October 10, 2023

Education has served as a bridge for me to the wider world. 

Growing up in Bangladesh, my uncle was a mechanical engineer who worked in a power plant. He would tell me how electricity was made, and how it was distributed. The house I grew up in did not have electricity until I was nine years old. Yet, I was fascinated by electricity and how it worked. I was also good at fixing things, including my family’s battery-powered radio and my father’s bicycle. All of these things, and more, put me on a path toward university and a career that has spanned the globe.

Technical education, both in universities and outside of them, continues to serve as a ladder for so many across the globe. Today, the learning curve is ever steeper, technology more advanced. I was reminded of this when I was meeting with early career engineers at the Boeing Engineering Research Center in India this past July. I was invited to speak to promising young colleagues about publishing their work. Their questions centered on something that is not taught in many engineering programs – how to present their work for a clearer understanding. 

For people in technical professions, communicating the value of their work to a general audience is a very big challenge. But it does not have to be so. There is a tremendous opportunity for senior engineers to mentor their younger colleagues, and to teach them how to communicate as individuals and team members. 

The need to communicate ideas has become even more important in our increasingly electrified and digitized world. The evolution of electrical engineering means that we are increasingly working with colleagues in information technology. That sector has traditionally welcomed a large segment of very successful professionals who learned their skills on their own or on the job. 

Education is more important than ever. The need to acquire new skills exists far beyond university. How to thrive in today’s environment?  Surround yourself with a vibrant team, share a unique vision, and master the art of relatable communication. Acquire new skills where they are available, and where they are needed. 

IEEE has student branches in engineering campuses around the world, and IEEE Young Professionals create connections for like-minded colleagues everywhere. These are platforms where young engineers and technologists find new opportunities to innovate and collaborate, and to learn new skills to proceed in their careers. 

If you have an opportunity to join one of these groups, I would encourage you to do so.

Saifur Rahman is the 2023 IEEE President and CEO, an IEEE Life Fellow, and the founding director of the Advanced Research Institute at Virginia Tech, where he is a professor of electrical engineering. Over the years, he has served IEEE in a number of capacities, including as president of the IEEE Power and Energy Society, and as the founding editor of IEEE Electrification Magazine and IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy.


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