Alexandros Osana, IEEE Region 8 SIGHT Coordinator, shares his inspiration to work with SIGHT and memorable moments from his time as a volunteer. Mr. Osana is interviewed by Celia Shahnaz, Professor of electrical and electronics engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in Dhaka.
1. What inspired you to join IEEE SIGHT?
When I first heard about SIGHT, I was a student volunteer, recently appointed as a student chapters coordinator of Region 8. At some point during my activities, I read about a SIGHT group in Region 10 and it felt like I found something I was looking for a long time: An opportunity to use technology to tackle humanitarian challenges.
However, my region had no central coordination team dedicated to the humanitarian initiatives of IEEE. That obvious gap led me to put the issue on the table in a discussion with the region director, and thanks to his understanding, we decided to establish the first Regional Humanitarian Activities Committee. This was a new, unknown game to me, but I was totally confident that we were moving the right way.
2. How does being a SIGHT volunteer supplement your profession?
SIGHT was my calling within IEEE. My motivation was that SIGHT’s mission is aligned with my own personal interests, allowing me to contribute through an activity which addresses societal challenges. Within these two years since the foundation of the Committee in region 8, I found a second source of motivation: IEEE SIGHT is probably the only IEEE program that educates IEEE members on the topic of sustainable technology development. A SIGHT project is unique opportunity to develop critical skills, from the design of a project idea and formulation of a project proposal to project management and business strategies.
The “acquaintance” with the topic of sustainable development impacted my professional life in many ways. I recently found myself at a point in my career when I had to divide my time between technical activities and project development or technology innovation management. During that period, my involvement in the program allowed me to enhance the skills required for my work. On top of that, it also helped me take a key decision in my academic path towards studies related to technology management. That would not have happened if not for SIGHT.
3. What is your most memorable SIGHT moment?
A moment I will never forget was the official announcement of the Humanitarian Activities Committee formation by the R8 past-Director Costas Stasopoulos during a Regional Meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I was not informed that an announcement was scheduled and those days I investing my efforts to gather up some forces for my new team. So, during the dinner on that day, numerous IEEE officers and country representative approached me to congratulate for the new initiative and share ideas on projects with me. Every single person that I spoke with that night had a small or big idea on a project that would impact an underserved community. It was at that moment that my mission became clear to me: To provide these people with an opportunity and the means necessary to realize their ideas and positively impact their local community. That moment made me feel truly proud of what I was working on.
4. What is one thing IEEE SIGHT should consider doing?
Around the globe, there are many teams and organizations focusing on sustainable development projects. Although each organization has a different approach, it is necessary that we seek broader collaborations, such as the one with Engineers without Borders. These alliances will not only benefit IEEE, but will also accelerate and facilitate the individual projects.
A second key point is that many of the projects developed under SIGHT are innovative enough to leverage Venture Capitals, thus securing additional funding to becomemore sustainable or even evolve to a small humanitarian start-up. This approach will also attract more non-IEEE volunteers to participate in a Project – an engagement which will prove the extrovertcharacter of our organization and increases the success potential of an idea implementation.
5. Are there any suggestions you would like to give to SIGHT?
The diversity of Region 8 (Europe, Africa and Middle East) gave my team and me a valuable insight: Different regions of the world have different needs and cannot be treated under the same “Model”. For instance, in developing countries, community projects with feet-on-the ground activity and larger scale technology deployment are more likely to happen.On the other hand, in Central European countries, technology projects focusing on services (such as smart platform) have larger success margins. I believe it is worth examining this beautiful diversity and customize out support to the local groups accordingly.
6. How do you suggest that SIGHT can appeal more to Young Professionals?
In my opinion, if there is one IEEE group that can bring the most value in a SIGHT project, that would be the Young Professionals. I developed this conviction through my own experience as a young professional, for two reasons:
- Having completed their studies, Young Professionals have adequate skills, not only to participate in a SIGHT project, but also to manage and lead a project in their location. In addition to that, for those YPs that are already working in industry, a SIGHT project is an opportunity to develop critical skills that are useful for both their professional and IEEE progress.
- Due to their affiliation to industry, YPs can usually leverage their network (partners and companies) to support a SIGHT activity, offering technical knowhow, providing consulting or even getting involved in a non-profit contribution scheme.
The YPs is the only IEEE group so flexible and well positioned to participate -or even better initiate- a SIGHT activity.
A challenge for Young Professionals is usually their time availability, as at this stage of one’s career, the personal plans are more or less fluid. However, the SIGHT program is flexible enough to allow the team to customize the contribution of every member.
7. How do you suggest that SIGHT encourage membership by members of Women in Engineering?
A Humanitarian Activity project bases its success on the diversity of the group that develops it, in order to provide a solution to an underserved community with a variety of difficulties. Such diverse group –in my experience- tend to approach a problem from more angles and thus be able to understand it in depth. Our Committee in Region 8 enjoys such diversity and I feel it is a key contributor to our successful operations.
8. How can SIGHT collaborate with other IEEE technical societies?
As a Regional Coordinator, I would say: We need you! I am not just suggesting a collaboration. I am indicating that if we wish to address harder societal challenges, the Technical Societies’ members have to step up to the plate and join forces with local volunteers provide technical consulting and knowhow.
9. Is there anything you’d like to add to make your story more amazing?
When I encounter Humanitarian Activity enthusiasts, I enjoy listening about the reasons they are involved in SIGHT. One of the greatest narratives I ever heard was: “I participate in SIGHT because for me it is the manifestation of IEEE’s Mission:Advancing Technology for Humanity. What can be a greater blessing that exercising your passion for technology in order to serve those in need.”
For me this is a message to all the volunteers out there: Not matter what your passion is, make sure you invest it with purpose. SIGHT has a place for every different type of passion.