I recently returned from Shanghai, where I attended the IEC Young Professional Programme for the second time, this year returning as a 2018 Young Professional Leader.
As I’m sure is true for many attendees, I’m always sad when the event ends and we say goodbye to our new friends, a wonderful country, and return to the real world – but one of the highlights of coming home is receiving photos from the event. This photo is one of my favourites! Here, I’m walking with my fellow 2018 YP Leaders, Xun Gong and Frank Bakker, getting ready to welcome the new YPs during the Welcome Reception.
Returning this year was an opportunity to reflect on what I had learned through the Programme over the past year as well as how it has impacted me, both personally and professionally. First and foremost, participating in the Programme taught me about the IEC’s processes and challenges.
Additionally, it also drove home an important, but more subtle lesson in diversity: of background, discipline, gender, and region, while not yet perfectly balanced in the IEC, is valued highly, and many efforts are ongoing to improve the diversity of the organization. In fact, this was my promise to the YPs as I nominated myself for YP Leader in 2018, and it resonated, as I was elected.
In addition to understanding how the IEC functions, there are many opportunities for YPs and YP Leaders to practise and refine “soft skills” – the ability to communicate to an international audience, feeling comfortable presenting to a large group of people, and knowing when to give a group in the middle of a contentious discussion a coffee break.
Being able to practise these skills has made me more comfortable in front of a room and willing to take on leadership positions both in the US National Committee and in my career – but the benefits of this programme don’t end with professional development.
Without the IEC Young Professional Programme, I would never have come to my current (and ever evolving) understanding of the role of standards and conformity assessment in sustainability, safety, and global trade.
I wouldn’t have the global perspective or insights provided by my colleagues on politics and trends around the world, and I while I always knew that international collaboration was important, I now realize it is integral to solving any complex and wide-reaching challenge.
I wouldn’t have been able to visit wonderful countries and learn more about our neighbors across the world – and most importantly, I wouldn’t have made the wonderful friends I have now.
Though my tenure as a Young Professional Leader has ended, my involvement in the standards and conformity assessment has just begun – and it all started with the IEC Young Professionals Programme.