Will Dilbert Join The Board Of Trustees?
So it was with some surprise during a particularly intense debate last night that we began to be distracted by some strange noises on the conference phone.
At first we put it down to background buzz on the line, but fairly quickly the source of the noise became very clear.
It was purring.
Any doubts were cast aside when the purring moved to meowing. Either we had a cat on the line or our President has hitherto unknown skill as a ventriloquist and animal impersonator.
I don't mean to imply that this particular Trustee had abdicated their responsibilities and left a cat in their place.
And then of course, we as engineers began to wonder, was it possible that this wasn't just any cat but the legendary Catbert? Now since both of the readers of this blog are engineers, I do not need to explain who this is do I? All real engineers of course read Dilbert - for my part I think it's an essential part of CPD and should probably be enshrined in the Bye-Laws of the Institution.
So the conspiracy theorists may like to speculate that in fact this was Catbert scoping out our BoT before Dilbert gets put up for office. And why not - Dilbert is after all probably the best known engineer in the world these days.
And, in case you're really into the comic strip, I'd like to make it clear that the Pointy Haired Boss would not be eligible for election to our Board of Trustees....
Dilbert could have been persuaded to stand. Or it could just be that a cat wandered into the room and wasn't immediately noticed by the remote Trustee or that they didn't realise how loudly the cat was purring.
Either way, I have to say that in my many years on various IET (and IEE) boards and committees, this is the first time I've heard a feline contribution to proceedings. And I'm rather looking forward to the minutes of the meeting since Andrew is meticulous in recording which Trustees are or are not present for each item on the agenda. So I expect to see Catbert, agenda items 4.1 - 5.2 only....
Before the meeting some of us took another tour around Savoy Place. It's been a long almost 2 years since we decamped to the Mechanicals and I have to say they've made us most welcome. But still, it will be nice to go home in October. And, having seen the amazing space that is Savoy Place once it had been gutted, it's really great to see it all coming together again.
I've attached some photographs which start to give you an idea. The roof terrace is beginning to look spectacular, although it must be said that the seemingly rickety temporary steps to get up there caused a few somewhat nervous looks amongst certain Trustees. And the new members area looks fantastic already. Such a big space, light and airy and of course with great views. It's going to be called Members First - which rather sounds like a train operating company to me - but just wait until you're in it. And I was able to get a first look at what will become my new office - known as the bar to you - so I'm particularly looking forward to October.
You'll notice from the photographs that 3 of your Trustees were wearing particularly suitable high-vis jackets - 'Savoy Place opening Autumn 2015'. Who says the IET isn't good at marketing....
I know some people have had doubts about the wisdom of this refurbishment, but they are going to have to think again when it becomes clear what a great centre for engineering has been created and also how much it will be used by our members.
After the main Trustee meeting we had Colin Arthur as our dinner guest. Colin is the Chairman of the Community Resource Committee and outlined some fabulous statistics about what is going on. It's really reassuring for someone like me who is about to drop out off the Trustees and indeed the senior governance for the last time to see such an important and vibrant part of the IET being so well run by someone so young. With people like Colin coming through I reckon I can reach for the pipe and slippers without a care in the world.
Actually I was very surprised to learn recently that a number of people who profess concern about our governance didn't actually know about CRC. In the (very) old days we had a Council which was partly made up of representatives of what we now call the LNs. It was a good system for its day and one which I came up through myself. However those were different times and today we are much more international in reality - although clearly still with some way to go.
So it is that we now have five Community Committees around the world who look after and encourage communities (LNs and much more) in their geography. And they also allocate the funding for these. The level of activity is immense with nearly 100,000 delegates of whom well over a quarter were under 30.
All of these Community Committees report into the CRC and indeed their chairs are ex-offico on CRC. As a former member of CRC myself I know how well this system operates and how well the operational side our worldwide activities runs. CRC by the way controls the entire communities budget on behalf of the board (currently KSB) to whom it reports.
So the system is these days very different, but has now operated very well for 4 years and I hear nothing but good reports. The various communities, including by the way our TPNs, generally find that money is not an issue. They can run as many events as they have volunteers to support. Issues which arise are efficiently dealt either at the level of their own geographical Community Committee or where necessary referred up to CRC and sometimes beyond it.
And very importantly, there is an extra Community Committee for our young professionals. And, as a (very) past chair of our national younger members organisation myself, I'm really pleased to see it is vibrant, innovative and very successful.
So, overall, my take on this is that our member facing activities are being well run under a modern system which is operating extremely well.
So - only two more Trustee meetings to go before another third of the Trustees retire, our first female President takes over and we are back in Savoy Place.
Who needs Dilbert or Catbert - the IET remains an interesting and exciting place as ever.