You have been plodding along in your career for years, sometimes as a contractor, other times on the payroll as a “permie.” The speed of technological change means that IT careers are often changing too. You keep up with old colleagues on social media, and do your best to stay abreast of the latest technologies. But what if you could find an organized way to address your need for professional networking and industry awareness? That's where professional organizations come in.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

IEEE calls itself “the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.” It claims more than 430,000 members in 160 countries. “The IEEE publishes a third of the world’s technical literature in electrical engineering, computer science and electronics.” The organization has conferences throughout the year, local and regional groups, and societies based on special interests. It encourages education and professional development, and is a leading developer of industry standards. Basic membership grades are listed as Student, Graduate Student, Associate and Member. There are also Senior Member, Fellow and Life Member grades.

Society for Technical Communication (STC)

STC is dedicated to the field of technical communication. It was formed in 1953 from the merger of the Society of Technical Writers and the Association of Technical Writers and Editors. STC's mission involves a focus on continuing education and the development of foundational communication skills to enable its members to be capable and successful technical communicators. Several publications come from the STC presses, including “Technical Communication,” “Intercom” and “TechComm Today.” STC offers certifications on the Foundation, Practitioner and Expert levels. Membership categories include Student, New TC Professional, Retired, Gold Value Package and Classic Membership.

Women in Technology (WIT)

WIT has nearly 1,000 members in the Washington, D.C., area, and aims to provide “advocacy, leadership development, networking, mentoring and technology education.” Special Interest Groups (SIGs) include Executive Leadership, Cyber Security & Technology, Women Business Owners and Young Professionals. WIT has separate membership categories for individual, student and government employee memberships.

Women in Technology International (WITI)

WITI is committed to empowering women worldwide to advance in all sectors of technology. WITI corporate members, such as AT&T, eBay and EMC, allow women to participate in programs around the world. Professional networks make it possible for women to develop contacts to enhance their careers. Memberships are available for individuals, small businesses or corporations. The WITI Hall of Fame includes the six women pioneers of the ENIAC computer project. (See my article called The Women of ENIAC.)

Association for Computing Machinery (ACP)

The motto of ACP is “advancing computing as a science and profession.” Founded at Columbia University in New York in 1947, the original call for this meeting stated: “The purpose of this organization would be to advance the science, development, construction and application of the new machinery for computing, reasoning and other handling of information.” The organization has published a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct which includes 24 “moral imperatives.” Membership levels include options for students, retirees, those experiencing financial hardship and professionals. Members tell why they belong to ACM in a video.

Internet Society (ISOC)

ISOC has 80,000 members and 113 chapters around the world. Their vision, simply stated, is that “the internet is for everyone.” Formed by some of the very builders of the internet cathedral themselves, the Internet Society believes strongly in the open nature of the internet itself, and welcomes the participation of anyone interested. ISOC membership is free for individuals or entire organizations. (See more about the founders of ISOC in my article Architects and Builders of the Internet Cathedral.)

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

The goal of the IETF, as stated on their website, is “to make the internet work better.” To do that, they have a very involved standards process that produces finished Request for Comment (RFC) documents. These are the standards upon which the internet is based, and it all started with RFC 1 by Steve Crocker. (I wrote about the the development of the RFC library and the establishment of the IETF in my article Open Source and the Spirit of Unrestrained Participation.)

These are just a select few of the professional organizations available for participation for interested IT engineers. There are many more to choose from, depending on your own personal goals and technical focus. There are many advantages to joining professional organizations. Think of the possibilities for your professional and technical development (maybe even your social life) when you connect with others in your industry. You could be on the cutting edge of technical innovation in ways that are not possible at your workplace. You can contribute to the growing body of technical literature being produced by engineers and others worldwide. You may even find a new role in the process. Joining a professional organization is definitely worth your consideration.