This year, I celebrate 32 years as a member of SME. After serving in many volunteer positions, from student chapter officer to international director on the SME Board of Directors, I am now serving as chair of the SME Member Council.
Earlier this year, in the Member Council’s monthly From the Desk of… e-newsletter, I presented the various charges developed by 2019 SME President Mark Michalski, which need to be completed this year by the council and its committees. Many of these charges revolved around providing training for our volunteer leaders, increasing support to our member groups, transitioning student members to the emerging professional status, increasing member engagement in our chapters and Technical Communities, creating more effective communications to our leaders and members, and filling the crucial pipeline of volunteer leaders.
As I am writing this editorial, more than 10 project plans have been completed, with almost as many more projected to be finished by December. In developing these plans, we always start with a simple statement, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” In most cases, it involves defining or improving the value proposition for a specific group of current or prospective members, which inevitably leads back to the all-important question: “What’s in it for me?”
A value proposition is not always easily defined because the reality is every member is different. There are, however, common themes that drive membership and its perceived value. The most commonly cited member benefit is the publication you are reading now, Manufacturing Engineering magazine. In it, you will find articles describing cutting-edge technology related to manufacturing, process improvements that can solve problems in your business and, of course, advertisements for innovative products and services. Members in all age groups find this a valuable benefit.
The number two reason people join is the opportunity for networking. Personally, this was and continues to be the number one reason for my membership. As an active SME volunteer, I have met engineering professionals from around the world. We all share a passion for manufacturing and for SME. We come together to share our knowledge, to mentor and prepare the next generation to enter the workforce, and to inspire others to share our vision of SME. I see this as the most common thread that connects members, regardless of their age, education level or engineering specialty. It’s also what sets an active volunteer apart from the “casual” member.
An SME membership also embraces students and researchers, allowing them to engage and expand their classroom education and lab environments to real-world experiences. As industry professionals, we then have a unique opportunity to share our passion and vision with these students. Going one step further, we often utilize SME events to network with volunteers, staff and other members and nonmembers in the manufacturing community who share an interest in the same technologies. Outside SME events, our local chapters welcome postsecondary students and professional members alike.
As the number of our geographically located chapters decrease, we are challenged to find new ways to engage our members and provide networking opportunities. Virtual networking is not a new concept to SME; however, it is gaining importance and removes any obstacles related to location.
There as several opportunities for you to express your passion for manufacturing and contribute to SME’s value proposition. This year, the SME Member Council, along with the Chapter Enhancement Committee, Technical Communities and an Emerging Professionals Task Group, have been creating project plans related to virtual engagement and networking. Some of these projects will be piloted this year or next.
Just like any other event, volunteers are needed to provide input and technical content for conference calls and webinars. SME will provide the connection and promotion; you just need to provide the content. You may ask, what’s in it for me? (WIIFM). Have you ever seen the spark in someone’s eye when they realize you have the answer to a problem they have been addressing, or maybe hear from another SME member that they achieved some success because you were their mentor? If you have, you know the answer to WIIFM. So, helping to engage members online is definitely one way to contribute.
Engagement at the high school level is another important way to become involved in SME. Students at our PRIME schools (smeef.org/prime) are looking for mentors to assist them with their career choices. They may be looking for their first internship or perhaps they plan to go to college— regardless, they are looking for a manufacturing professional to help them make those important decisions.
What if you were to mentor a high school team in a FIRST Robotics competition? Imagine meeting a high school technology instructor 20 years later, who was on that team, and they tell you your involvement led them to pursue their career! It’s not such a far-fetched idea. When my SME chapter decided to sponsor a FIRST LEGO League Jr. team, the instructor told me I inspired his career choice. SME’s local chapters are involved in FIRST at all levels. They also participate in SkillsUSA, the National Robotics Challenge and local competitions throughout the U.S. and Canada. Your local chapter needs volunteers to work with their student chapters, help in planning local tours and speakers, engage with young professionals, and train other leaders.
Are you mid-career, trying to climb the corporate ladder? Involvement in SME can provide professional development, recognition and leadership training to build your resume and add to your list of accomplishments. Serving as a volunteer leader on the Member Council, a committee, or the SME Board of Directors can give you the confidence you need to assume greater responsibility in your profession.
So, when people ask me, what’s in it for me if I join SME, I say: The sky’s the limit! Start today at sme.org/join.
SME’s 2019 election results for six international directors and four Member Council representatives were announced in early September. Eligible voting members of the organization selected these 10 industry and academic leaders.
2020-21 SME International Directors:
Roles and Terms — SME’s Board of Directors play a critical, strategic role as the governing body of the organization; the Member Council oversees membership engagement, retention and recruitment efforts. Both positions were elected for two-year terms beginning January 2020.
Application Deadlines—SME is accepting applications for 2021-22 international directors and Member Council representatives. Apply by Feb. 1, 2020, at connect.sme.org/structure.
SME has elected six manufacturing leaders to its prestigious College of Fellows. Since 1986, SME has recognized over 400 members for their decades of dedication and contribution to the manufacturing profession.
The 2019 Fellows—from industry, government and academia—have made technological inroads in the areas of additive manufacturing, advanced materials and processing, manufacturing technologies, materials joining, thin-film deposition, medical devices, machining and smart manufacturing.
2019 SME College of Fellows:
SME Fellows are a part of the organization’s select community of members who, after selection, receive dues-free membership for life. In November, SME will install the 2019 class during its annual Installation & Awards Gala in Chicago.
Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2020 College of Fellows; submissions are due Dec. 1. Additional award information and nomination criteria can be found at sme.org/fellows.