Ala Chalghaf joined the IES Membership Committee as the IES student representative and Student Activities Committee chair in 2023. Learn about the creator of the IES Student Ambassador Program and discover a young member full of new ideas for our society…
ITeN team: Dear Ala, thanks a lot for being with us today, can you start by telling us about your professional background?
I always loved math, so I decided to go with the path of engineer. And as I was passionate about computer science, it made even more sense to choose that vocational route.
Officially, I’m still a student. I’m soon to be a computer engineer majoring in data science. Currently I am doing my end of studies internship at a Tunisian startup called DeepVolt. It’s an AI powered startup for e-mobility.
I have also done some work with Open Burkina as a junior web developer.
I’ve been an IEEE member for over three years now. I volunteered in various positions, most notably as the chair of the IEEE Student Branch at ESPRIT engineering school in Tunisia (Ecole Supérieure Privée d’Ingénierie et de Technologies).
ITeN team: In October 2021, you co-founded the IEEE IES Student Branch Chapter (SBC) in your engineering school in Tunisia, how was it initiated?
Joining IEEE and volunteering within ESPRIT Student Branch since September 2020, I gained a valuable experience on how IEEE operates and how to run a successful student branch units. The IES was first brought to my attention when I saw the promotions for the society flagship conference IECON 2022 in Brussels. Although I didn’t get the chance to attend, I did my research and came to the idea that IES had a lot of benefits for students and volunteers. Therefore, I and a group of 6 student volunteers decided to found the IES SBC within our Student Branch. We did quite well for the first year: 100 members joined! This was mainly due to the support of our student branch which was already the largest SB in Region 8 with over 600 members! We are working on attracting more for the next recruitment season in September.
I first met Professor Antonio Luque at EduCon 2022 in Tunisia where he honored us by visiting our student branch at our University as the Region 8 director. He took a closer look at the activities we are carrying out as well as exchanged with our members. Then we met again a couple of months later during the Region 8 SYP 2022 in Tunisia.
In 2023, Prof. Luque invited me to join his committee in IES as the IES student representative and Student Activities Committee chair.
Besides IES, I am a corresponding member at Region 8 Women In Engineering, I am also part of the IEEE Computer society, the Computational Intelligence Society as well, and the special interest group on humanitarian technologies. I was also the chair of the IEEE Tunisian Students and Young professionals Congress which was organized in December 2022.
ITeN team: As the representative for IES Student Activities Committee, what is your mission?
Let me try to summarize the mission of the IES Student Activities Committee in 4 points:
- As Student Activities Committee members, we carry out activities that are in the benefit of student members and Student Branch Chapters.
- We provide support, especially for the Student Branch Chapters. We help them to run and manage their Student Branch Chapter, show them how they can attract and promote IES, etcetera.
- Our mission is to attract more students to our dynamic Industrial Electronics Society, to set up a pipeline of students that are ready to volunteer within the society at a region level, section level or global level. We bring students from all over the world, enabling collaborations.
- Since early 2023, we have deployed the IES ambassador program. An ambassador collaborates with other ambassadors from other regions of the world. It’s been great seeing the group of all the ambassadors interact with each other on WhatsApp, promoting each other’s conferences and local activities, inviting each other, and even organizing other activities, which give more opportunities for them to collaborate.
ITeN team: This IES ambassador program seems very interesting and unique. Is this your initiative?
Initially the idea was proposed by myself and Aziz Ben Kbaier, a member of the IES Student activities committee. We worked together on developing this idea and making it a reality alongside with the 4 other members of our committee.
The program was first launched in 2023 and it was well received globally by our members, we now have ambassadors from almost all over the world!
The idea started from the challenges you face when you first join IEEE as a student member, it is very complicated to understand how it works, how to report and do things. It’s not very intuitive at first, but if you have someone who can explain it to you, it becomes very easy. Thus, you can better promote your society if you understand how it works.
It’s an essential program that enables us to get in touch with the potential active members who are willing to join. The program focuses mainly on engaging with the local Community, bridging it to the Global Community, and being present on social media. At the end of the program, the top performing ambassador receives the IES best ambassador award.
Can you tell us more about the IES best ambassador award?
We created 8 tasks; on average one task is sent to the ambassadors each month. For example, one of those tasks was to do research on IES, what IES does, its mission, its main field of interest. Then they had to prepare a brochure or flyer to post on social media as if they had access to their student branch, chapter, social media or section. This task has been done in collaboration between each other, they splitted the research. So basically, you could see a post that was done by someone from region 5 on someone’s profile that is from region 10.
Another task that will be launched in September is to host an info session for potential members. Our Student Activities Committee role will be to give guidelines, for example, for them to carry out programs, to use visuals, or to invite a local IES officer to be a speaker.
After each task, ambassadors need to report what they have done. We give a score for each of them. And at the end of the program, the best ambassador wins the best ambassador prize.
It’s competitive, which is good for students. As a student, I’m always motivated by competitions and here in Tunisia, it really works in that way, people seem to enjoy it. But it also opens the door to collaborations, networking and knowledge exchange.
And do we have surprises in the near future for the ambassadors, so they are going to be even more motivated!
ITeN team: Which advice(s) would you give to boost other young IES members’ career?
Don’t wait for someone to bring you the opportunity on a silver platter. The world doesn’t work that way. Go out there, look for the opportunities you are interested in and just take them.
Even in IEEE it works the same way. If you want to volunteer for a position that you don’t know how to get, just ask the people who are currently in that position, and they will show you the way. Or they would recommend you for that position later.
If you want to become an ambassador, we have regional leads that are taking care of onboarding anyone who might join the program from that region. They can connect to the IES website where they can fill out a form and join the program: https://www.ieee-ies.org/membership/students/become-an-ies-student-ambassador.
ITeN team: Now we will talk about something more personal. During your free time, if you still have some, what are your hobbies?
This is the hardest question of the interview… because I have so many hobbies! It depends on the season, I guess. But the most prominent hobbies that have always been with me throughout the years are swimming, watching football and video games.
I swam professionally for 12 years. I’m originally from Kerkennah island in Tunisia. I learned to swim at a very young age and loved it ever since. I think I was three or four years old when I could swim by myself. It made sense that my parents would sign me up for swimming lessons. I started when I was around 4 and continued until I was 18. I stopped swimming for a bit, but I went back to it because it’s one of those sports that clears the mind so much. It’s very nice to do it every day, especially in Tunisia where it’s very hot during the summer. It takes a lot of commitment too. And it’s a very good sport because it literally uses every muscle in your body.
I always find time to watch football, especially Barcelona, my team.
Nowadays I honestly don’t have much time for video games, but maybe once a month I like to play a game with my friends. It’s refreshing.
We would like to thank Ala Chalghaf for having shared about his experience with us.
Stay tuned, we will soon interview other IES officers…