I first served on the IEEE Technical Activities Board (TAB) in 2003. By the end of that year serving as the Vice President of Technical Activities (TA) was the last thing I imagined ever doing. Since then, I’ve come to value, and enjoy contributing to, what TA does. While I still find it rewarding to volunteer for my home society, I find even greater rewards beyond. You may too.

I became President of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Technology Society (MTT) after serving in various capacities on its Administrative Committee for a decade. It had been my goal to be President, and I was proud to lead the Society. Serving on TAB was part of the responsibility of being President. But being on TAB was not my goal. Is it anyone’s goal? I was on TAB to look after the interests of MTT. The TAB meetings, the complexity of the organization, the bureaucracy and politics were off-putting. After my year on TAB, I was happy to refocus on just MTT.

That was 20 years ago. Then, I had no interest in serving on TAB again, let alone leading it. Yet here I am, looking forward to being VP of Technical Activities. What happened? It took time for me to understand and appreciate the rest of TA and IEEE and to want to volunteer beyond my home society.

After serving as MTT President, my primary focus was on our conferences. I created a new conference series; I chaired our flagship conference; and I led a series of committees with oversight of MTT conference business.

Upon seeing a call for nominations, 2013 MTT President Madhu Gupta asked me to consider the IEEE Conferences Committee (ICC). At the time it meant two meetings each year in New Jersey, which I reasoned would be convenient for visiting my elderly parents. So, I submitted my nomination.

I served a term as an ICC member. I failed to be reappointed, so Division IV Director Jozef Modelski convinced me to be a candidate for ICC Chair. He nominated me from the floor at the TAB meeting. (Floor nominations have since been replaced by a petition process.) I didn’t fully understand the responsibilities of ICC Chair and expected to lose the vote. But evidently, I convinced enough members of TAB and won.

I served two terms as ICC Chair for a total of 4 years. I quickly understood the scope of the role, and came to understand the challenges we had in the committee, in the conferences business, and with relations within the IEEE. We built a team and over those years made considerable progress. We revamped the ICC and the way it operated, supported growing activities, and improved connections across IEEE. I made a lot of friends. I felt I made important contributions. I often felt more appreciated there than I did in my regular paying job.

As ICC chair I was exposed to most of the Societies and Councils in TA, plus the other major IEEE boards. I came to appreciate the diversity of traditions, perspectives, and ways of doing things. Many IEEE Societies and Councils operate very differently than MTT, but just as effectively. We have plenty to share and learn from each other.

I’ve since gone on to serve as a Division Director and on several committees in TAB and in the IEEE. It’s been among the most fulfilling aspects of my professional life. So, I urge you, as IEEE members to broaden your perspectives. Consider some of the many roles that we have in Technical Activities and beyond. You too may find it among the most rewarding things you’ve done.


  • Thanks, Fred. Great story, and one that resonates across IEEE. Many people volunteer to look after a subtopic and get engaged in the broader topic. This personal evolution of the volunteer base is a key to IEEE’s progress. Thanks for being a role model.

  • Hello Fred,

    It was quite encouraging to read about your journey culminating in your current role as VP of Technical Activities. For the past 22 years as an IEEE Member, I have limited myself to attending chapter meetings in Region 6 and some conferences. As part of my leadership role in Sales and Business Development, there have been times where I had to do everything from booking a booth to logistics, creating marketing handouts and swags, speaking engagements, answering technical and commercial questions, capturing sales leads and creating partnerships with other exhibitors. Fun stuff!

    Your outreach is timely because, just yesterday my better half was encouraging (read nagging) me to take on an active role in some committee in IEEE while I am wading my way towards my next gig in clean energy. I wonder whether I can be of any help.

  • Fred, what a great story on your IEEE life path!
    I remember you as the MTT-S President when served as a society coordinator for Region 10. Later on I branched into RAB/MGAB and resigned from the MTT-S role when I became a R10 Director-Elect serving on six Board Committees. We met again on IEEE History Committee when you were the IEEE BoD representative.
    The IEEE is really like a global tree and offers opportunity for volunteering at various phases of our career…

  • I truly enjoy reading Fred’s column on Microwave magazine (the first thing I read on a fresh issue).

    Volunteer activity is highly appreciated. I admire people who do that.

    I wonder, is there any study (within IEEE) of what are the enablers for volunteer activity? I mean, there are certainly more people who would like to do volunteer activity than who are actually able to do that. For example, Fred wrote: “At the time it meant two meetings each year in New Jersey”. That single requirement will rule out 99.9% of people who would be interested in to pursue for that particular role in voluntary activity scene. So, I wonder, are there common nominators (location, financial situation, etc) to people, who can engage into volunteering?

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