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  • culmegan

IEEE Competitive Edge and Future 50

What are the best things about IEEE? Networking, access to technical resources, a worldwide supportive and passionate community. All of these are correct answers. One of the coolest parts of IEEE that I've discovered is how they lift their members up and share their stories. I recently received an opportunity to share my story for the IEEE-USA Competitive Edge campaign.

The Competitive Edge campaigns highlights young professionals to help encourage participation from other students and young professionals. I was connected to this opportunity through one of my first IEEE mentors, Kristen McCartney, the leader of the IEEE University Partnerships Program.

Kristen gave me my first exposure to the breadth of what IEEE really meant, and I have her to thank for my early and ongoing passion for IEEE. I joined the student branch at Texas A&M at the end of my freshman year at the encouragement of one of my sophomore mentors from another organization. There were officer positions open, and despite my lack of experience with the organization, they needed people and they took a chance on me as a younger student to grow in the organization. I was selected as a junior recruiting officer, responsible for growing out student membership. In my new role, I learned of a conference that summer that we were sending a couple of students too, sponsored by the University Partnership Program. I'm still not sure how I managed to convince the student president and other leadership that I should go, but I think part of it was a lack of availability for others.

I attended the Future Leaders Forum in New Orleans, and I was blown away. I was blown away by the number of people, the number of young engineers, the passion they all felt for the field. I was amazed that I got to hear from Vince Cerf, one of the "fathers of the internet." I got to have conversations with a Disney Imagineer, a position I didn't even know existed. I met with student branch leaders from other universities across the country, and I was inspired by all of the amazing programs they were running at their schools.

I returned to Texas A&M that fall with a huge excitement for IEEE. I wanted everyone to know about what a cool organization this was. I wanted to implement new projects and activities for our members. I wanted to strengthen our relationship with the nearest professional branch in Houston, trying to teach members about the transition from being a student member to a professional. As a student, you might be a member because companies would come recruit for internships with us and we had weekly meetings with free food. But it was hard to convey the impact that IEEE could have for professional members. I like to think that in part due to my efforts, our membership grew, we started new activities like an annual make-a-thon, and we developed a deeper connection with the Houston branch.

As I continued through undergrad and grad school, I had more opportunities with IEEE that helped me grow my professional network and deepened my respect for the staff and volunteers that keep the organization running. I got to attend the Awards Gala in San Francisco, another Future Leaders Forum in San Antonio. I published my first research paper at an IEEE GreenTech conference. I learned more about the various sub-groups in IEEE, becoming an active member of the Power and Energy Society, and even chairing a student-run IEEE PES conference in grad school. Professionally, I have attended even more technical and exposition-style conferences, exposing me to a wide world of jobs, companies, research topics, and networking opportunities. I could (and maybe have?) written whole blog posts about many of these events. They have each inspired me in different ways, and I'm proud to be a member of an organization filled with dedicated professionals passionate about their field and the people around them.

I shared about my start in IEEE and more in my interview for IEEE-USA. This material will be used for the Competitive Edge campaign and a Future50 promo. John Yaglenski and Taylor Morden did a great job making me feel comfortable in front of the camera and making sure I didn't look like a fool in all of the B-roll. We got to shoot in some very cool spots on the INL campus, including the HSSL laboratory and the ESL high bay. So excited to see the end results!

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