Moshe Kam IEEE President
Appointment of Dr. Moshe Kam to Dean, Newark College of Engineering
3 April, 2014

ENGINEERING AS A LIBERAL ART: an address to the Edinburgh International Cultural Summit (The Debating Chamber, Scottish Parliament; Edinburgh, Scotland; 14 August 2012)
14 August, 2012

Comments during the dedication of an IEEE Milestone on the World’s First Reliable High Voltage Power Fuse, 1909 (3 August 2012, Chicago, IL, USA)
3 August, 2012

Comments at the Dedication of the IEEE Milestone Mainline Electrification of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1895 (21 June 2012, Baltimore, MD)
9 July, 2012

Comments at the installation of the Iota Lambda Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu at the University of Hong Kong (13 January 2012)
13 January, 2012

Comments at the Unveiling of the IEEE Milestone on the Apollo Guidance Computer, Cambridge, MA
13 December, 2011

Roger Pollard (1 June 1946 - 3 December 2011)
4 December, 2011

As 2011 draws to a close...
3 December, 2011

Member Letter – U.S. Hurricane Irene/Floods
10 September, 2011

Message to IEEE Volunteers and Members in Japan
14 March, 2011

It Is About Value (Not About Price)
11 February, 2011

A Small Miracle in Hyderabad
27 January, 2011

So you are traveling a lot, eh?
17 January, 2011

How Should We Proceed with IEEE’s Humanitarian Efforts?
1 January, 2011

IEEE and Haiti
20 January, 2010

A Most Impressive Quasquicentennial in Hyderabad
7 January, 2010

My New Year Resolution - Seeking Less Experienced Volunteers
2 January, 2010

Mail about IEEE Spectrum article - Powerless in Gaza
26 December, 2009

The list of new IEEE Fellows is out
15 December, 2009

In praise of three tough guys from Trinidad
25 November, 2009

Who will be the 50th President of IEEE?
23 November, 2009

Smart Grid and Standards Search - the Board of Directors approves new initiatives
22 November, 2009

Globalization and Music - a Visit to the IEEE France Section
12 November, 2009

Moshe Kam elected IEEE 2010 President-Elect
7 October, 2009


So you are traveling a lot, eh?

Today (17 January 2011) I served on a panel at the IEEE Power and Energy Society “Innovative Smart Grid Technologies” Conference (ISGT). The conference is in Anaheim, CA. I came to Anaheim yesterday from Ft. Lauderdale, where I participated in a strategic planning meeting of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS, Friday- Saturday). I will be flying to Philadelphia overnight to be at my desk at Drexel University at 8AM on Tuesday.

The most frequent question I am being asked when introduced as the President of IEEE, and the one I was asked again and again in Ft. Lauderdale and in Anaheim, is this: “so… you are traveling a lot, eh?” The impression that I get from the tone of the question and from the follow-ups, is the strong presumption of many nights of wild dancing in the discos of Acapulco, long trips to the jungles of the Amazon, wine tasting in Tuscany, and bar hopping in Ibiza.

So, as to not disappoint future aspirants to the presidency of IEEE, let me calibrate the expectations and explain what is really going on.

It is true that I travel a lot. There are five reasons for that: (1) The Board of Directors of IEEE meets from time to time and I am its presiding officer; (2) there are functional meetings of IEEE committees that take place outside Philadelphia where I need to raise an issue, contribute a perspective, or, sometimes, diffuse tensions; (3) there are non-IEEE leaders (from other associations, from the government, from private organizations and foundations) with whom I need to meet in order to further IEEE interests or gain publicity for IEEE; (4) there are panels, inauguration of IEEE projects, public events, opportunities to give testimony and speak to the public and/or the press, where my presence is needed or highly preferred; (5) there are IEEE events where I am asked to appear in order to “hold the flag” and encourage our volunteers (for example, when an important award is given, or when there is a large student activity conference).

I have some control over (2)-(5), in the sense that I do not have (and, in fact, cannot) accept all invitations – the Past President and the President Elect help with many of these events. However, due to the fact that there are so many events, there is clear priority to those that happen over the weekend (so that I do not have to miss work) and those that happen in periods that are less intensive in my day job at Drexel (for instance, I am never available for travel during the first week of classes every term; I try to schedule trips for the break between terms, etc.).

Each one of these events requires preparations. While I get a lot of help from IEEE staff members, I still write my own speeches and prepare my own PowerPoint presentations. When I fly somewhere to give an award, I study the history of the award as well as the accomplishments and writings of the recipient. When I get ready to discuss a subject such as Education Reform or the Smart Grid, I do my own research, and develop my own slides on these subjects. When I speak in a dedication of an IEEE milestone, I speak in my own voice, describing my interpretation of its historical and technical significance.

I have certainly gained a lot of sightseeing during my trips – sometimes the conference is right there near the famous waterfall or the meeting is two blocks away from the national museum. I go if I can, but this is truly incidental. The usual trip is focused on the business at hand – you land, drive to the hotel, go to the meetings, drive to the airport and fly back. In one of my trips to Beijing I had time to see the Forbidden City and part of the Great Wall of China. In another trip I flew in at 5AM, met with representatives of an accrediting agency at 9AM and flew back at 11PM… Not much sightseeing (or sleep) there I am afraid. In fact in some cities that I have “visited,” all I saw is the road to and from a local hotel (such were my visits to Belgrade and New Delhi; I have no idea how these cities really look).

My point is that this is a bit less glamorous that usually assumed, and from time to time can become quite intensive. Usually my trips are very pleasant and satisfying – all goals of the trip are achieved, or a wonderful achievement of a group of engineers or scientists is celebrated; I get to meet very interesting and thoughtful people, including bright and hard-working volunteers. However, at other times, a long trip may end up as a big disappointment. Last year, as President-Elect, I took a very long trip to see an official in a country that will remain nameless… The official let us wait for him two and a half hours past the time of appointment. Then he cut me off quite rudely after two introductory sentences, and proceeded to say that essentially he has no interest in what IEEE has to offer. Never had, never will. The meeting lasted 14 minutes. We took a cab back to the airport. It happens.

It is theoretically possible that some past IEEE President found time for wine tasting in Tuscany and indeed hopped between the bars in Ibiza. If they did, I have not yet deciphered their secret…

Moshe Kam ( ) ECE Department, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
The opinions expressed on this website are the opinions of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the IEEE