Active members of the Computer Society stand to gain significant benefits beyond those who just have a card and read some of the publications. Being active means attending events, participating as an author, speaker, or committee member – in short, working with other members.
So, why should you become an active member?
• Innovation and problem solving – interaction with peers beyond your work place gives you insight to different perspectives. Sometimes others have already solved the problem, or have a different approach. Interacting with prospective customers, partners, co-workers, and suppliers can surface new approaches that may be the basis for a new product, a patent, a new field of research or even a start-up company.
• Leadership and Teamwork skills – Collaboration in Computer Society activities develops these essential job skills, and in a non-threatening environment. You learn by observing how others lead and collaborate, and by your own opportunities to take the lead. You might lead a program committee for a conference, serve as an elected section or society officer, become a member of the Board of Directors, or lead a standards effort with hundreds of individuals and billions of dollars of impact. Needless to say, these types of experience look good on your resume and when promotion opportunities arise.
• Career Development – Ultimately where you take your career(s) is your own responsibility. It is increasingly common to change jobs (within or external to an employer), but also to change careers. It is likely that the job you will be doing ten years from now does not exist now. (Consider the title Web Developer before 1995, or Search Engine Optimizer “BG” (before Google)). Clearly the papers and articles we publish help you see what is happening. But, it is the interaction with others in these fields that gives you the unique insight that can guide your personal development and open the doors to the next stage of your career. It is said that 90% of jobs are currently being filled via “Networking”—if you are not interacting, you are missing the contacts that represent the next person your company may need, or the opportunity you might want.
• Social Capital – This is a fancy term for establishing relationships. For the back-story here, see Robert Putnam's book “Bowling Alone”. The short version is this: You interact with a group of people over time, they get to know you, and you get to know them. Trust and mutual respect emerge from this interaction. When you (or another person in the group) needs something, or sees an opportunity – this group is the place they go.
The result may be a solution to a problem at work, the creation of a new conference or journal, the formation of a new company, a weekend helping seniors with computing problems, judging at the local science fair, helping an elementary school group with their robot competition, the list is endless. If you suspect there is an “Old Boys Club” that is the way things happen… you are probably right … of course, what that means is you should join the club. I'm pleased to say that the Computer Society is a forum for social capital development that is not constrained by age or gender.
So how do you get involved?
We have a volunteer posting area on our web site, which is one point to watch.
But – visit your local chapter or section meeting – most are looking for folks to lend a hand in some area; offer to speak or find a speaker for a chapter or student branch chapter event; become active in a standards working group, attend a conference (regularly if you want to develop key relationships) – the Computer Society has committees in accreditation, curriculum development, awards, pre-college contests, standards development and/or management, electronic publications & services, technical areas, newsletters, peer review, publications, and more.
We also are creating on-line Instant Communities ( http://Communities.computer.org ) You can go here and find other folks with common interests world wide. If the topic where you want to interact does not exist, then please start up your own community and invite some of the folks you know who are involved in that area. It is unclear at this point if the social capital development via on-line interaction is as viable as face-to-face interactions, but there is no doubt that it is a useful complement to the face-to-face environment.