IEEE President-Elect Candidates Address Computer Society Concerns
As the largest IEEE Society, the IEEE Computer Society (CS) serves computing and IT professionals at all levels of their careers, through IEEE’s network of more than 400,000 members in 168 countries. The IEEE president and Board of Directors define a vision for the association, and therefore, the decisions they make and plans they put in place impact us as CS members and volunteers.
To ensure CS members are well informed about the candidates on the IEEE election slate, the CS asked the IEEE president-elect candidates for their responses to four important questions that affect our Society and membership. The questions and candidates’ responses (limited to 250 words each) are provided here. Please take a few moments to read what these candidates have to say, and be sure to vote in the election, which opens on 15 August 2022 and closes at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time USA/16:00 UTC on 3 October 2022.
For full information on IEEE president-elect candidates, along with their personal statements and lists of accomplishments, please visit www.ieee.org/elections.
In addition, we encourage all members to participate in this important ballot process. We also remind and encourage you to cast your votes for the CS election by 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, 12 September 2022.
—Nita Patel, IEEE Computer Society President-Elect
Below are the candidates for the 2023 IEEE President-Elect. The 2023 President-Elect will become President in 2024.
The sequence of candidates was determined by lottery and indicates no preference.
THOMAS M. COUGHLIN
(Nominated by IEEE Board of Directors)
Coughlin Associates, Inc.
San Jose, California, USA
Tom has worked 40+ years in the digital storage industry as an engineer, engineering manager and senior executive. His company produces reports on digital storage and applications and provides industry consulting services. He founded and organizes major storage and memory industry events and is a frequent invited speaker. His regular column for Forbes.com covers storage and memory trends. Tom published >500 articles, book chapters, reports, and a book. He has 6 patents. He has a Physics BS, an Electrical Engineering MS (from UMN), and an Electrical Engineering PhD (Shinshu University, Japan). Tom is an IEEE Life Fellow, has three years on the IEEE Board, and is a member of HKN. He has a long history of diverse IEEE leadership and is active in SNIA and SMPTE. He received an MGA Leadership Award in 2020. He was IEEE-USA President, Region 6 Director and Chair of the Silicon Valley Section.
(Nominated by IEEE Board of Directors)
Carbovate Development Corp.
Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
Maike Luiken is the 2022 IEEE Past Chair of the IEEE Member & Geographic Activities (MGA) Board. She is managing director, R&D, at Carbovate, and Adjunct Research Professor at Western University, Canada.
Maike’s career spans academia and industry: from professor to leading the Bluewater Sustainability Initiative, 2006-2013, founding Director, Lambton Manufacturing Innovation Centre, eight years as Dean, Lambton College, with several portfolios: School of Technology, Sustainable Development, and Applied Research. Her strategic leadership and vision led to Lambton College becoming one of the three top Research Colleges in Canada.
Her experience includes serving on multiple Boards of Directors: IEEE, Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, Nano Ontario, working on three continents and obtaining degrees from the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, and the University of Waterloo, Canada.
She is an advocate for sustainable development and is driven to develop and leverage technology to aid global societies achieve a more sustainable planet.
(Nominated by Petition)
Chair Professor of Robotic Systems
The University of Hong Kong
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Kazuhiro Kosuge, Professor Emeritus of Tohoku University, is Chair Professor of Robotic Systems at the University of Hong Kong’s Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department. He has been conducting robotics research for more than 35 years, published more than 390 technical papers, and obtained more than 70 patents, which have been transferred to industries.
He has held several IEEE leadership positions including 2020 Vice President of Technical Activities, 2015- 2016 Division X Director, and 2010-2011 President of the Robotics and Automation Society. He has also served in several roles in Japan including Science Officer of the MEXT’s Research Promotion Bureau (2010-2014), and Senior Program Officer of Research Center of Science Systems of JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) (2007-2010).
Honors include the purple-ribbon Medal of Honor in 2018 in the name of the Emperor of Japan and the 2021 IEEE RAS George Saridis Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation.
KATHLEEN A. KRAMER
(Nominated by IEEE Board of Directors)
University of San Diego
San Diego, California, USA
Kathleen A. Kramer is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. She has also been a Member of Technical Staff at several companies, including ViaSat, HP, and Bell Communications Research. She worked to develop new engineering programs as a founding member of the University of San Diego engineering faculty, eventually became the chair of electrical engineering, and then serving as Director of Engineering (2004-2013), providing academic leadership for all of the university’s engineering programs. She maintains an active research agenda in the areas of multisensor data fusion, navigation, and cyber security in aerospace systems. Author/co-author numerous publications, she is a Distinguished Lecturer for IEEE AESS and leads its technical panel on Cyber Security. She received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering with a second major in physics from Loyola Marymount University, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
Question 1. As IEEE searches for a new executive director, what one quality would you consider essential and what one focus should they thoughtfully address?
Coughlin. The most important quality for the executive director (ED), in my opinion, is that the ED should engender trust within and outside of the organization, respecting the diversity of staff and volunteers and help the various IEEE organizational units work together to advance technology for the benefit of humanity. There are several factors in the ED’s background that can help engender such trust. These include leadership or managerial experience in multifaceted organizations similar to the IEEE and ideally experience in the non-profit sector. The new executive director should also have leadership skills suitable for running a $450M+ annual revenue operation with over 1,000 employees. The new ED must also be a master communicator, both in writing and orally, able to communicate effectively with staff and volunteers and ideally have an educational background and experience in engineering, technology or science as well as experience as an employee or volunteer with a technology oriented professional society.
IEEE has many facets. It is a non-profit corporation. It is member led and much of the value generated by the IEEE comes from the efforts of members. It is a major publisher and conference organizer, with both of these activities undergoing significant change. It is a leader in global standards generation and is also involved in important public policy. To continue its impact IEEE must be relevant to the next and future generations of technologists and that is where I think IEEE needs to focus its efforts.
A certain level of baseline characteristics is expected of any Executive Director. These consist of exceptional leadership, communications, and management skills, timely decision-making, and agility enablement. The one additional quality that I consider essential, but that not every ED at this level exhibits well is the ability and willingness to listen. Taking the time to listen to the broad and diverse constituency will define the actions that enable IEEE to move forward most consistently, productively, and positively.
Ensuring that IEEE delivers on its mission while future-proofing the organization has to be the focus of any Executive Director. Getting to this point requires listening carefully, collaborating with a diverse stakeholder base to effectively prioritize, and enabling the constituents of the organization to collectively contribute to the forward-looking success of the IEEE and for IEEE to achieve its mission “to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity”.
Kosuge. The strength of IEEE is based on the diversity of Societies/Councils, the diversity of Technical Activities, the diversity of Regions, the diversity of OUs (Organizational Units) and the diversity of IEEE members. Fairness is essential for ED (Executive Director) to lead IEEE together with volunteer leaders representing OUs with different backgrounds. Without fairness, ED could not recognize and embrace the importance of the role and contribution of volunteers with diverse backgrounds. For example, both members having a background in academia and industry need to be respected equally.
IEEE together with ED should address how to create and enhance a culture of trust and respect within the organization. IEEE is a large, complex, and multi-layered organization. Without trusting and respecting each other, we could not accomplish the mission of IEEE together with others. For example, the ongoing discussions on regional realignment and the final decision made by Member and Geographic Activities will be appreciated only with a culture of trust and respect. A culture of trust and respect is built and enhanced by fair, impartial and transparent management. This is crucial for complex, multi-layered organization to harmonize the activities of different OUs to achieve the IEEE mission.
Kramer. The IEEE Executive Director and the IEEE President both need to share a strong commitment to advancing the mission of IEEE through volunteer-staff partnerships. I would consider that the most essential quality for the person in that role. While the mission of IEEE provides us a truly world-changing technical purpose, the need to work through strong and effective volunteer-staff partnerships as the means to advance this mission has profound impacts on execution, both for operations and for strategy, across the IEEE.
The IEEE Executive Director serves as the key staff partner of the IEEE President, and, with that is top staff member in the organization. The effect is one that both sets the standard and provides a role model for the higher-level volunteer-staff partnerships across all our major efforts.
With this strong and meaningful commitment to these unique partnerships, the position brings a special responsibility and opportunity to set and maintain focus and abilities of the IEEE staff where most needed to empower our technical communities and efforts.
The IEEE Executive Director cannot realistically be a subject matter expert on the evolving needs in all those areas where we rely on multiple key senior level staff to contribute their own leadership: publications, events, corporate governance, cyber security, membership. The expertise demands are amidst the changing financial, legal and geopolitical landscape. The IEEE Executive Director can, though, work continually to develop and maintain a systems view with situational awareness that protects our abilities in these key efforts.
Question 2. What lasting impact do you see COVID having on IEEE strategy? What role do you see societies and councils having in that strategy?
Coughlin. The Covid pandemic shut down face-to-face (F2F) conferences, section chapter meetings and many other face-to-face IEEE meetings. As a consequence, many of our members have become familiar with and proficient in remote event participation. Although much needs to be done to improve the quality and engagement of current remote meeting tools, many IEEE Society conferences and various other meetings continued to convene. For instance, in my local Santa Clara Valley section there were Society chapters that had meetings with 100’s of attendees, many from other sections and other parts of the world. It seems clear to me that remote participation opens the world to IEEE Society events and it will be an important element in the future of events.
After being confined to our homes for so long, many of us are eager for face-to-face interactions again. I don’t see remote participation replacing all F2F events but I see a lot more remote participation going forward. However, hybrid events that include face-to-face as well as remote participation are generally more expensive. I think that it is important for IEEE Societies and Councils to develop hybrid meeting tools that can make remote access to live events profitable. I also think it is important for IEEE to develop more immersive remote participation tools such as virtual reality and telepresence that allow for more natural interactions by remote participants, so our events, whether hybrid or virtual, will be more popular and have a greater impact on attendees.
Luiken. COVID19 opened the global vision to the true promise of digital engagement versus its reality. The IEEE learned about the value of tele-meeting tools and their limits; the value of human interaction; and the limits of online meetings in a day and as a medium. We openly experimented with approaches to online conferences with notable successes. In doing so, we increased access to and engagement with participants around the world that otherwise could not access in-person engagements. This was possible through the superb dedication from staff and volunteers. Collectively, we learned, there is no replacement for human interaction, but there is considerable room for digital technologies to advance collaborations. Advancements in hybrid meeting approaches offer a distinct advantage to those IEEE organizational structures that can develop a comprehensive and cohesive experience for all participants. Hybrid and virtual meeting models can support spontaneous meetings and creative dialogues and may be used for many types of events from local meetings to conferences with additional benefits of reducing waste and carbon emissions.
COVID19 challenged us to open our thinking of what could be possible – for example, we now may consider the value of large real estate holdings for IEEE by way of offices versus more distributed global offices.
I see promising opportunities from these learnings and observations and I encourage all IEEE bodies, that have not yet done so, to consider the context, experience, and outcomes for their engagements and the tradeoffs to determine what is ideal for their constituency’s goals.
Kosuge. Active members join IEEE not only for IEEE products and services but also for attending events (conferences/meetings /activities/events) in order to be involved in their relevant IEEE communities. Networking is the essential function of IEEE for which members join. Members joined/created networks through the face-to-face events until recently.
COVID 19 forced us to reconsider how to hold events to maintain the function without meeting face to face. As a result, many hybrid and virtual events were started. Hybrid and virtual events are still evolving and some events were more successful than traditional face-to-face events. Some recent virtual/hybrid events attracted a record number of attendees with free event registration for virtual attendees.
This shows that IEEE activities could be further enhanced by seeking different styles of events. The vision and mission of IEEE and TA will not be affected, however, action plans can be enhanced by what we learned through the pandemic. Societies and councils are the real players in technical activities and now have more options to accomplish the mission. Societies and councils can revisit their business to enhance and create a new style of business using the evolving and emerging technologies to achieve the mission.
Kramer. I served as an IEEE Corporate Officer in both 2020 and 2021, in those early weeks as COVID became known, and, later, as the disease and its impacts spread and changed. Resounding impacts were felt by our people –ourselves, our staff community, those who we rely upon, and those who rely upon us. There were heartbreaking losses of lives in our communities, including at the most senior levels of our societies and councils and staff. 2020 IEEE President Fukuda, and 2021 IEEE President Kathy Land, with Executive Director Welby, were a key means to enact and communicate IEEE’s strategic response. The March 2020 article on this captures IEEE’s response in its title “…The health and safety of the IEEE community is the organization’s first priority.”
With this as the strategic priority and accompanying messaging and demonstration of our core values, the “Force for Innovation” was forced to innovate. Efforts were notably at the society and council level, with staff partnerships, as large and small in-person conferences and meetings, held with decades of tradition and value, became impossible without extraordinary innovation. Similarly, changes to increase students’ information access were made. Improvements, some long sought, were made to long-settled processes by naturally cautious people – made in weeks the in the had seemed impossible without needing years and vast squandering of resources. Innovation happened quickly because it was needed quickly, but also because we had the will and the technical minds to enable this strategy.
Question 3. There has been a trend recently to centralize initiatives creating duplication and confusion among societies and councils. However, nimbleness, relevance and creativity tend to come from decision-making at the lowest level possible aligned with strategy defined broadly. How can IEEE better enhance nimbleness and creativity within societies and councils?
Coughlin. There are advantages and disadvantage with the Computer Society being part of a larger organization. I have seen this myself in my role as IEEE Region 6 Director, IEEE President and as a Computer Society member. IEEE centralizes governance for improved equity, cutting down costs and making sure that governance is applied in a unified manner. This may be beneficial for smaller societies and for IEEE as a whole, but it could duplicate or even compete with the efforts of larger societies.
This is not unusual and it is true of many organizations with a central organization which can compete with individual sub-units. Societies have their representatives on TAB who sit on the IEEE Board of Directors and all societies need to make sure that their voices are heard and addressed. At the staff level, Mary Ward Callan can also help prevent issues.
Ideally IEEE should complement and cooperate with societies, let them execute nimble activities once the overall scope and ground rules are agreed upon. There are many benefits of being part of the larger IEEE, such as legal, financial, governance, etc. Sometime the bigger organization may be slower than societies’ nimble equivalents, but these two entities should talk and collaborate because together they are stronger. Work with your Division Directors, you are in a unique position to have two of them, and they should be able to help you. Similarly, you have a few region directors who are also CS members, and they too can help.
Luiken. I believe we need both, creativity and flexibility, and clear definitions of scope and responsibilities. As long as we understand and respect the scope and boundaries of roles and organizational units, it boils down to true alignment and goals. Centralization for the sake of it is prohibitive to agility and innovation. Completely decentralized approaches prevent us from taking advantage of our full scale and can lead to cannibalizing unknowingly of our community’s efforts.
The answer is, it depends, in no particular order, on the purpose investment, risk, outcome, magnitude, consequence, and rippling impact. There are cases where the centralization of infrastructure provides the organization with the best terms, provided the solution meets the needs of the full user base. If a society is running a specific one-time workshop, it may make little sense for centralization. Frameworks offered by Future Directions, Humanitarian Activities, and IEEE SA’s Industry Connections offer opportunities to collaborate on technical topics in a centralized fashion across the organization without necessarily impeding perceived similar efforts but rather function in an augmentative fashion.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The most important point is that we should be able to communicate our aims, listen and collaborate. If an existing approach works for someone, we should give it proper credence to understand how it may co-exist or determine how to include their voice in shaping an inclusive solution. I do see a future of cross-disciplinary activities where multiple IEEE organizations will collaborate in the realization of practical, real-world solutions.
Kosuge. Centralization of initiatives could not achieve the nimbleness and creativity of the organization as pointed out in the question, although it depends on the nature of each OU and the nature of each initiative. One solution would be to define the scope of responsibility of each OU and allow each to operate freely within that scope of responsibility and with strategy defined broadly.
More autonomy could be given to each OU under a culture of trust and respect, although the degree of autonomy for each OU should be decided according to a well-defined process. IEEE could better enhance nimbleness and creativity within societies and councils by treating them as distributed autonomous organizational units within the scope and in alignment with the strategy. Depending on the nature of the initiatives, some initiatives could be handled in the societies and councils with nimbleness, relevance and creativity aligned with the strategy defined broadly.
Kramer. My encompassing key priority is to empower the success of our technical communities, global and local, to share and foster technical knowledge and enhance our professional lives. To me, then, the decision making is based upon what is empowering and effective in advancing technical mission, rather than trying to calibrate to some preset level of centralization.
Societies and councils, IEEE Fellows processes included, but also in virtually every other major endeavor, have very much been concerned with the impacts of contributions. Contributor decision making offers overwhelming advantages where technical and specialist knowledge is important, and where the urgency of goals achieved and the problems to solve or questions to ask are evident to those closely involved. Often, as most of us have seen in our technical professional lives, the smaller scale, proof-of-concept is an essential step we need to to decide both how to improve, and whether to go wider. Transplanting triumphs from one set of contributors to others merely to redistribute the rewards to others is a doomed strategy, but I am for piloting, for sharing best practices and for achieving higher standards and better strategies for success.
Centralization tends to offer better opportunities to disseminate, communicate, and set goals widely. It offers the more urgent drivers for avoiding the downside – costs, risks, conflicts of interest, overhead , rather than for distributing upside –resources and revenues, authority, recognition. It is thus on wider sharing and avoiding negatives where the forces for centralization find the most traction and opportunity.
Question 4. What are your thoughts for increasing active engagement across diverse dimensions of our profession (e.g., stage of career, type of industry, span of technologies, range of activities)?
Coughlin. I have been working in the IEEE Industry Engagement Committee on ways that we can retain student members when they graduate, most of whom go to work in industry. Efforts that may help with this include talks for student branches on why IEEE should be your professional home and corporate career fairs at branches. I have also been working increasing senior member (SM) elevation for members in industry. Satisfaction and retention of senior members is greater than for regular members.
I was involved in the nomination of Steve Wozniak to become an IEEE fellow and worked with him to creating approved IEEE milestones for the Apple I and II computers. We need to advance and recognize our industry heroes.
In late 2020 and throughout 2021, I was part of a small group of IEEE members who met virtually with international people in industry, government and academia during many sessions, talking about the Future of Work. This gave us important insights into the regional trends and needs for organizations and individuals. Our report should help to improve the IEEE’s communication and member offerings.
As a recent IEEE Life Fellow, I want to provide our most experienced members more personalized opportunities to engage with each other and especially with younger members. I have participated in interviews for the IEEE History Center of IEEE Life Fellows to document their life stories. Overall, I want to encourage a greater sense of community among IEEE members in all membership categories and all technical disciplines.
Luiken. IEEE is committed to diversity and inclusion. We encourage voices to engage that may not be represented or under-represented today.
A first step to increased engagement we may need to learn more about the needs and wishes of the professionals in IEEE’s fields-of-interest and their differing contexts. We need to listen carefully to determine synergies and how IEEE may provide contextualized value.
For example, I have been approached multiple times about the need to engage Industry and industry members more within IEEE. We have examples where this happens successfully. The IEEE Standards Association, IEEE Marketing, Sales, Design, and the IEEE Entrepreneurship Program engage well with Industry. It is important to note that each of those OUs or programs have a concrete offering that Industry see has direct value. The challenge for us is to consider specifically what value can be realized for/with technologists within their context. The IEEE Industry Engagement Committee has undertaken the role to address this challenge; and I would encourage us to work through those avenues as a starting point.
For young professionals and students, I believe we need to provide channels and opportunities to work on real social impact initiatives where we live up to our mission of Advancing Technology for Humanity. We have multiple pathways to achieve this. One of the biggest challenges of our lifetime is Climate Change – it truly needs all hands on deck. Here is our opportunity to engage our members and the world, have tremendous impact and make a true difference.
Kosuge. IEEE has many active affinity groups dedicated to diverse dimensions of our profession. The success of affinity groups shows that they can be actively involved by providing a place, but one OU does not necessarily cover the diverse aspects of our profession.
The diversity could be enhanced by adding more dimensions to our space. One solution is to further enhance the collaboration among different OUs. Especially collaboration between Technical Activities and Member and Geographic Activities as well as between societies and councils is crucial to enhancing engagement across diverse dimensions including emerging technologies and regions. How different dimensions are woven together to form active spaces is the key to the future of IEEE. We can learn what we need to do from the recent great success of Blockchain Community and Block Chain Local Groups.
Kramer. IEEE’s best opportunities for engagement, and the greatest competitive advantages to our communities are where they provide opportunities to our individuals to contribute and collaborate and advance their professional lives forward while also advancing technology. IEEE’s most successful endeavors measurably manifest the broader perspectives of this engagement question, and systematically and purposefully ensure it is an ongoing priority.
I have named five top priorities for myself as President Elect, and all five apply to the goal of active engagement across diverse dimensions of our professions. These are: to inspire and engage the next generation of IEEE, especially WIE, Young Professionals, and students; to include our global and diverse membership, effectively and equitably, to better advance technology; to collaborate as a community on our transformational public imperatives – education, policy, history, community, and humanitarian; to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the IEEE while honoring our obligations to the membership; and, finally, to empower the success of our technical communities, global and local, to share and foster technical knowledge and enhance our professional lives.
Individually, our technical communities draw us because of their relevance to each stage of our professional lives. The lessons and successes in diversity and inclusion are quite relevant to these broader diverse dimensions question. That professional relevance might be on-the-nose where it’s a particular standard, or general in drawing interest to the community. Meaningful progress is measurable, requires thoughtful assessment, use of high-integrity metrics, and calls for accountability to address where we are missing the mark.