Friday, October 26, 2007

IEEE Denver Section Awards Banquet

Earlier this evening, the Denver Section of the IEEE held its annual awards banquet at the Boulder Marriott.  The picture is of the evening's speaker Howard Lieberman, Chairman and CEO of the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to him during the dinner for a lively discussion of the IEEE and state of Electrical Engineering.

Howard has a very accomplished career in the audio and computer industries, and now he leads the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute.  In his current role he tries to help companies learn how to innovate.  A real challenge in a company where they do not already have a culture of innovation.  Innovation is not something that can be institutionalized.

The discussion at our table centered around the state of Electrical Engineering and the IEEE.  Electrical Engineers since WWII had always felt a sense of security in their careers until the bubble burst in 2001.  Now we are generally a depressed lot because many career tracks have been derailed and job security is a thing of the past.  Outsourcing has also impacted our sense of well being. 

The EE that have survived and even thrived have realized that they are essentially free agents.  They know that there is no such thing as job security whether in a big or small company.  The only security that they know is what they can create for themselves.  We constantly must assess our career to protect ourselves and our families.  As Engineers we still have an ethical obligation to our employers to continually produce value. 

The IEEE at a juncture.  It is struggling to be relevant to mid-career electrical engineers.  Membership numbers indicate that they loose graduates after a few years into their careers.  This is the group most affected by the current shifting career market.  The Institute is not doing an adequate job meeting the needs of these members.  Sure it has career workshops, webinars, seminars, on-line forums, career site, and lobbying by the IEEE USA.  These are all valuable services, but they are missing the most valuable service of all:  the redefinition of what it means to be an Electrical Engineer and assisting these members through the transition.

The IEEE has as many members as the AMA, but the average person cannot tell you what an EE contributes to society;  they sure can for doctors.  The reason is that the IEEE is filled full of academicians and institutionalized employees.  Although the are a valuable resource to the Institute, they do not fully represent the membership at large.  There should be more entrepreneurs, small and mid-size company employees, consultants, and the self-employed.  They should be elected to office, placed on committees, and used as volunteers to shape the future of our profession.  Headquarters should utilize them to understand what education, services, and legislative positions are important.  These actions would not only build a stronger Institute, but make membership of the IEEE a life-long endeavor.

Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Future of User Generated Content

image On October 10, Silicon Flatirons held a forum entitled "The Future of User Generated Content."  The three panels contained some very intelligent speakers from mostly traditional media outlets.  There were a couple of "new" media representatives like ManiaTV.  As expected issues such as copyright law, fair use, DRM, network neutrality, and business models were discussed.  Although I was hoping for a lively discussions about how "new" media was going to disrupt "traditional" media, the panelists focused on how their company understood "new" media and would capitalize on it. 

I would have preferred to hear a more lively discussion on where the future of user generated content is going and how it would change the models for content creation, distribution, and revenue generation.  How would "traditional" media be impacted by this disruption?  They really needed some panelists like Jeff Pulver, Adam Curry, or Mark Zuckerberg to stir up the pot.

I like Silicon Flatiron functions, but they often reinforce the status quo instead of introducing innovation or dealing with controversy.  How about a panel between Comcast and the EFF for the next one?