Written by IEEE | April 8, 2022

A sense of belonging is critical to our well-being. Most of us understand this in our personal lives, but we often overlook the degree to which a sense of belonging impacts our professional lives. Collaborating and engaging with like-minded and diverse individuals helps us grow professionally, and advances technology to the benefit of humanity. My membership in IEEE has fostered this sense of belonging, and made me feel like I was connected to something bigger. 

Because of this, IEEE has been my professional home for over 37 years.  I want to share this experience with you.   

I joined IEEE in 1986 and attended my first IEEE conference — the International Conference of Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing — in 1988. At the time, I was a cash-strapped student, with just a single $100 bill to pay for expenses on the trip. I kept coming back and attended the conference for decades afterward, developing friendships with colleagues from across the world who I would see every year, and who shared my professional and scientific interests. I truly became a member of this community, and the community continued to grow with me as my career progressed.  

Later, as a newly-minted assistant professor, the same society that produces the conference, the IEEE Signal Processing Society, honored me with a best paper award. That credential that provided extra credibility when applying for research grants and funding. I remained active within the organization, serving as editor-in-chief of a journal, the chair of the conference I first attended in 1988, president of the Signal Processing Society, and now, president of IEEE.  

These experiences helped me build global connections and collaborative opportunities that have been valuable throughout my career.  In short, I began to feel accepted into a community of professionals with whom I could collaborate and learn.  I had a professional community that always felt like home, no matter how much I changed and grew. 

During this time, I also built up the soft skills needed to take on leadership roles, by chairing committees and as a journal editor.  These important volunteer milestones boosted my academic, professional and entrepreneurial pursuits. They were both personally and professionally gratifying. 

But over the years, the world around me changed. In years past, it wasn’t uncommon for engineers to spend their entire careers at one firm. That’s no longer the case. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job tenure is about four years. Throughout all of this transition in people’s lives, IEEE has remained steadfast. With over 400,000 members, IEEE continues to offer you the same opportunities that it offered me: lifelong friendships and networks with like-minded colleagues, the free exchange of ideas, learning and skill building, career advancement opportunities and leadership training. 

My work, with IEEE and professionally, has taken me to several continents in order to collaborate and work with others from around the world.  Through this network I was able to learn from the best and the brightest minds in the world and to appreciate the diversity of cultures of our members .

That’s the point of having a professional home. Even as you grow, it is always there. 

ABOUT OUR AUTHOR
Dr. K.J. Ray Liu is 2022 IEEE President and CEO. He has served IEEE in numerous capacities, including as  IEEE Vice President, Technical Activities in 2019, Division IX Director of IEEE Board of Directors 2016-2017, and the President of IEEE Signal Processing Society (2012-13), in which he has also served as Vice President – Publications from 2006-2008 and a member on the Board of Governors. He was the Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Signal Processing Magazine  from 2003- 2005.

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