September 25, 2023

There’s immense power in forging connections. And since its inception, IEEE has served as a powerful connector in the technology community. 

But how often do we hear stories about that connection-building power in action? In celebration of IEEE Day on October 3, we wanted to tell one of those stories. IEEE Senior Member Jacquelyn Adams recently wrote a column for IEEE-USA about the benefits of elevating and touting the success of others, a role she refers to as a “hype ambassador.” In the column, she tells the story of reconnecting with a fellow teammate from Case Western Reserve University. They’d lost touch for more than a decade, but a few years ago, Adams reached out to Carmen Fontana, now an IEEE member, to connect her to opportunities at IEEE. Those opportunities have since led to multiple public speaking roles at key industry events – including spots at Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering of the mobile technology industry.

Carmen possesses a unique blend of thoughtfulness and adeptness with technology, coupled with quick thinking that enables her to distill extensive information seamlessly,” Adams said. “The fusion of her cognitive acumen and her interpersonal finesse positions her as an exceptional envoy for emerging technology.”

They joined us to talk about the power of networking and collaboration, and the benefits it holds for women in the tech domain.

Transmitter: Where does this story start? Where did you first meet?

Fontana: I first met Jacquelyn on our college’s cross country team. While she was a few years behind me, her enthusiasm caught my attention then. So when she reached out many years later, I was excited to reconnect and see where life had taken her.

Transmitter: What does it mean to you to be the beneficiary of the type of boost Jacquelyn wrote about?

Fontana: Like many female technologists, I sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome. Having someone enthusiastically step up to endorse me went a long way to making me feel appreciated and valuable to my profession. And because I feel more confident, I am now more willing to take on bigger challenges in my career, including representing IEEE in everything from publications to international conferences.

Transmitter: One of the things the article brought up was that, when we boost other people, we often benefit ourselves. What has your experience been?

Adams: In my experience, the spirit of helping and boosting others is quite prevalent, especially in communities like IEEE that value collaboration and mentorship. I’ve been fortunate to receive generous support and guidance that have helped me tremendously in my own professional development.

Fontana: I do think that can be attributed to the shared mission at IEEE. As I look back at my professional history, the organizations that had the greatest sense of boosterism also had the strongest common goals. When everyone is working towards reaching the same finish line, they are more likely to encourage and support those around them. (Perhaps that was one of the lessons Jacquelyn and I learned from our cross country days?!)

Transmitter: Can you talk about the ways IEEE positively impacted your careers?

Adams: I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with numerous remarkable individuals within IEEE, spanning both volunteers and staff members. Over time, I’ve actively engaged with several committees, finding immense satisfaction in contributing as a volunteer. Among my most cherished experiences is the opportunity to craft a column for IEEE-USA.

Fontana: IEEE’s mission of “Advancing Technology for Humanity” really aligns to my personal views of the role of tech in society. Thus, I have really enjoyed representing IEEE on a variety of fronts. I find working with journalists challenges me intellectually, as it requires thoughtful analysis and refinement of my views. This, in turn, has allowed me to be a clearer thinker when I assess and implement technology. I also really enjoyed participating on a panel at Mobile World Congress Barcelona, on behalf of IEEE. While I have done a fair amount of speaking domestically, this was my first international engagement and a great resume booster. Being able to see tech through a non-US lens helped me round out my understanding of industry trends.

Transmitter: How does IEEE help people forge meaningful connections in professional communities, and do you think it’s to emphasize these types of connections for women in technology?

Fontana: Technology is such a broad industry, with so many niches. It is easy to get siloed in your own organization or interest area. Professional communities, such as IEEE, give visibility to people and ideas you might not encounter otherwise. These connections allow you to broaden your knowledge and refine your expertise. Women are especially susceptible to isolation as they often are in the minority in technology settings. IEEE creates connections, which in turn fosters inclusiveness.

Adams: By emphasizing connections within IEEE, women can find mentors, allies and friends who understand their journey. These relationships offer emotional support and open doors to opportunities. In short, IEEE’s focus on connections creates a nurturing environment where women can excel and make substantial contributions to the tech world.

Transmitter: How can IEEE members collaborate more effectively to uplift and support one another?

Adams: Members can engage online through discussions and social media, attend in-person conferences or get involved in their region, or join technical committees. There are also opportunities to share their expertise in publications or get involved helping facilitate one of IEEE’s numerous conferences. These efforts create a vibrant ecosystem where IEEE members uplift and empower one another.

Fontana: Jacquelyn gives great examples of collaboration examples. I would also encourage members to reach out to other members and build one-on-one relationships. The common connection of IEEE is often all that is needed to spark a conversation.


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