Saying Yes to Opportunities: IPC’s Emerging Engineer Program Offers Career Growth for Electronics Industry Newcomers


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What makes the IPC Emerging Engineer Program a premier networking and career enriching program? IPC staff spoke to Emerging Engineer Kate Stees, materials and process engineer, Lockheed Martin, about her experience in the program and why she recommends it to other engineers.

IPC: Why did you choose to enroll in IPC’s Emerging Engineer program?

Stees: I attended an IPC committee meeting for the first time in 2017. As a newcomer, it was challenging to follow what was happening in the meetings, as well as a little intimidating with so many industry experts in the room. Nonetheless, I knew I wanted to get involved in the IPC standards development process, so I volunteered for an action item. Shortly after, I was approached by the IPC liaison from that committee. She told me about the EE program, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to learn about IPC standards development from experienced IPC members.

IPC: What have you learned about IPC standards and your role in creating/revising/ them?

Stees: I knew that IPC standards are created and updated by committee members, but I didn’t realize how much power each committee member has in the standards development, until I joined the EE program. All you have to do is get involved!

IPC: How has meeting and working with a mentor helped you in your career?

Stees: I was lucky enough to have two very knowledgeable mentors. My first year of the Emerging Engineer program, my assigned mentor was unable to make IPC APEX EXPO. I was concerned, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because another experienced IPC member volunteered to be my substitute mentor. Both mentors are very highly respected individuals both at the company I work for and in the IPC community, and it was an honor to learn from them. They were very proactive in helping me navigate the committee meetings and introducing me to the key individuals. I now have a better understanding of the IPC standards, as well as two great resources at work—one on the printed wiring board side and another on the circuit card assembly side.

IPC: What is the most valuable aspect of the Emerging Engineer program?

Stees: The most valuable aspect of the Emerging Engineer program is that it ‘forces’ you to network with anyone and everyone at the IPC events. For example, for our first year in the program one of the program tasks was to take selfies at different events. This included taking selfies with IPC members, IPC committee liaisons and other IPC employees, show floor vendors, technical presenters, etc. I do not like selfies, especially selfies with people I just met – how awkward is that! However, I am so glad I did it. The selfies forced me to break the ice—I now had an excuse to form valuable connections with others at the IPC events.

IPC: Having learned from the program, what advice would you give to engineers who are just starting their careers?

Stees: This is my third and final year of the Emerging Engineer program. I am currently a vice-chair and an A-Team lead for a large committee. I did not envision this three years ago; I just said yes to the opportunities that made me feel uncomfortable and challenged me. My advice to the engineers that are starting their careers is to take the opportunities that make you step out of your comfort zone because that is the only way one can grow.

IPC: What, if anything, would you change about the program?

Stees: The Emerging Engineer program is catered towards the individuals with less than five years of industry experience. I think it would be great to have a similar program for those individuals that are in the mid-career range but have not had an opportunity to get involved with the IPC until recently.

IPC: What opportunities does IPC’s Emerging Engineer program afford you that you could not have experienced on your own?

Stees: The opportunity to kick-start your participation in IPC standards development. In addition to all the valuable knowledge and connections, the program also provides you with a complimentary All-Access Package registration to IPC APEX EXPO for three years and complimentary IPC SummerCom registration. This gives an engineer early in their career valuable leverage when trying to justify the initial travel to such events.

Now accepting applications for the 2020 Emerging Engineer Program and a limited number of University Student positions are available! If you’re interested in applying for or learning more about the Emerging Engineer program, please email us at careerdevelopment@ipc.org. Deadline for applications is November 15, 2019.

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