Setting Standards: The Benefits to Getting Involved

This week let's step back and ensure that CSEs understand the benefits of being involved in the standards setting process.


In past blogs I’ve discussed many of the issues facing consulting-specifying engineers as they address the technical issues relating to substation design and operation, noting pertinent standards along the way. Last week, I outlined the process by which standards are created and ratified.

This week I’d like to step back and ensure that CSEs understand the benefits of being involved in the standards setting process, because it affords innumerable opportunities for personal and career growth, as well as major benefits for the company you serve. For today, let’s look at the personal and career benefits.

As noted last week, engineers involved in the implementation of technology periodically encounter hurdles to equipment interoperability, either physically or in terms of software. Or they discover a gap in established processes for implementation. That engineer, along with colleagues, will forward the idea to one of the IEEE’s technical societies, which may endorse the idea and become Sponsors of subsequent standards work.

The various IEEE Sponsoring Committees, which create and supervise the working groups that tackle the actual definition, writing and ratifying of standards, are organized by technology. There are dozens of such committees, many of which are in the Power and Energy Society, and they include the Substation Committee, Transformers Committee, Power System Relaying Committee, and Switchgear Committee. Participation is open to all IEEE members. You don’t need to be a member of a sponsoring committee to join the working groups. The committees and working groups are composed of movers and shakers in the industry.

Typically, each committee will have a website, which reveals standards currently in progress and the scope of that work, which may aid aspiring CSEs in determining the direction they’d like to pursue.

Becoming acquainted with industry leaders and being exposed to the myriad technical topics engaging the industry today and into the future is the first major benefit. Getting involved in the technical meetings or in standards development also has practical benefits, as that involvement can earn the CSE continuing-education units toward professional engineering requirements in some states.

Getting involved places the CSE at the very center of developments in his/her field. Imagine the networking opportunities! The CSE thus has access to utilities, their equipment vendors, regulators, educational organizations – the full spectrum of stakeholders in the process of grid modernization. Whether you’re interested in the knowledge of your peers, in seeking employment or contacts and insights that will aid your firm, this involvement pays dividends in personal and career growth.

Consultation with colleagues can yield tangible benefits to your technical work, as well as enable friendships and professional relationships that can be the source of valuable references for the future.  Those references may be needed to obtain a professional engineering license. In joining a small consultancy, for instance, the budding engineer seeking his/her professional engineering license will need references for an application. Accrediting organizations typically want to see references from individuals at other companies, from people who have direct knowledge of and experience with that person in an engineering capacity. These references may be needed for achieving the status of “senior member” or “fellow” in IEEE itself. Participation in the standards-setting process by joining one of the working groups is an excellent means to that end.

Finally, the process of working within a committee of your peers, articulating the issues and solutions in search of a new standard – as well as the consensus-building aspect of seeking to ratify a new standard – offers the aspiring CSE broad experience in listening, considering others’ positions and making compromises that hone your professionalism and judgment.  

As you can imagine, this sort of involvement, so vital to the personal and career growth of the individual CSE, will also pay dividends to the companies that employ them. We’ll tackle that subject next week.

Sam Sciacca is an active senior member in the IEEE and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the area of utility automation. He has more than 25 years of experience in the domestic and international electrical utility industries. Sciacca serves as the chair of two IEEE working groups that focus on cyber security for electric utilities: the Substations Working Group C1 (P1686) and the Power System Relay Committee Working Group H13 (PC37.240). Sciacca also is president of SCS Consulting.

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