An Inspirational Journey

Throughout this IEEE 2017 President-Elect campaign, I have had the fulfilling opportunity to meet with IEEE members from around the world. Their shared insights and enthusiasm for our Institute has been an inspiring and motivational force behind my platform and, as we reach the end of the voting period, I’m so very thankful to have had a lot of input, encouragement and support along the way.

I want to personally thank each and every one of you who took the time to look at the issues we are facing, and for helping identify those that need to be addressed to advance IEEE for the future. More importantly, a very big thanks for having taken the time to vote in this election. It is your engagement that has made this election and campaign an inspirational journey for me. I am hopeful for a positive outcome and the opportunity to follow through on my commitment to you all, and to apply my leadership experience so that IEEE continues to grow and become an even more relevant force advancing technology toward a better tomorrow for all the people of the world.

For those who’ve read my blog postings here, you may have noticed that I often also find inspiration in quotes from influential people throughout history. As we are reaching the culmination of this election, one quote that comes to mind, and that has often been cited by writers, lyricists, politicians and others, originates with the Roman philosopher and statesmen Seneca who famously said, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” That is a profound thought, and no matter the outcome of this election it has been a rewarding experience to see the commitment and drive from the many diverse and highly educated individuals who make up our Institute. As I’ve often said, “working together is always the best starting point.”

Thank you again for your support and for voting for the IEEE 2017 President-Elect.


Building IEEE’s Value Proposition Through Career Development

As we are in the voting period for the 2017 IEEE President-Elect, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on the many conversations I’ve had with IEEE members around the world during the campaign. These have given me great insight into what’s most important to a lot of our membership, whether in discourse with young or mid-career professionals, or with IEEE leaders. One subject that is repeatedly mentioned is better positioning IEEE as a career development partner that brings measurable value, and that helps members advance in their respective careers.

The great sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer Michelangelo once said, “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.” In respect to career development, IEEE already has a plethora of resources, such as tutorials, webinars, E-learning libraries, and more, that can be utilized as we aim much higher in our efforts to build upon the Institute’s value proposition through career development.

By establishing a repository of existing technical and professional career materials and resources, we can better leverage and provide easier access to what already exists, but there’s more that can be done. We need to conduct gap analysis to identify areas where we are falling short, and look to partnerships as a means to better meet our memberships’ needs. By more closely identifying and tagging lifecycle transitions, IEEE can also tailor its career development offerings as technologies evolve and back offerings with IEEE certification to provide recognition and visibility for accomplishments.

Another opportunity is to work more diligently to retain IEEE student members after they graduate, which could be done by facilitating connections that result in career opportunities. One approach key to my platform is to reach out to industry professionals and corporate universities to better understand industry needs and develop interdisciplinary offerings that will better prepare young professionals for success with job skills aligned to a rapidly changing work environment.

Of course, we also need to promote how IEEE content and career development offerings support career growth. One method I support is to hold IEEE career development workshops in conjunction with major technical conferences where IEEE is participating. In doing so, we can demonstrate greater value and engage more closely as a true career development partner for our members.

My focus on career development started years ago and I believe my track record and experience in this area can make a real impact for IEEE being recognized globally as a facilitator of educational and professional advancement. Careers are increasingly more global, multi-disciplinary and collaborative than ever before. Meanwhile the pace that technology is increasing so it is critically important for IEEE members to invest in their career to remain relevant. As IEEE President-Elect in 2017, I would help IEEE bolster its ability to fill this educational need, bringing more value for members and industry.

Please take the time to vote in this very important election before 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on October, 3 2016. I appreciate your consideration on the issues that are key to advancing IEEE and building our Institute’s global relevancy for the future.


IEEE: Communicating a Strong Value Proposition

Most would agree that IEEE fulfills its purpose to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity as defined in its Mission statement. That said, there’s a single element directly related to the multitude of IEEE activities and initiatives that is essential to the ongoing success and relevance of our Institute over the long term. It’s something that is a primary focus in my 2017 IEEE President-Elect platform—and that is communication. And, by that, I mean finding ways to better understand and successfully communicate IEEE’s value proposition to all of our various stakeholders.

The motivational speaker Tony Robbins has said, “to effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” I know this to be true and one area where I’ve garnered a good deal of knowledge within IEEE is through extensive global experience—something that can be beneficial in helping to drive IEEE’s value proposition messaging worldwide.  

And, as value proposition goes, we need to create incremental value and leverage it through communication. An example of how we can achieve this is by IEEE providing comprehensive competency based education that is certified.  This will position IEEE as a professional development partner for industry and bring greater value to members by helping to advance their careers. Technology is moving at an unprecedented pace, and technical careers are increasingly multi-disciplinary, global and collaborative. Industry leaders are challenged to provide meaningful developmental offerings for employees, and IEEE is ideally positioned as a resource that can fulfill this need.   

So how do we go about the task of defining and more broadly and effectively communicating IEEE’s value proposition? To start, I propose developing more personalized and targeted marketing strategies aimed at our top, and most important, segments (i.e., Young Professionals, Industry, Academics, Women in Engineering, etc.) As part of that plan, we need to engage more closely with IEEE members around the world so that we can incorporate individual experiences that tell the IEEE value story in new and innovative ways that make a particular connection with the segment of interest. This could be initiated first by conducting value chain analysis that leads to new discovery for refreshed messaging on how IEEE is making specific positive impacts on members’ lives and careers.    

In order to communicate effectively it’s also important that we find new and better ways for our members to access, trend and analyze the vast information resources of the Institute, and identify actions and activities that are best practices to replicate elsewhere. We also need to put in place mechanisms, tools and resources that allows IEEE volunteers to more quickly respond and efficiently contribute their time and knowledge.  In that same vein, we need to be proactive in soliciting feedback from members on how to strengthen the IEEE value proposition today and for the future.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” That’s a problem we want to avoid within IEEE, and that is why I’m convinced we need the leadership today that will set us on a successful course where IEEE is viewed across the board as having a high value proposition for all of its current and prospective members.

By communicating effectively, we will continue to attract the best and brightest to work together to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.  Better defining and promoting our value proposition is key, and I invite you to share any additional thoughts or ideas on how we can move the needle forward in this regard. With your help, as 2017 IEEE President-Elect, I will continue the push towards building and communicating IEEE’s value to stakeholders around the world. It’s an important factor in ensuring our continued growth and relevance as an organization.


More Utility Microgrids and Other Predictions for Utilities in 2016

2016predictionsphoto-300x168EPB of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has an interesting story to tell. It has many, in fact. In July 2012, citing just one example, the Chattanooga region experienced one of its largest-ever storms, causing power outages to about 80,000 homes and businesses. EPB automatically restored power to 53 percent of those affected through the use of recently deployed distribution-automation technology.

This improvement reduced the total restoration time by about 17 hours, and it is providing millions of dollars of benefit per year.

Aided by stimulus money under the Department of Energy’s American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, EPB and other utilities have spent about $9 billion over the past five years to apply technology and improve their grid performance. With the five-year run ending in 2015, my expectation is that in 2016 many more utilities will have strong stories to tell touting similar achievements. Why? Because they now have real things to talk about and data to back them up, not just projections.

Other predictions I have for 2016 similarly reflect the changing environment in which utilities operate. Here are some, in no particular order, that I view as being among the most important:

  • The emphasis on power reliability will continue. As a society, we’re becoming more and more dependent on the grid. Where we see wide-sweeping outages, there is concern because the outages are costly. Hurricane Sandy certainly brought that to our attention. We also are seeing more companies focus on pockets of customers who have experienced outages multiple times. Companies such as Florida Power & Light are making a significant investment in grid performance, pointing to an emerging trend where I believe more utilities will make larger-scale reliability investments to improve grid performance to meet the emerging expectations of their customers.
  • More communities and municipalities will work together to find and combine synergies across their multiple infrastructures. They will do so to deliver better services to their customers. The electrical infrastructure is the glue that brings infrastructures together; communities and municipalities are going to become much more collaborative and proactive about planning for infrastructure interdependencies and economic synergies to improve local conditions. They’re taking the situation into their own hands, putting in battery storage and renewables on their own premises to shore up the risk of significant catastrophic events and security breaches.
  • Microgrids will expand beyond universities and military bases. Driven in large part by what I described above, utilities will be venturing into this space increasingly more often. Without load growth to spur traditional investment, microgrid development provides an opportunity for utilities to actively engage in interconnecting with the grid, be a part of deploying distributed energy resources, and improve reliability to meet emerging customers’ needs. Movement in this direction will require regulatory changes. If these changes are approved, utilities will likely invest in this arena and improve reliability and security for those who need it most.
  • Regulatory-reform efforts will rise. Rooftop photovoltaic (PV) deployments are on the rise, and while they may help customers reduce energy costs, the trend also is putting pressure on utilities, whose financial model has been predicated on capital investment for load growth. With plateauing load, public utility commissions will need to work with utilities to define business models that promote distributed energy resources and ongoing investment for reliable distribution systems that meet present and future needs. The Clean Air Act is a driver for getting more of the U.S. energy supply to come from renewables to meet emission targets in the future. As PV penetration increases, distribution systems will likely need to transform to accommodate multidirectional power flow. Distribution systems have been designed and operated for one-way power flow. Multidirectional power flow will have a significant impact on distribution planning, design, protection, and operations—fundamentally transforming the grid of the future. This is sure to be an area of interest in 2016 and beyond.
  • Energy storage will continue to prove its necessary ties to renewable-energy projects. The Brattle Group recently conducted a study for Texas utility Oncor that found 5,000 MWs of storage would make economic sense throughout the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT) region at $350 per kWh if a merchant market was available and storage could be installed for distribution system benefits. We’re getting closer to reaching that price point, which will help drive growth in storage. However, to unleash the full value of energy storage, market development is needed to allow regulated utilities and the competitive market to both realize benefits from the same asset. If regulated utilities can install storage throughout the grid, it can be used to improve reliability, integrate renewables, and manage peak conditions. We will certainly see this regulatory landscape evolve in 2016.
  • Vulnerabilities in our power systems will continue to surface. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data suggest the number of storms cutting power from 50,000 or more customers is rising in the U.S. This points to the fact that we have system vulnerabilities, and climatic conditions are playing a role. Widespread outages are costing society billions. The result will be more emphasis on grid resiliency, especially on the coastal shores where we have recently seen significant damage from hurricanes and other major storms.
  • Distributed intelligence will be a must-have grid technology characteristic. Distributed energy resources and the trend for consumers to become “prosumers” is making grid operations more dynamic and uncertain. These conditions will ultimately require distributed intelligence to keep the lights on for customers. We will still need centralized oversite and awareness of what’s going on, but getting the intelligence distributed in the field so there’s increased awareness and timely action based on local conditions is an inevitable trend because of how dynamic things are becoming.

Reposted with permission of S&C Electric Company corporate blog, GridTalk

See the original post here

IEEE Engagement for Future Success

Much of my IEEE volunteer time has been spent participating globally where I often meet with young engineers and professionals to better understand their aspirations and the type of support they are looking for to improve their skills and advance their careers. In fact, I’m often asked why I’m so focused on engaging Young Professionals within the IEEE. The simple answer is because I know, and have known for some time, that engaging with them is essential to ensure the ongoing viability and success of our Institute. Coincidently, my interest in finding ways to engage and encourage young people to pursue a growth career in engineering corresponds to the time when I first became actively involved with the IEEE myself.

When serving as vice president at Commonwealth Edison, and ultimately Exelon, I succeeded an individual who had been leading a significant annual meeting for one of the IEEE societies, and was quickly tasked with arranging this event for roughly 1500 people within a short six-month window. Fortunately, the meeting was a terrific success and I was invited to participate on the IEEE Power & Energy Society Board from that point forward.

It was during this time at Exelon that I began to really grasp the gravity of the workforce challenge in the power industry, and explore ways I might leverage my leadership role in IEEE to improve upon this critical situation. It was clear where I was employed that the technical workforce was getting older, many would soon be retiring, and a qualified pipeline of engineers to fill the positions that would soon be vacated was not at all obvious. In response, I led an effort to collect information from other utilities that began to paint a picture that illustrated a need to expedite power engineering pipeline development. Getting this done became a motivating factor in my run for President of the IEEE Power & Energy Society in 2008 and 2009.

Once elected, I led the development of a comprehensive report defining the problem and recommending that a scholarship program be developed to promptly attract the best and brightest to the power industry. This report was the launching point for the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative, which has resulted in over 900 scholarships since the program started in 2011, and it has attracted $6.5 million in philanthropic contributions. This has nearly doubled the number of undergraduates pursuing power engineering as a major and has made a significant impact on filling a void due to considerable attrition from retirements. Furthermore, it has increased the Young Professional demographic in the Society and created a new found enthusiasm for a career in power.

So, while we’ve made progress, there’s still more to do. There is a well-known quote that references not “going through life wearing two catchers’ mitts” in order to be able to throw something back. That’s a poignant statement, and one that really needs to be taken to heart as we explore how IEEE can “up the ante” and bring Young Professionals more deeply into the fold of the Institute. In effect, today’s IEEE leaders need to wind up, “throw something back”, and engage with the leaders of tomorrow who will keep the Institute strong, sound and successful in advancing technology for humanity’s benefit.

So, what can be done in the near term to engage Young Professionals? Clearly, we need to set some goals to have them participate on all of the major boards within IEEE. This is going to require building a developmental pipeline supported by executive-level training and mentorship within IEEE. What’s more, we need to leverage the wide variety of technical events, conferences, Hackathons, etc. to promote the IEEE brand, focusing on professional opportunities and creating a buzz around the Institute’s work and the value it brings. In a nutshell, we need to invest in the future, both fiscally and with dedicated human resources, and the first step is to increase IEEE’s engagement efforts with Young Professionals and build upon the good works that have been made up to this point. I think that’s something very worthwhile and rewarding, and it’s a key component of my President-Elect platform moving forward. If you have thoughts or ideas how we can address this all-important issue, please let me know. Working together benefits us all.


Industry Engagement is Key

I recently heard a motivational speaker say, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” I couldn’t agree more and, in that vein, I’ve launched this blog as a repository for my thoughts on why passion and focus underpin my ambitions, goals and excitement about my candidacy for IEEE 2017 President-Elect. I encourage you to engage in my postings here over the coming months and welcome your valued input.

Even though I have developed far-reaching relationships within IEEE on a global scale, I think its also very important that voting IEEE members are well informed on my past experience and my intent as we work together to advance and elevate the organization’s profile worldwide.

A basis to my platform is that we need to understand that IEEE is at a tipping point for future growth. While we are still growing, the rate of growth is not what it has been in recent years. Now is the time to be proactive in charting a course that will further enhance IEEE’s leadership position and ensure the organization remains at the forefront of advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.

One area I believe essential to increase IEEE’s value proposition to its membership is to foster greater industry engagement. By leveraging our leadership position to become an even greater educational and career building resource for industry, we will not only increase membership, we will position IEEE to be more closely tied to rapidly evolving markets. Through my leadership roles in industry, and within IEEE itself, I have gained a good deal of understanding and insight on workforce-related issues, and I have developed a plan for IEEE to become more of a career development partner to industry. A proven model within the organization is mentorship programs, and I would look to expand these and make them more visible and accessible for all. Other areas where we can foster greater engagement are through seminars, tutorials, tailored certificate courses, multi-disciplinary training and educational packages that meet members’ needs for their career progression.

A firm understanding of how IEEE can better engage industry and build more collaborative efforts is of extreme importance to a comprehensive and viable plan – one that can greatly enhance IEEE’s value proposition. In effect, by better organizing, accessing and packaging the resources we already have on hand, and leveraging existing relationships, IEEE can also increase its value to industry as an informative resource on emerging technology sectors and markets.

Another area of focus that is fundamental to IEEE’s ongoing success, and increasing industry engagement, is initiating new and more value-added ways to manage, access and analyze the vast amount of IEEE information available. My platform will focus on developing more collaborative and more insightful ways to offer information to IEEE’s membership and to industry as a whole. By building a thorough and effective data-mining platform that delivers actionable insights to industry and others, IEEE will become an even greater source of trusted information that’s contemporized for application today. This is something that has to be prioritized as we move the organization forward.

Industry engagement is just one of the many areas where I’m bringing my passion and focus to bear as I share my ambitions and goals with you and work to gain your trust and endorsement as IEEE 2017 President-Elect. I will be checking back in to share more fundamentals to my platform next month. In the meantime, if you have any questions or insights to share, please do not hesitate to reach out.


Meet the IEEE Fellows Interview

Wanda was interviewed by IEEE Chicago Section Chair Vickie Peters.


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Greetings, Chicago Section Members. By now, I am sure that you have heard of the IEEE Chicago Section 2015 Fellows Pilot Program. One may ask, “What is the Fellows Pilot program?” In order to provide a well rounded response, I thought it best to introduce the committee members to the Section for input on their program….

Read the full interview here