Tag Archives: IEEE

IEEE Region 8 Secretary

It’s with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye that I conclude my 2-years term as the IEEE Region 8 Secretary.

dsc02308The Region 8 Committee Meeting last weekend in Porto, Portugal was the last big R8 meeting that I was responsible for. It marks the end of a journey that started over 4 years ago. What’s left is a deep feeling of thankfulness, many new friendships and an experience is mine to keep for the years to come!

Keeping on Top of Mail

I did some statistics a while ago. Today I can give you an updated version. My term as IEEE Region 8 Student Representative lasts for 388 days now and on average I have received about 18 e-mails per day and I have sent out about 3.5 e-mails per day. – My work and private e-mails go through different accounts, so that is just the IEEE stuff.

The way I try to deal with my mail is simple. – Nothing is allowed to stay in my e-mail Inbox, unless it is unfinished buissness. If I receive some invitiation to some conference that I don’t care about -> it goes into my Ads folder. If I receive some ads -> again Ads folder.

Other mail goes into project related folders unless it requires some action that I am for some reason not willing to put on my todo list. In that sense my Inbox is also a kind of todo list, which should be as empty as possible. From time to time I fall a little behind, so it was time to do some serious housekeeping today.


IEEE Chat Session

We had the very first IEEE Region 8 SAC online chat session this year. About 40-50 participants from all over Region 8 (Africa, Europe, Middle East, Russia) dialed in. We (Piotr, Femia, Maciej, Rui Costa) tried to give them an update on

I guess there are a lot of exciting things coming up in 2014. Some people started sharing screenshots from the online session on facebook. I can’t resist to share with you the screenshot of this pink desktop by Christine Avdikou.


Walks and Teleconference

Today was an idle day. Some playing portal, some cleaning, relaxing and going for walks. It’s way to warm around here, so it feel a little like walking in April.

plesch 2014

Later that night we had a teleconference for the next IEEE Region 8 Student and Young Professional Congress in Krakow, Poland – the event formally known as IEEE Region 8 Student Branch Congress (SBC). The meeting was dedicated to online promotion of the event.

I think in the end it was a good meeting, although I do feel that we are making progress too slowly. But we have still enough time left, so I’ll promise you it will be the best SYP congress ever!

IEEE JKU Linz Stammtisch

While my job as IEEE Region 8 Student Representative involves working two and sometimes three levels higher up in the IEEE geographic hierarchy, I always enjoy staying in touch with the local student branch (SB) at JKU. After all that’s the entity where my IEEE track started.

Being past past past chair is one thing, but what is really rewarding and makes me happy is to see that the SB is even more active than in my days and that they prosper like never before. Apart from many other activities they still have their monthly series of Stammtische, which are social meetings that try to bring students and industry closer together.

That is exactly where I spent today’s evening: The IEEE Stammtisch featuring Commend.

This is how it works: The SB approaches companies that might be interested in giving a presentation. A company representative joins one of those meetings in a local bar and pays for drinks, food and some extra cash for the SB. In return the SB provides the infrastructure (beamer, …) and the students.

What’s in it for the company? To get in touch with potential future employees or customers. What’s in it for the students? To get in touch with potential future employers and to learn about what’s happening outside the academic world.

What’s in it for me apart from that? Grabbing a beer with friends, getting to know the future leaders of the SB and learning about what matters to the current generation of engineering students.



about 1400 km of travel, 3 days, more than 100 IEEE people from over 60 countries, but less than 15 hours of sleep.

I won’t tell you about that short city visit. Most of what has happened this weekend has actually happened at a place called the Sarajevo Hollywood Hotel, where we (the more than 100 IEEE people) and at least five times as many Wrestlers mingled (http://www.worldveteranwrestling-sarajevo2013.com). – Not that we were there for the same reason.

It was the second IEEE Region 8 committee meeting for me and I feel it was even more intense than my first one in Madrid in April. While IEEE is an engineering association, the truth is, these meetings are mostly political – politics about coming up with solutions and policies to “foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity“. Apart from the matters at hand, these meetings are great opportunities to witness different styles of leadership, different styles of communicating with each other and different approaches to problem solving in general. The best part is you can actively participate if you don’t mind throwing around, being thrown around and having your head go all wild with thinking.


Here are some notes I made to myself about the process rather than the outcomes during the meeting:

  1. With most of us being engineers in academia, we are having a huge problem thinking outside the box.
  2. Almost everything you propose, someone will have proposed at some point already. (Maybe this is a direct consequence of 1.)
  3. Although it may lead to wasting your and other people’s time, it is still worth proposing stuff, even if this results in wiser and more experienced people stopping you right away. Otherwise you risk missing the few jewels that might be hidden somewhere in people’s heads!
  4. You would probably need at least as much time for preparations (in terms of goals, strategy, background research) as the meeting takes, to make the most out of it.
  5. Not having a clear vision on certain issues (maybe due to a lack of 4.) will make you feel like bouncing between people’s opinions. – Which, then again, might not be that bad after all for getting an idea about things.
  6. If it comes down to making a decision, following 5 think about Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat.
    Alice: “Which way ought I go from here?”
    Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to?”
    Alice: “I don’t much care where–”
    Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”
  7. You were quite slow in understanding what people really meant. “Sorry for that.”
  8. If you are working on one-size-fits-all-solutions (which many things on a Regional level are) be careful when you start statements with things like “From my experience …”. While difficult to implement: You really ought to make decisions based on statistical and scientific analysis rather than on very limited personal experiences.
  9. Even if it gets rough sometimes, don’t forget to grab a beer with people at the end of the day and thank them for their contributions. Be respectful: You need them as much as they need you.

I guess I succeeded and failed at all of them and I am not sure if these notes will help me or you in any way. Still I thought I’ll write them down, just in case I want to revisit them before the next meeting …

Campus Life

I do like traveling and working in research (given that you have appropriate funding) + being on an international IEEE committee requires just that. There have been a lot of trips this year that I haven’t even mentioned on my blog.

For each and every single one of them I do have a blog post in my draft folder, which I just never got around to finish and publish. Mostly because these trips usually turn out to be so intensive and exciting, with so many new experiences and people, that it seems virtually impossible to capture them in a blog post. This weekend I was in the Bath and London (UK) for four days.

Tower bridge, London (UK) 2013

I’ll do it differently this time. Instead of trying to capture everything I’ll focus on one topic: UK/US campuses vs. Austrian campuses.

After I had come back from UCLA in 2008, I did get one question frequently: What’s different? The answer is: many things. One of the main differences I experienced in the US and did find again in Bath is the way universities there are not only places for focused professional studies, but places where you actually live. Both at UCLA and at the Uni of Bath you’ll find banks, grocery stores, bars, gyms, running tracks, on campus housing and so much more. It is like they are small self-contained villages. In addition to that a myriad of student clubs enrich the experience of living on campus.

The university I am studying at right now (Johannes Kepler University Linz) does have some of these features, after finally having moved most of their departments to one centralized campus. Still, try walking campus on an idle weekday night (apart from Thursday, which is the big party night on campus) and you’ll find it to be deserted. Don’t get me wrong, you will see countless researchers behind windows and the occasional, sleep-deprived grad student heading for the vending machine. However you won’t encounter undergrads in their training cloths or campus sweaters, you won’t see dancing or fencing classes behind all-glass window fronts, the posters won’t invite you to join some fancy chess, music or religious club and you won’t be able to find a running track.

In Austria if you want to engage in any of these activities, it’s up to you to look for them somewhere else. Unis are for learning and for taking exams, but the institutions won’t tell you or make suggestions whatsoever about how to live your outside-the-uni life. Neither do they care about whether you take pride in studying at this very place or not.

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. I do feel that the UK/US system generates social pressure and it is easy for students to get lost in different activities every night, with the potential danger of burn-outs. On the other hand I do think your time at uni should be wholesome and teach you more than just the subjects you are enrolled in, which is in favor of the UK/US campus culture.

The Austrian/German system does generate a significant amount of graduates who are not involved in any social activity at all, which I think is utterly wrong. Don’t ask me for numbers, but I can give you a few examples which ended up having quarter-life and midlife crises. On the other hand not having your hands full with all that uni social stuff, leaves space for students to get involved in their local communities. Plus the lack of university driven activities does of course also not rule out the possibility that students with a shared interest form unofficial clubs.

These observations are obviously very subjective and might not apply to all schools. Whatever kind of system you are in or about to enter, I do have three pieces of advice regarding campus life and your time at university in general, which I’d like to share with you:

  1. Move out of your parent’s home. While I would suggest a dormitory for starters (you’ll get to know so many people who will help you and who you can help) an apartment is also an option. This is the time for you to become self-dependent.
  2. Engage in at least one social activity or club, but monitor your stress level and learn to say “No” when required.
  3. Go abroad and enjoy the ultimate step of self-dependency. It will, for a limited amount of time, give you the opportunity to design your daily life from scratch, plus I guarantee you, you will learn more about yourself than ever before.

Having said that, I have to add that advice should always come with a disclaimer, so I’ll simply cite Mary Schmich here:

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

What’s campus life at your university like?

IEEE – 4 months later

I have been volunteering as IEEE Region 8 Student Representative for almost 4 months (or 118 days to be exact) now. While there are even more than 4 months to go, I guess this is the perfect time to reflect on the experience I’ve had so far.

What’s my reflection based on? Basically it comes down to about 20 online meetings or conference calls, 2335 received e-mails, 509 sent e-mails, and two face-to-face meetings. Wow, it has never occurred to me before: This makes an impressive 20 e-mails received per day and 4.3 outgoing e-mails per day.

Whatever way you look at these numbers: at the end of the day it does not come down to numbers but the people I’ve interacted with and the things we have achieved. And this is where the my experience ranges from “Well, hello???” to “Wow!!!”.

When thinking about some of the support we have received from staff (fighting for database access for over two month, ect.), about the way some volunteers seem to understand committee work being about going to nice places + eating and drinking, … it’s more like “Well, hello???”

But then again, socializing is a part of working in such an international and intercultural group. Especially in Region 8 it is an inevitable means for learning to understand each other.

When thinking about the great activities that IEEE volunteers have organized all over the world since the beginning of this year, all I can come up with is: “Wow”. From congresses, job fairs, to field trips, soft skill training, competitions, humanitarian projects … The list could go on almost endlessly. And then there is also the scientific progress made in some of IEEE’s societies – simply awesome.

I am not the “everything is perfect” kind of guy. Neither am I the “everything is bad” kind of person. And for all that is great and all that is bad about IEEE there is one, maybe the most important essence that I’d like to share with you:

I do believe in IEEE Student Activities

… maybe even more so than before I started my term.

IEEE is all about the volunteers and the people behind it, so thanks to all of you who help enriching the experience for our members! I won’t start listing names, because this would only bring the danger of missing anyone. But still: Thank you all!

I am IEEE (Region 8 Student Representative)

You know how so many of us are asking who or what they are? Answering this question isn’t really easy, but if there’s one aspect about myself that I am absolutely sure about, it’s this: I am an engineer. I like building stuff and I like using mathematics, physics and technology.

Whatever hobby or job you have: There are probably associations for your very field. One of these associations for technology believers like myself is IEEE. You can google it, it’s basically a platform for technology-related people and companies. Never heard of IEEE before? Well, chances are you are using IEEE technologies like wifi in this very moment!

So I am an IEEE member (as are 400000 others on this planet) and I’ve tried to push IEEE forward in our local university student community and our “local” Austrian IEEE community for the last couple of years. The whole thing got even bigger for me now. Starting 1st of January 2013 I’ve been appointed as the IEEE Region 8 Student Representative, which means my job now is to represent 17000 students from Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

I don’t know how the whole thing is going to work out, but trust me, I’ll give my very best! – And of course I am not alone, we’re a great team. Starting with Pablo from Spain who’s the chair and Elias Nassar from Lebanon as past chair to David Dias (Portugal), Famia (Greece) and Piotr (Poland) – they are all great and motivated team members! – I’ll keep you posted about the great ideas they have, for now I’ll leave you with a video about why others have joined IEEE