Can You Get It if You Really Want It?

by Manfred Schindler, Vice President, Technical Activities Board

I had an inspiring experience early this year. It was unexpected, which made its impact feel even greater. It left me contemplating what more we can do as IEEE and in Technical Activities. It made our mission, to advance technology for the benefit of humanity, seem more meaningful than ever.

I was invited to join a meeting with the Jamaica Section in January. It was hosted by Region 3* Director Eric Gregorian and Region 1 Director Bala Prasana, and coordinated by Meetings Conference and Events (MCE), now known as Conferences, Events and Experiences (CEE). I expected a meeting similar to others I’ve had with IEEE Geo units: I would do my best to explain Technical Activities and would answer questions that demonstrated that I hadn’t quite succeeded.

I had already met and come to know Jamaica Section Chair Christopher Udeagha and knew he was trying to increase the impact of the Section and add new chapters. I was also aware that Marie Hunter (CEE Managing Director) was intent on supporting this meeting and making sure it had an impact, and had assigned her ace event producer David Stankiewicz to the event. I knew that IEEE Executive Director Sophie Muirhead was planning to join us and that the meeting was in her hometown of Kingston. So, perhaps I should have expected more than a routine section meeting.

The meeting was held in an auditorium at the University of Technology (UTech). Before we arrived, I anticipated a sparsely attended meeting with Section leaders and maybe a few students. Instead, the auditorium was filled to its capacity of 200, with a few more people standing in the back. The room was full of students from UTech, Caribbean Maritime University, and the University of the West Indies, plus some alumni. There were also high school students in the audience. We had a group of primary school students with their teacher.

Given the audience, I realized that I would need to change the emphasis of what I presented, so started by recounting my journey into engineering, my journey through IEEE, and finished with an overview of Technical Activities. The questions I was asked, after my presentation and during breaks in the meeting, came primarily from students. They were interested in engineering and technology, their careers, getting involved in IEEE and starting student chapters. I learned that they have a prize-winning robotics team, but not yet an RAS chapter. (RAS Executive Director Terence Martinez was there to help fix that!) Our other IEEE speakers were greeted with the same enthusiasm and inquisitiveness.

Some notable individuals joined us and made presentations. UTech President Kevin Brown shared his vision for the university. Jamaica’s Minister of Education and Youth, the Honorable Fayval Williams spoke of the country’s education needs. Jamaica’s Principal Director of Energy, Todd Johnson presented the perspectives of the Ministry of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport.

Other speakers provided useful insights, including Donovan Wilson of the US-based (and event sponsor) Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations, representatives of local communications companies Digicel and Flow, and of the tech consultant (and event sponsor) Symptai.

What I learned over the two days of the event was that there is a robust pipeline of science, engineering, and technology talent in Jamaica and that many leave Jamaica to pursue their careers. There are growing opportunities for technology careers in the country and hopes that more will stay, and many will return. I had a particularly interesting side conversation with Todd Johnson. He is interested in modernizing the grid and energy production. Today their electric rates are so high that it isn’t cost-effective for many industries to operate in Jamaica. Technology can be the solution to improving and diversifying Jamaica’s economy and they are developing the talent to do that. There is enthusiasm for IEEE and an opportunity for us to help them advance technology for the benefit of their society. Even better, in how many other places can we do something similar?

I would be remiss in neglecting to include the other IEEE participants and sponsors including Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), EAB and their EPICS program, RAS, ComSoc, Regions 1 and 3, and MCE. And one final note, a highlight of the Jamaica Section Workshop is available on YouTube.

* The islands in the Caribbean are all part of Region 9, except for Jamaica which is part of Region 3.

Professor Balvin Thorpe, Vice Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Computing, UTech; Fred Schindler, VP TAB; Christopher Udeagha, Jamaican Section Chair; Sharlene Brown, Jamaican Section; Sean Thorpe, PhD, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Computing, UTech); Sophie Muirhead, IEEE Executive Director and COO; Fayval Williams, Jamaican Educational and Youth Minister, Kevin Brown, UTech President; Bala Prasna, Region 1 Director; Eric Gregorian, Region 3 Director; Devon Gayle, Chair, Jamaica Section Computer Society Chapter; Nancy Ostin, Program Director, HKN; Professor Halden Morris, Professor, University of the West Indies, IEEE Life Senior Member; Ashley Moran, EPICS Program Manager; Marie Hunter, Managing Director, CEE; Donovan Wilson, President, Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations


  • Good reflection on IEEE Jamaica January 2024 Workshop… congratulations to Chair Christopher and his team. Thanks to IEEE Executives for their support.

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