Humans of IEEE WIE refers to a dedicated WIE volunteer who is well known for his/her notable contribution to IEEE WIE. In this inaugural issue, Celia Shahnaz, 2023-24 IEEE WIE Committee (WIEC) Chair is selected/invited as the Humans of IEEE WIE. Celia is the first Chair elected into the role by the global WIE membership, the phenomenon is a historical milestone for IEEE WIE. We are very pleased to include an exclusive interview with Celia Shahnaz in this IEEE WIE Newsletter.

IEEE WIE: Please give us a brief introduction about yourself and your family.

CELIA: I am currently serving as a Professor at the Department of EEE, BUET, Bangladesh (Bangladesh’s highest-ranked Engineering university) since 2015. I did my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at EEE, BUET. I received my Ph.D. degree from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering(ECE), Concordia University, Canada as a Canadian Common Scholar..

I am the recipient of the 2021 IEEE MGA Achievement Award, the 2021 Inspiring Women in Academia Award from the Bangladesh Brand Forum, the 2019 R10 Humanitarian Activities Outstanding Volunteer Award, the 2016 MGA Leadership Award 2015 WIE Inspiring Member Award, 2013 R10 WIE Professional Volunteer Award. I have been an active volunteer with WIE for 19 years and with IEEE for 22 years. Please visit LinkedIn, to learn more and connect.

I was born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where my mother was a professor (Principal) and my father worked in public relations and publications (Director). My brother and his wife are now both faculty members at the University of Texas Arlington, Texas, USA while my husband teaches alongside me as a Professor at EEE, BUET, and a passionate long-time IEEE volunteer. We have one son, Shahir, who is close to 10 years old.

I love music, am a Rabindra Sangeet singer, and also enjoy recitation and reading both technical and non-technical articles

IEEE WIE: What is your specific area of STEM?

CELIA:  My area of STEM and research interests include the areas of signal processing for speech analysis, speech enhancement, audio-visual recognition for biometric security, multimodal emotion recognition, pattern recognition, machine learning and deep learning for audio, video, biomedical, and power signals, control system, robotics, and humanitarian technology.

I have published more than 160 international journal/conference papers (Google Scholar). I am a senior member of IEEE and a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers of Bangladesh (IEB). I am a recipient of the Bangladesh Academy of Science Gold Medal for my contributions to science and technology. The World Academy of Science (TWAS) members have elected me as a Fellow of TWAS for the advancement of science in developing countries, effective 1 January 2023. Recently, I have been inducted into IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu as a Professional Member of the Eta Chapter of the Board of Governors.

IEEE WIE: Please tell us something interesting about your life that may be why you chose the STEM field.

CELIA:  I first became interested in STEM in my childhood, fascinated by the technology around me as I grew up, such as television, toaster, iron, music player, and pressure cooker–I found their working principle pretty interesting and their capacity of providing technical solutions to do the tasks amazed me. I became more curious about knowing the electrical and electronic components around me and the know-how of those items that were easing our lives.

Therefore, STEM was always around me and I gravitated toward it due to my passion. I was introduced to the world of computer programming during my undergraduate study at EEE, BUET. I learned different programming languages during my undergraduate, M.SC, and Ph.D. research. When I returned from my Ph.D. to BUET as an Assistant Professor, I became the first female Ph.D. to return to the EEE department of the university and, later, its first female Professor. I continued learning more about STEM fields till now to supervise my undergraduate, M.SC, and Ph.D. students to keep me current and updated with emerging technology. I found the STEM fields challenging but their contributions to serve and benefit the community motivated me to retrain here and be an ambassador and an advocate of STEM.

IEEE WIE: As an empowered woman, please share how you plan to empower other women. How do you encourage them to take leadership positions?

CELIA:  I plan to empower WIE members by sharing resources, increasing partnerships and engagement among Regional WIE coordinators, Society Liaisons to WIE, Students, YPs, LM, HKN, Entrepreneurship committee, Industry engagement committee, Future directions committee, etc. It is important to connect them beyond IEEE WIE through broad societal issues, such as climate change assessment and capacity building as a provider of technical solutions to mitigate the problem with an overall goal of increasing visibility of and for WIE members around the world. I encourage and want to help them to have a stronger collaboration with the more than 39 technical societies and councils in IEEE through technical conferences, seminars, workshops, panels in their flagship society, and regional events.

I encourage them to apply for senior membership and serve as distinguished lecturers of different technical societies. Enhancing Fellow Elevation Drives is another approach to ensure their qualifications for leadership. IEEE WIE wants to increase the existing program values to WIE members and help them to be empowered by soliciting their participation and applications in WIE Special and initial fundings, travel grants to attend conferences, Scholarships, and WIE awards. IEEE WIE has already prepared a tutorial to write a good WIE award nomination; the outcome is triple the number of applications compared to 2022. I want to promote them to apply for awards beyond WIE, such as MGA, EAB, etc. Nurturing them to apply for Chair and committee member positions for other MGA and IEEE committees is important. I strongly encourage their participation in IEEE WIE international leadership Summits already planned in 9 Geo locations, IEEE WIE east forum USA, and future WIE ILC for broadening their networking, improving technical skills, and finding role models, endorsers, and supporters. I want to find opportunities for them to generate more interest in IEEE Standards

Availing the already planned 2023 WIE events and existing benefits will help WIE members with capacity building and eventually, they will be ready for WIE leadership, technical leaders of societies, Editors-in-Chief of Journals/transactions, General Chairs of conferences and Committee Chairs

IEEE WIE: How do you think diversity and inclusion help in boosting creativity and better problem-solving strategies?

CELIA:  Promoting the IEEE WIE pledge to different OUs and implementing the Pledge in those OUs is an important agenda of the 2023 IEEE WIE. To promote creativity and boost problem-solving strategies, we need platforms for our female researchers and industry experts to exchange ideas beyond borders.

As a signal processing society (SPS) liaison to WIE in 2021-22, I have played the lead role to incorporate IEEE WIE Pledge to SPS and the 2021 IEEE SPS Execom passed the SPS Diversity Pledge for everyday operations. As I was the past Chair of the IEEE Bangladesh Section (BDS), a similar effort was made for IEEE BDS.

For promoting diversity and inclusion, I was the founder of IEEE WIECON-ECE (WIE Conference in the area of Electrical and Computer Engineering but not limited to), where at least one author must be female. I started collaborations between OUS like Bangladesh, Thailand, Brazil, and different Indian sections for IEEE WIECON-ECE and IEEE PES Women in Power day to bring the tangible benefits of diversity to WIE members’ lives. Also, male students and supervisors were encouraged to participate thus creating a great example of diversity and inclusion. Therefore, the benefits of networks like the WIE and the collaboration between members of different diversified backgrounds can improve the percentage of women’s participation in STEM fields and can create a stronger impact on society’s development.

IEEE WIE: In your opinion, how can everyone ensure that technological advancements are used for the betterment of humanity?

CELIA:  More Partnerships of WIE with IEEE philanthropic units such as IEEE Smart Village, IEEE HAC, IEEE Foundation, IEEE HN, IEEE SSIT, etc. will ensure Incubating Humanitarian Projects-Product Design. It will boost WIE’s industry engagement and Social Entrepreneurship for the betterment of humanity. Through such engagements, WIE members can ensure the value of creating opportunities for women to promote their work that solves local problems with technology. This makes the outcomes of technological advancements led by women which are affordable, sustainable, and scalable, available to the communities in need.

IEEE WIE: What is one piece of advice you can give to young professionals who are IEEE WIE members?

CELIA:  The young professional WIE members can help popularize/introduce/emphasize the IEEE WIE STAR program and collaborate with IEEE REACH, implementing Climate change and sustainability-related competitions to elevate WIE Program Values to young girls and inspire them to join the STEM field and advance in the industry.

The YP WIE members can encourage Industry-Academia collaboration, promoting Corporate Membership development and retention for solving real-life problems.

They can help design and implement Mentor-Mentee activities involving multiple OUs for WIE membership growth and retention

The spirit to make a change and the aspiration for capacity building by working hard can create a scope for YP WIE members to be prepared for embracing all of the opportunities and ready to take on any challenges as a part of the future WIE leadership pool.

IEEE WIE: How do you challenge the status quo or how do you identify problems in your field and propose solutions to bring positive changes?

CELIA:  Life with challenges is a common thing. I was the first female senior member of IEEE in Bangladesh and helped elevate others’ grades at home and abroad. I was the first female Chair of the IEEE Bangladesh Section and founder of 4 technical society chapters in Bangladesh. To minimize the challenges of collaboration and partnership between Sections and chapters, I launched four society-Specific conferences (SPICSCON, PEEIACON, RAAICON and BECITHCON), where WIE and other members found scope to improve the learning skills for technical, personal, and professional development, they landed in place to find mentors, to present her own potential in research and innovation, and to advance STEM education. It is important for WIE members to demonstrate the ability to identify problems and provide solutions to be change makers. Any woman with well-documented accomplishments can achieve awards and lead WIE, regardless of their region or ethnicity.

IEEE WIE: An empathetic leader helps promote a better work environment. Would you agree?

CELIA:  Yes, I agree.

I followed the style of Empathetic leadership in all my previous positions before becoming IEEE WIE Committee Chair. I focus on identifying the potential of teammates and understanding their points of View. If a leader takes a genuine interest in the needs of the people around him/her. This attitude leaves teammates feeling valued and respected for their personal and professional worth. It inspires others to work better in a friendly and inclusive environment. In WIE, empathy will be promoted.