Stephen Welby: A Man on a Mission

Barbie Espinol

In his five many years as IEEE’s govt director and main functioning officer, Stephen Welby has led the business as a result of a world wide pandemic, a altering publishing landscape, and soaring geopolitical tensions. Welby, an IEEE Fellow, is leaving at the stop of the year to spend extra time with his relatives though he explores his job choices. The IEEE Board of Directors has named Sophie Muirhead, IEEE’s recent general counsel and CCO, as his alternative.

Welby directs the every day operations of IEEE and its around 1,000 personnel. Even though the IEEE Board of Directors sets the organization’s policies and strategic route, the govt director’s occupation is to carry out them and supply enter about problems impacting the organization’s long term.


“I come to feel comfy with stepping out of my part at this time mainly because I feel that, in virtually each and every way, thanks to the challenging get the job done of volunteers and workers, IEEE is much better than when I arrived,” Welby claims.

IEEE’s mission of advancing technological know-how for the benefit of humanity drew him to the business, he states, after he served a term in the Obama administration as U.S. assistant secretary of defense for investigation and engineering.

About Stephen Welby

Employer: IEEE

Title: Government Director and Chief Operating Officer

Member grade: Fellow

Alma mater: The Cooper Union, New York, N.Y.

The IEEE placement “offered an prospect to influence and engage a international group,” Welby claims. “The function that IEEE is executing is crucial, and the suggestions embedded in our mission statement are large drivers for guaranteeing that we leave a far better entire world to long term generations.

“IEEE has an formidable agenda: supporting our associates close to the planet deepening our specialized engagement in rising spots building communities and disseminating technological facts assembly a developing need for technical education and learning discovering new frontiers of specialized standards and participating with the broader public about the important part that complex gurus participate in in setting up a improved world.”

A commitment to variety and the open up access publishing product

Welby lists his most vital achievements as serving to to bolster IEEE’s motivation to variety, inclusion, and expert ethics updating the organization’s publication product to enhance its embrace of open obtain and shoring up its money footing.

“IEEE is pretty thoughtful in striving to make absolutely sure that it is a voice for all of our customers,” he states. “We’ve been using methods to be as inclusive as doable and to uncover approaches that people today can take part and contribute—which ties back again to our mission. We’ve got to come across approaches to be open up, welcoming, and probably additional than encouraging to make certain that everyone can lead to the best of their abilities.”

Through his tenure, the IEEE Board revised its
plan on variety to assure that members have a protected, inclusive position for collegial discourse. Modifications also were made to the IEEE Code of Ethics to emphasis customers on vital aspects of the code, a dedication not to engage in harassment, and to protect the privacy of other individuals.

“The perform that IEEE is undertaking is crucial, and the concepts embedded in our mission assertion are significant motorists for making sure that we depart a better globe to long run generations.”

When Welby commenced working for IEEE, he claims, the open obtain publishing motion was perceived as a danger, but nowadays he sees it as an option. The movement phone calls for earning study publications available without having charges for the reader.

“This demands a shift to new business products to protect fees that have been earlier funded with subscription expenses,” he says. “IEEE has been responsive to this transform in a careful, deliberate, and accountable way. We are featuring a vast wide variety of chances and tools for folks to engage. The evolution of our publication exercise has been about responding to group needs for new and varied offerings.”

Twenty open up entry journals have been introduced in the earlier five years, for a total of 29 in the portfolio. Right now they make up a lot more than 20 % of IEEE’s journal publishing output and that share is escalating, Welby claims.

He suggests he is very pleased that IEEE is substantially more powerful financially than when he began. In 2018, its complete web property were US $391 million, and by the conclude of last yr it experienced much more than $851 million, he says. He adds that he anticipates solid results for this 12 months as very well.

“To assist our mission in perpetuity, IEEE requirements solid monetary reserves—ideally reserves that are significant ample to provide as reputable and stabilizing sources of revenue,” he claims. “Doubling our reserves has been a significant accomplishment and signifies an financial investment in our potential and our long-expression dedication to our mission.”

A smiling man stands in front of racks of servers
Welby browsing IEEE’s server space in its workplaces in Piscataway, New Jersey.Brad Trent

Other achievements, he suggests, consist of the
IEEE Standards Association’s facilitation of conversations about the liable use of artificial intelligence.

One more is the work that IEEE-United states has completed in encouraging to condition public plan relating to engineering. He details to big U.S. laws passed this yr: the
Inflation Reduction Act, and the Developing Beneficial Incentives for Developing Semiconductors for America and Foundries Act. Welby predicts that other international locations will make very similar investments, and he suggests he hopes IEEE will help these as very well.

“IEEE is in an fascinating spot relative to community policy in the United States, Europe, and all over the place mainly because we chat to the issues of technologists, and about technology and how it impacts regulations and legislation,” he states. “We’re not arguing for a certain stakeholder we’re arguing for investments in advancing technology. We’re engaged about the planet in serving to to guarantee that investigation is sufficiently funded and that specialized education and learning receives the aid it wants.”

The effect of the pandemic and international tensions

Leading a international group that depends on in-man or woman meetings and events has proven particularly difficult in recent many years. Right after the coronavirus pandemic started spreading in 2020, the corporation suddenly shifted its small business design from constructing communities by in-person engagement to relying virtually exclusively on digital supply, Welby suggests.

“IEEE has a status for currently being a conservative organization, for staying slow to change, and from time to time for staying extremely rule-sure and bureaucratic,” he suggests. “But in the confront of a global crisis, we tailored swiftly. Personnel and volunteers worked intently together to redesign and redeploy IEEE things to do in a method that permitted our communities to stay connected even though bodily distancing them selves for security. There was good trust, excellent collaboration, and fantastic results.

“The ability to reply, to adjust, to evolve, and to adapt is just one of IEEE’s excellent strengths,” he provides. “That can make me sense it will be prepared to acquire on whatsoever the foreseeable future provides and deliver on our mission.”

Geopolitical tensions in the latest decades have impacted IEEE, he notes. Conflict among nations, trade constraints, and proliferating worldwide sanctions among the nations have designed new worries for IEEE actions, he suggests.

“We have labored difficult to keep focused on IEEE’s job in supporting an international neighborhood of engineers and complex gurus that spans nationwide borders and supports a world motivation to expanding the scientific and technological knowledge of humankind,” he suggests. “But IEEE also must operate in compliance with applicable legal guidelines and regulations even though trying to get clarification of those people that look misapplied in the IEEE context. At the similar time, we are sympathetic to the hardships that worldwide tension can place on our members.”

Coordinating the huge scope and scale of IEEE things to do is sophisticated. IEEE operates in 160 international locations has 46 societies and councils has 343 sections in 10 geographic regions maintains a portfolio of much more than 1,075 specialized specifications publishes 200 transactions, journals, and journals and retains much more than 1,900 conferences and occasions.

“Trying to maintain coordination and synchronization across this massive portfolio, handling danger, and prioritizing methods is a steady problem,” Welby claims.

He suggests his one regret is that extra progress has not been manufactured in evolving IEEE’s membership design. The product has remained fairly unchanged since the firm was recognized in 1963. He details out that overall membership progress has mostly flattened, even with the enhanced role that technological know-how performs in society. Throughout IEEE there has been a decrease in the share of users doing work in marketplace, even though at the exact time there has been new potent growth in college student membership.

“We go on to depend on facial area-to-encounter interaction for a lot of of our main membership activities, regardless of the development of on the web, virtual, and electronic communities,” Welby says. “Prospective volunteers are doing work for a longer period several hours [and] have spouse and children commitments. Additionally, there are other pursuits competing for their time. The time and power commitments that IEEE has ordinarily demanded of its volunteers may perhaps not be a viable strategy in coming a long time. It may well be time to essentially rethink the construction of IEEE membership and investigate different methods to interact our associates.”

He notes that those problems have been studied and debated, and initiatives have been carried out to take a look at different membership products. But, he suggests, there stays a lot more work to do to build consensus on the future of membership.

Meeting with industry leaders and engineering students

Welby states he’ll miss the concentrated chaos of an IEEE Board meeting series, in which quite a few decisions—great and small—are debated and determined in a shorter period of time of time. He’ll also pass up speaking to audiences of 1000’s of folks about significant specialized matters, he says, and meeting with leaders from govt and sector.

“I have had the chance to see the remarkable variety of our membership,” he says, “and the excellent work that they do, and their affect on the entire world. I put in a large amount of time talking to as a lot of volunteers in distinctive roles as I could. I have notably enjoyed engaging with college students around the planet and viewing their enthusiasm, their creativeness, and their optimism. They give me fantastic hope for our foreseeable future.”

Welby provides that he could not have completed as much as he did without having the guidance and self-confidence of the IEEE presidents and boards he served, the thousands of IEEE volunteers, his senior administration group, and the specialist staff members members all-around the environment “who brought their creativeness, motivation, and specialized capabilities to every single activity.”

“I will depart it to other individuals to assess how powerful I have been,” he claims. “But I have woken up each day for the very last 5 several years wondering about what I could do to boost and progress IEEE’s mission.”

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