Stephen Welby: A Man on a Mission

Stephen Welby: A Man on a Mission

In his five a long time as IEEE’s executive director and main working officer, Stephen Welby has led the corporation via a international pandemic, a transforming publishing landscape, and soaring geopolitical tensions. Welby, an IEEE Fellow, is leaving at the close of the calendar year to commit much more time with his spouse and children whilst he explores his profession selections. The IEEE Board of Directors has named Sophie Muirhead, IEEE’s recent common counsel and CCO, as his replacement.

Welby directs the day-to-day operations of IEEE and its roughly 1,000 employees. Whilst the IEEE Board of Directors sets the organization’s procedures and strategic course, the govt director’s occupation is to employ them and present input about difficulties impacting the organization’s potential.


“I experience cozy with stepping out of my job at this time simply because I really feel that, in practically each and every way, many thanks to the really hard get the job done of volunteers and employees, IEEE is stronger than when I arrived,” Welby states.

IEEE’s mission of advancing technological innovation for the benefit of humanity drew him to the firm, he suggests, immediately after he served a phrase in the Obama administration as U.S. assistant secretary of protection for investigation and engineering.

About Stephen Welby

Employer: IEEE

Title: Executive Director and Main Working Officer

Member grade: Fellow

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

The IEEE placement “offered an prospect to influence and have interaction a international community,” Welby says. “The function that IEEE is undertaking is critical, and the tips embedded in our mission assertion are significant drivers for guaranteeing that we depart a much better planet to future generations.

“IEEE has an ambitious agenda: supporting our members close to the planet deepening our complex engagement in rising regions setting up communities and disseminating technological information conference a developing demand for complex education and learning exploring new frontiers of specialized expectations and participating with the broader general public about the significant purpose that specialized experts play in setting up a superior planet.”

A dedication to variety and the open accessibility publishing product

Welby lists his most significant accomplishments as encouraging to bolster IEEE’s motivation to diversity, inclusion, and specialist ethics updating the organization’s publication model to enhance its embrace of open up obtain and shoring up its economic footing.

“IEEE is really thoughtful in trying to make positive that it is a voice for all of our associates,” he suggests. “We’ve been getting ways to be as inclusive as possible and to find methods that people today can participate and contribute—which ties back again to our mission. We have acquired to come across strategies to be open, welcoming, and maybe more than encouraging to be certain that most people can contribute to the greatest of their talents.”

All through his tenure, the IEEE Board revised its
policy on diversity to make sure that members have a protected, inclusive place for collegial discourse. Changes also were being designed to the IEEE Code of Ethics to concentration customers on crucial factors of the code, a motivation not to have interaction in harassment, and to shield the privacy of other people.

“The work that IEEE is performing is essential, and the thoughts embedded in our mission assertion are massive motorists for guaranteeing that we depart a far better environment to future generations.”

When Welby commenced doing work for IEEE, he claims, the open obtain publishing movement was perceived as a danger, but today he sees it as an prospect. The movement phone calls for generating study publications obtainable without fees for the reader.

“This needs a shift to new small business types to address charges that have been previously funded with membership service fees,” he suggests. “IEEE has been responsive to this change in a careful, deliberate, and liable way. We are offering a huge range of chances and resources for people to interact. The evolution of our publication exercise has been about responding to group requires for new and diverse choices.”

20 open up accessibility journals have been introduced in the past five decades, for a whole of 29 in the portfolio. Currently they make up extra than 20 % of IEEE’s journal publishing output and that proportion is developing, Welby claims.

He claims he is very pleased that IEEE is considerably more robust fiscally than when he begun. In 2018, its complete net belongings were being US $391 million, and by the finish of past yr it experienced much more than $851 million, he states. He adds that he anticipates solid success for this 12 months as perfectly.

“To assistance our mission in perpetuity, IEEE requirements powerful financial reserves—ideally reserves that are large adequate to provide as reputable and stabilizing resources of profits,” he suggests. “Doubling our reserves has been a considerable accomplishment and represents an investment in our long term and our prolonged-phrase motivation to our mission.”

A smiling man stands in front of racks of servers
Welby going to IEEE’s server home in its offices in Piscataway, New Jersey.Brad Trent

Other achievements, he claims, include things like the
IEEE Specifications Association’s facilitation of conversations about the dependable use of synthetic intelligence.

One more is the function that IEEE-United states has accomplished in encouraging to condition public coverage regarding technological know-how. He points to big U.S. legislation handed this year: the
Inflation Reduction Act, and the Developing Helpful Incentives for Making Semiconductors for The us and Foundries Act. Welby predicts that other nations around the world will make related investments, and he says he hopes IEEE will guidance those as very well.

“IEEE is in an intriguing spot relative to community policy in the United States, Europe, and just about everywhere for the reason that we converse to the considerations of technologists, and about know-how and how it impacts polices and laws,” he suggests. “We’re not arguing for a unique stakeholder we’re arguing for investments in advancing know-how. We’re engaged around the earth in serving to to assure that exploration is sufficiently funded and that technical education receives the assist it needs.”

The affect of the pandemic and international tensions

Primary a worldwide business that relies upon on in-person meetings and events has tested primarily demanding in current a long time. Soon after the coronavirus pandemic commenced spreading in 2020, the organization instantly shifted its organization model from constructing communities through in-person engagement to relying virtually solely on digital supply, Welby claims.

“IEEE has a name for becoming a conservative firm, for getting gradual to alter, and from time to time for getting extremely rule-bound and bureaucratic,” he states. “But in the encounter of a world crisis, we adapted promptly. Staff members and volunteers worked intently alongside one another to redesign and redeploy IEEE functions in a fashion that authorized our communities to continue being connected even whilst bodily distancing themselves for protection. There was great have confidence in, fantastic collaboration, and great success.

“The capability to react, to transform, to evolve, and to adapt is one of IEEE’s great strengths,” he provides. “That makes me come to feel it will be completely ready to just take on whatsoever the long term brings and provide on our mission.”

Geopolitical tensions in recent many years have impacted IEEE, he notes. Conflict amid nations around the world, trade limitations, and proliferating international sanctions among nations have designed new challenges for IEEE pursuits, he says.

“We have labored difficult to keep targeted on IEEE’s function in supporting an international local community of engineers and specialized experts that spans national borders and supports a world wide determination to expanding the scientific and complex knowledge of humankind,” he says. “But IEEE also need to operate in compliance with relevant rules and polices while trying to find clarification of these that show up misapplied in the IEEE context. At the exact time, we are sympathetic to the hardships that intercontinental rigidity can put on our customers.”

Coordinating the great scope and scale of IEEE pursuits is complicated. IEEE operates in 160 countries has 46 societies and councils has 343 sections in 10 geographic regions maintains a portfolio of much more than 1,075 specialized requirements publishes 200 transactions, journals, and publications and retains more than 1,900 conferences and functions.

“Trying to maintain coordination and synchronization across this huge portfolio, running chance, and prioritizing methods is a continual obstacle,” Welby claims.

He states his 1 regret is that extra development has not been made in evolving IEEE’s membership model. The design has remained somewhat unchanged due to the fact the organization was recognized in 1963. He factors out that general membership development has mostly flattened, inspite of the increased part that technologies performs in culture. Throughout IEEE there has been a drop in the share of customers functioning in business, although at the similar time there has been modern robust development in college student membership.

“We go on to count on encounter-to-confront conversation for lots of of our main membership pursuits, despite the growth of on the internet, digital, and digital communities,” Welby suggests. “Prospective volunteers are doing work for a longer time hrs [and] have relatives commitments. Moreover, there are other functions competing for their time. The time and electricity commitments that IEEE has customarily demanded of its volunteers may possibly not be a feasible system in coming many years. It may perhaps be time to fundamentally rethink the structure of IEEE membership and investigate different methods to engage our associates.”

He notes that these concerns have been analyzed and debated, and initiatives have been undertaken to investigate alternate membership types. But, he says, there stays extra perform to do to develop consensus on the potential of membership.

Assembly with sector leaders and engineering students

Welby states he’ll pass up the concentrated chaos of an IEEE Board assembly sequence, in which lots of decisions—great and small—are debated and resolved in a quick time period of time. He’ll also skip conversing to audiences of hundreds of people about essential technological matters, he suggests, and conference with leaders from govt and sector.

“I have experienced the option to see the wonderful variety of our membership,” he claims, “and the excellent operate that they do, and their effect on the planet. I invested a lot of time conversing to as numerous volunteers in various roles as I could. I have notably enjoyed participating with college students all over the globe and looking at their enthusiasm, their creativity, and their optimism. They give me excellent hope for our future.”

Welby adds that he could not have accomplished as significantly as he did without the assistance and self-confidence of the IEEE presidents and boards he served, the hundreds of IEEE volunteers, his senior administration workforce, and the expert staff members members about the environment “who brought their creative imagination, determination, and complex competencies to each and every undertaking.”

“I will leave it to other folks to assess how effective I have been,” he says. “But I have woken up every single day for the previous 5 several years pondering about what I could do to enhance and advance IEEE’s mission.”