. We need to harness data analytics, however, to retrieve knowledge and answer users’ questions. It’s a challenge that IEEE needs to address to keep up with advances of artificial intelligence and to improve services to members. Members need access to algorithms, technical solutions, programs, codes that are embedded in papers, and these are much more needed than papers.

    d) We need to better control the expenditures and provide more transparency into the financial picture of IEEE. Each line of business needs to be traceable by the amount expenditures, revenues and the net income. At present, only conferences are this way, other lines of business are hard to trace and flat infrastructure taxes make it hard to see the profitability. In addition, another line of inquiry is to find new income sources from Industry Resource Centers, Educational Units and alike initiatives on one side be very conservative with expenses that do not directly benefit members. More on http://www.jacekzurada.org

    Why should young professionals vote for you?

    Here, I’m planning to make an effort to reach out to underserved and underrepresented communities, including the professionals in emerging economies, young professionals and women and entrepreneurs (see below for solutions). These affinity groups will be tied closer to technical and engineering need, career counseling and mentoring as opposed to pure networking. Many other organizations offer networking, but IEEE will be supposed to develop primarily career competencies, contribute to members’ skills and their professionalism. We are better in this than all other organizations I happen to know. It’s because we have legions of mentors and experienced professional who have been successful in their career and will be glad to mentor their successors. More on me at www.jacekzurada.org

    To cast your vote in the 2017 Elections please go to https://www.ieee.org/Loginforms/annualElections/login.html

    Interview conducted by Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief, IMPACT by IEEE young Professionals