Stephen Welby: A Man on a Mission

In his 5 yrs as IEEE’s government director and chief working officer, Stephen Welby has led the corporation through a world pandemic, a switching publishing landscape, and soaring geopolitical tensions. Welby, an IEEE Fellow, is leaving at the conclude of the 12 months to devote extra time with his family though he explores his vocation alternatives. The IEEE Board of Directors has named Sophie Muirhead, IEEE’s latest standard counsel and CCO, as his substitution.

Welby directs the day-to-day operations of IEEE and its roughly 1,000 workforce. While the IEEE Board of Administrators sets the organization’s guidelines and strategic way, the government director’s career is to employ them and give enter about challenges influencing the organization’s long run.


“I sense cozy with stepping out of my position at this time for the reason that I really feel that, in almost each and every way, thanks to the tricky function of volunteers and staff, IEEE is much better than when I arrived,” Welby claims.

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

About Stephen Welby

Employer: IEEE

Title: Executive Director and Main Operating Officer

Member quality: Fellow

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

The IEEE situation “offered an possibility to impact and interact a international group,” Welby claims. “The do the job that IEEE is accomplishing is crucial, and the concepts embedded in our mission assertion are major motorists for making sure that we go away a improved planet to long run generations.

“IEEE has an formidable agenda: supporting our customers all around the world deepening our technological engagement in emerging areas building communities and disseminating complex details meeting a escalating demand from customers for complex education and learning discovering new frontiers of technological benchmarks and participating with the broader public about the critical part that specialized gurus perform in constructing a improved globe.”

A motivation to diversity and the open up entry publishing model

Welby lists his most significant achievements as encouraging to reinforce IEEE’s commitment to range, inclusion, and skilled ethics updating the organization’s publication design to boost its embrace of open accessibility and shoring up its economical footing.

“IEEE is very thoughtful in striving to make absolutely sure that it is a voice for all of our members,” he suggests. “We’ve been taking techniques to be as inclusive as doable and to find methods that people can take part and contribute—which ties back to our mission. We have obtained to uncover means to be open up, welcoming, and probably additional than encouraging to make sure that most people can lead to the ideal of their qualities.”

All through his tenure, the IEEE Board revised its
coverage on diversity to ensure that members have a risk-free, inclusive spot for collegial discourse. Modifications also had been created to the IEEE Code of Ethics to concentrate associates on important elements of the code, a motivation not to have interaction in harassment, and to protect the privacy of other folks.

“The get the job done that IEEE is performing is significant, and the thoughts embedded in our mission assertion are significant motorists for making certain that we go away a greater earth to long run generations.”

When Welby commenced operating for IEEE, he suggests, the open up accessibility publishing motion was perceived as a menace, but nowadays he sees it as an possibility. The motion phone calls for generating study publications out there without fees for the reader.

“This requires a shift to new business enterprise versions to go over expenditures that have been earlier funded with membership service fees,” he claims. “IEEE has been responsive to this alter in a cautious, deliberate, and accountable way. We are providing a large wide range of opportunities and instruments for people to engage. The evolution of our publication action has been about responding to neighborhood needs for new and diverse offerings.”

Twenty open accessibility journals have been introduced in the earlier 5 years, for a complete of 29 in the portfolio. These days they make up more than 20 per cent of IEEE’s journal publishing output and that share is escalating, Welby suggests.

He claims he is very pleased that IEEE is significantly more powerful fiscally than when he begun. In 2018, its total web assets ended up US $391 million, and by the conclude of last year it experienced extra than $851 million, he suggests. He adds that he anticipates powerful benefits for this calendar year as properly.

“To aid our mission in perpetuity, IEEE requirements robust money reserves—ideally reserves that are massive ample to serve as trusted and stabilizing sources of earnings,” he states. “Doubling our reserves has been a considerable accomplishment and represents an investment in our upcoming and our very long-time period commitment to our mission.”

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

Other achievements, he claims, contain the
IEEE Benchmarks Association’s facilitation of conversations about the accountable use of artificial intelligence.

A different is the perform that IEEE-United states has carried out in assisting to form community policy relating to technologies. He points to significant U.S. legislation handed this calendar year: the
Inflation Reduction Act, and the Developing Beneficial Incentives for Producing Semiconductors for The united states and Foundries Act. Welby predicts that other international locations will make equivalent investments, and he says he hopes IEEE will guidance those as perfectly.

“IEEE is in an appealing location relative to community coverage in the United States, Europe, and almost everywhere because we speak to the problems of technologists, and about technology and how it impacts polices and legislation,” he suggests. “We’re not arguing for a distinct stakeholder we’re arguing for investments in advancing technology. We’re engaged all-around the world in helping to assure that exploration is adequately funded and that complex education and learning gets the guidance it demands.”

The impact of the pandemic and international tensions

Major a world-wide group that depends on in-person conferences and activities has established especially hard in new a long time. Right after the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in 2020, the corporation out of the blue shifted its business design from making communities via in-individual engagement to relying just about solely on electronic supply, Welby says.

“IEEE has a reputation for currently being a conservative group, for staying slow to alter, and in some cases for becoming overly rule-certain and bureaucratic,” he states. “But in the deal with of a world-wide disaster, we tailored promptly. Staff and volunteers labored closely collectively to redesign and redeploy IEEE activities in a method that allowed our communities to continue being connected even although physically distancing on their own for security. There was great have confidence in, wonderful collaboration, and excellent results.

“The ability to answer, to alter, to evolve, and to adapt is one particular of IEEE’s terrific strengths,” he provides. “That tends to make me come to feel it will be completely ready to consider on whichever the long term delivers and deliver on our mission.”

Geopolitical tensions in the latest several years have impacted IEEE, he notes. Conflict among the international locations, trade constraints, and proliferating intercontinental sanctions among nations have created new issues for IEEE functions, he claims.

“We have labored tough to keep centered on IEEE’s job in supporting an international neighborhood of engineers and technical industry experts that spans countrywide borders and supports a global commitment to increasing the scientific and specialized information of humankind,” he says. “But IEEE also will have to work in compliance with relevant laws and regulations whilst trying to find clarification of these that seem misapplied in the IEEE context. At the very same time, we are sympathetic to the hardships that global rigidity can spot on our users.”

Coordinating the enormous scope and scale of IEEE actions is elaborate. IEEE operates in 160 countries has 46 societies and councils has 343 sections in 10 geographic locations maintains a portfolio of additional than 1,075 specialized benchmarks publishes 200 transactions, journals, and journals and retains much more than 1,900 conferences and situations.

“Trying to keep coordination and synchronization throughout this huge portfolio, managing threat, and prioritizing assets is a ongoing obstacle,” Welby states.

He suggests his one regret is that additional development has not been built in evolving IEEE’s membership model. The model has remained relatively unchanged considering that the firm was recognized in 1963. He details out that in general membership development has mainly flattened, regardless of the greater function that technology plays in modern society. Throughout IEEE there has been a decrease in the share of customers functioning in industry, while at the very same time there has been current potent advancement in college student membership.

“We proceed to rely on facial area-to-deal with conversation for lots of of our core membership activities, regardless of the growth of on the internet, digital, and electronic communities,” Welby states. “Prospective volunteers are performing longer hrs [and] have relatives commitments. Additionally, there are other actions competing for their time. The time and energy commitments that IEEE has usually demanded of its volunteers might not be a feasible system in coming decades. It may be time to basically rethink the structure of IEEE membership and explore various ways to interact our associates.”

He notes that those concerns have been examined and debated, and initiatives have been undertaken to take a look at option membership products. But, he suggests, there remains a lot more get the job done to do to establish consensus on the upcoming of membership.

Assembly with field leaders and engineering students

Welby states he’ll skip the concentrated chaos of an IEEE Board meeting collection, where by a lot of decisions—great and small—are debated and decided in a small period of time of time. He’ll also overlook conversing to audiences of thousands of folks about significant specialized subject areas, he says, and assembly with leaders from federal government and marketplace.

“I have experienced the prospect to see the astounding variety of our membership,” he says, “and the great get the job done that they do, and their impression on the environment. I used a lot of time chatting to as quite a few volunteers in various roles as I could. I have specifically liked participating with pupils all-around the earth and viewing their enthusiasm, their creativeness, and their optimism. They give me terrific hope for our future.”

Welby adds that he could not have achieved as considerably as he did with out the support and self-confidence of the IEEE presidents and boards he served, the countless numbers of IEEE volunteers, his senior administration team, and the skilled workers customers close to the planet “who introduced their creativity, dedication, and specialized techniques to each activity.”

“I will leave it to other individuals to evaluate how powerful I have been,” he claims. “But I have woken up each day for the past 5 years contemplating about what I could do to increase and progress IEEE’s mission.”

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