Get email delivery of the Cadence blog featured here
When I lived in England, newspapers had a tradition of not mentioning other newspapers by name, they would just say "in another newspaper." In that tradition, I sat down to lunch last week with Karen Bartleson of "another EDA company." She had recently won the election to be the new president of the IEEE. By "IEEE" I do mean the entire organization, not a small sub-organization like CEDA, the council on electronic design automation. The IEEE board of directors nominates two candidates who then put out position papers, debate each other in various parts of the world and run a genuine campaign. Karen's opponent was Fred Mintzer, who retired from IBM, where he worked at "Watson", the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. Karen said the vote felt close at 22K to 17K, but she was told that, in fact, the margin of the win was the biggest for a long time.
Karen is Senior Director of Corporate Programs and Initiatives at Synopsys. She joined Synopsys 20 years ago in an era when EDA companies had very closed systems and her job was to create standards programs there, along with open interfaces. As a result of that charter, in 2013 and 2014 she was President of the standards association of the IEEE. This year she is Past-president, which doesn't just mean she used to be president; there are some residual responsibilities helping the new standards association team to be successful. She was also on the board of directors of the IEEE.
Europeans are always amazed at how Americans have elections and then there is a long time until the transfer of power takes place. Presidential elections take place in November but the new President is inaugurated in January. In Britain, by contrast, if there is a general election today and the incumbent Prime Minister loses, he or she moves out of Number 10 (10 Downing Street) that evening and the new Prime Minister moves in the next day. The IEEE carries this to a new level. Karen has won the election. At the start of 2016 she becomes president-elect. Then, finally, at the start of 2017 she becomes President and CEO of IEEE. In 2018 she transitions to Past-president. So her year of truly being President is 2017. That year it will be a full-time job. Before she let her name go forward she confirmed with Synopsys that it would be OK if she won. They encouraged her to go forward and said that paying her for that year would be a nice problem to have, a way of giving back to the industry that supports them (and us at Cadence, too).
The IEEE is a big organization. It is a $0.5B non-profit. There are 400,000 members, just over half outside the US. That means there are around 200,000 US-based IEEE members. There are various fields of interest, the biggest of which are the computer society, communications, and power & energy. There are another 37 smaller fields.
The IEEE board of directors sets the priorities for the organization, so Karen doesn't get full dictatorial powers! The priority that she is most interested in personally is involving technologists with policy. There are an increasing number of technically complex subjects that affect policy both in the US and internationally. Politicians (who are mostly lawyers in many countries) are ill-equipped to understand the issues in things like net-neutrality, security, "right to be forgotten" and more. In this area, Karen chaired the IEEE Internet Initiative with a goal to restore people's trust in the light of phishing, spying, identity theft. Security, privacy and Internet governance are key areas where technology and policy overlap.
Another area where Karen has taken a special interest are the young professionals of the IEEE. This is the up-and-coming generation who will reshape the world. The people overseas are especially passionate, from Tunisia, Egypt, Pakistan, South America. And, of course, the US, too. They are passionate about the profession in general and the IEEE in particular. Somehow engineering is good at erasing boundaries between governments, religions and cultures.
People in academia are strongly represented in IEEE, especially overseas. The IEEE is a publishing powerhouse with over 160 publications. They run 1600 conferences a year, too, and have nearly 1000 active standards. With the "publish or perish" regime in academia, this makes membership attractive. There is a large student population, too (the membership fees are very low for students), but many of them leave when they graduate. One challenge the IEEE has is to provide more value to practicing engineers and the companies that employ them. IEEE members receive "Spectrum," which is a great magazine, but is not enough on its own. Of course if they join specialist societies in the IEEE, they get various transactions, too. In fact, there was a recent Silicon Valley roundtable to discuss the issue of what IEEE could do for technology companies. The two areas where companies felt that the IEEE could make major contributions were in education and in advice on patents and intellectual property.
Patents are an area where the IEEE has a lot of experience since standards and patents overlap. There is a requirement that patents that get incorporated into standards are licensable on "fair and reasonable" terms. But there is not a lot of clarity on just what that means. Both the US DoJ and the EU have asked standards bodies such as the IEEE to help in this, and indeed the IEEE just recently updated its patent policy, something that generated its own share of controversy.
So Karen has gone from her first job at Texas Instruments in their design automation group to, soon (well, 2017), being President of the largest electronics professional society in the world. Congratulations.