One Year with IEEE Madras Young Professionals! #BehindTheScenes
October 5, 2019 — Last year, exactly on the same date, IEEE Madras Young Professionals hosted its first ever activity, we organized a PLC workshop followed by a YP Meetup. This was also the date the new YP team of Madras sworn into their responsibilities as the Executive Committee and held its first official meeting.
We completed one year with our responsibilities last week (apparently, I didn’t get any notification on my Facebook as a memory as I didn’t post any update about this then).
Over the past one year, we did quite a good number of quality activities both offline (BC) and online (AC). (BC — Before Corona & AC — After Corona)
There is always something that I find special about this team or committee, I’ve had several volunteers including other Section YP Chairs reaching out to me — to understand the inside stories and what are some of the best practises that they can take away from our team.
I usually share the following points that I listed on this blog post, these are some things that worked for us, and in my belief can work with any committee ,especially in IEEE. Hence, penning them in this blog post.
Let’s try to uncover — What’s unique about Madras YP?
#1 The diverse team of volunteers!
The credits to this go to the slate selection committee of IEEE Madras YP — all the 9 volunteers in the team are from all different working background, and they all bring in a unique perspective to the team. I was quite amazed by the diversity within the team- we had volunteers from academia, research, teaching, corporate management, corporate technology, non-profit organization, entrepreneurship, etc. I surely think this is one of the essential factors to be considered whenever we set up any committee — Bring in diverse volunteers to create a strong team, because every team needs new perspectives!
This specific aspect has played out very well for the team on a whole, and in fact, in our first STEP event of 2020, when we want to find diverse speakers from varied topics, we had most of them from within the team, since everyone comes from a unique place of experience.
#2 Every volunteer has a voice!
This is something that I believe quite important in every volunteering committee or team, every volunteer should be provided with an opportunity to voice out their opinions and share their perspectives, in other words, disseminating the decision making process!
To do this specifically, we brought in some changes systematically and some process in the way we work as a team especially with respect to decision making.
a. Systemic shift — Reporting ‘all’ the committee volunteers on VTools
Officer Reporting and activity reporting are two important aspects related to any IEEE committees. Let me explain, whenever a new committee sworn in — the volunteers need to report the list of new office bearers on a tool called us ‘VTools’, this is something that IEEE MGA manages directly — this plays a crucial role when we wish to communicate anything to MGA or access privilege related to MGA like WebEx access, activity reporting etc.
So, when we our committee was sworn in too — the volunteer reporting happened, usually only the core committee volunteers (including the ‘Chair’, ‘Vice-Chair’, ‘Secretary’ and ‘Treasurer’) are reported in the VTools and the other Executive Committee volunteers were not included especially considering that IEEE Madras Young Professionals is an Affinity Group. Usually, when it comes to Section Executive Committee or Regional Executive Committee, they report all the volunteers of the team.
We wanted to change this, to acknowledge every effort that goes behind the scenes done by our volunteers, which can also help them with the visibility and relevant opportunities like awards/other volunteering roles in the future.
We reached out to the MGA staff via email explained the shift we wanted to make and add new officer roles as part of the VTools. When we reached out, I was not quite confident, since reporting only the core volunteers is the usual practise. Interestingly, the IEEE MGA staff supported our new initiative to report everyone and provided us the chance to add all the committee volunteers as part of the roster.
b. Process Shift — the whole committee involved in deciding anything!
To consciously disseminate the decision-making process — we followed some simple but effective steps.
Every initiative or activity or major decision that is taken by the Committee will always be approved only when 2/3 of the team votes for it!
This is not applicable only for major decisions but all the decisions — now, that is an interesting at the same time a challenging baseline to have, possibly because of two reasons,
i. What is the team delays with the communication?
Our thought process — we are okay with waiting. For us, what is most important is our team’s opinion, sometimes if our actions delay for a few days, that is fine! The underlying belief is when everyone’s decision is counted, everyone will naturally respond. Well, that’s the same thing that happened with us too! Usually, we get to hear from the entire team (or at least 6 of the team members which accounts for 2/3 of the team) within 48 hours.
ii. What if some members of the team do not agree to the decision?
That is exactly why we ask everyone to share their opinion. We do not want everyone to simply agree. If some member feels not okay with the decision related to an activity, they always say ‘why’. Now, the committee, again goes back to validating the rationale behind the disagreement, and everyone shares their opinion again.
This process effectively helps us validating our ideas and proposals coming from anyone and helps us to take transparent and collective decisions. But though we had a choice for everyone, most of the times, the committee says, ‘Go Ahead!’ for this one good reason — check out #3!
#3 We are willing to take up responsibilities & doing experiments to learn!
Over the time — our committee has organized activities that are sometimes beyond our scope or responsibilities. To quote a few examples a webinar with all the IEEE MGA Student Award Winners & an interactive webinar with the past Richard E. Merwin Scholars from IEEE Madras Section.
Now, when the activities were proposed initially, we had different perspectives — should we stick only to Young Professional activities and refrain from organizing activities related to Students?
Here are our shared perspectives:
(a) Enthusiastic student members are the future YP volunteer champions. Creating strong engagements for students occasionally are important for an effective transition to YP! (In fact, 7 out of 9 members in our team are student volunteers turned into YP volunteers, including me!)
(b) Though the target audience of the activity are students -> the organizing volunteers will be YP, one of the speakers could be a YP. In an indirect way, the activity will be an opportunity for a Young Professional to learn and learning matters!
(c) Hosting activities related to Societies can also help us in collaborating with the Section Society Chapters, which is important -> If you want to know ‘why’ check out point #4
It is indeed surprising and proud to look back and say — so far, the committee has never rejected any proposals coming from anyone till this point, I am sure this comes from our collective vision to do experiments. We know, IEEE is a place, you can make errors and you can learn.
#4 We believe in collaboration!
When we had our first meeting — we had ‘collaboration’ and ‘societies’ as one of our key priorities. Over the past one year, we also brought it out in our action, so far, we collaborated with the following organizational units,
IEEE Madras Section, IEEE WIE Madras, IEEE TEMS Madras, IEEE Computer Society Madras, IEEE Control Systems Society Madras, IEEE Power & Energy Society Madras, IEEE PSES Madras, IEEE Young Professionals Bombay, IEEE Professional Communication Society YP and IEEE Student Branches including, Sai Ram Institute of Technology, Jansons Institute of Technology, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology, VIT Chennai
That is a total of 13 collaborations within one year!
Now, this was possible because the committee is always proactive about collaboration and open to working together with shared responsibilities.
IEEE is ONE community, and it is important to uphold collaboration as a key value!
There is another way that this specific aspect has helped us enormously — FUNDS!
Yes, financial support is quite crucial when it comes organizing activities. Especially, us, the YP team started with almost nil account balance. We must source some funds to get started with our activities, and that’s when all this collaboration helped us.
With around 5 activities, we were able to raise funds sufficiently so we could also initiate activities on our own, but that’s exactly when COVID happened, we required very less funds post that for organizing virtual activities.
#5 We love volunteering!
Now, this is the most significant aspect — all the points mentioned above are possible because we had a committee rooted on this one common trait — we are extremely passionate about volunteering!
All our volunteers are involved in other IEEE committees related to Societies, Student Activities, Education, Membership Development, Awards, etc. — as a committee, we acknowledge every effort taken by our volunteers beyond the Madras YP team, we believe this is important because, the mutual learning can be helpful for both Madras YP and the committee, the volunteers are involved in.
“What’s your individual contribution to IEEE Madras YP?” is never a question because we know everybody contributes to Madras YP and beyond. It’s always about the teamwork and the mutual trust!
Our volunteers have raised up to the occasion especially during the COVID-19, our team members were involved in 80+ virtual activities as speakers, organizers, and volunteers. Not every activity is branded within the scope of Madras YP, in fact, many activities are organized by Student Branches, but our YP volunteers were everywhere on the scene supporting the community in a positive way!
Though, we have an email-first communication practise (meaning all the decisions will be taken through emails and it is the top priority channel for the team) since the inception of the committee, we also have a WhatsApp group which we used to celebrate, appreciate each other. We celebrate volunteers as people, and usually you will see the WA group buzzing, whenever there is some happy news. :)
During our first activity of 2020, we printed and shared business cards for all the volunteers — in my experience, this was the first ever time, I was in a committee that took up the responsibility of printing B-cards for all the team members! We used them quite less because of the virtual ‘new normal’.
We also don’t miss the opportunity to wish our volunteers on their birthdays, an official poster rolls out from our Social Media channels! :D
On a personal note, I had an incredible time being a part of IEEE Madras Young Professionals and it offered me so much of learning related to leadership and management professionally. At the end of the day, volunteering is all about utilizing your free time effectively and creating an impact for the community, I am happy that IEEE Madras Young Professionals allows me to do that. #ThankYouIEEEYP
Acknowledgement & Gratitude:
- All the Madras YP team members — Prof. Arun, Karthika, Ashvanth, Pooja,Vinod, Sudharshan, Abdul, Prof. Venkateshkumar
- Manoharan Sir (Past IEEE Madras Section Chair) & the entire Section 2019 Executive Committee
- Kumarappan Sir (IEEE Madras Section Chair) & the entire Section 2020 Executive Committee
- IEEE India Young Professionals team, IEEE Region 10 Young Professionals team, IEEE MGA Young Professionals team
- All the YP members of IEEE Madras Section
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Check out my article on — 5 reasons to be a part of IEEE Young Professionals and let me know your feedback. Cheers!