AIAA presidential candidates strike some common themes

The best thing about being a journalist is that it gives me an excuse to engage in heady discussions with fascinating people. Here are some takeaways from my interviews with AIAA candidates (See Page 8 for excerpts and online for extended interviews).

First, let me share an important but unsurprising observation: The three candidates are all longtime AIAA members and high achievers in their day jobs. Basil Hassan of Sandia National Laboratories helps assure the deterrent value of U.S. nuclear weapons; George Nield, after retiring from FAA in 2018, continues to do his part to open up space to commercial enterprises in a consulting role; Wanda Sigur, after contributing to some of the greatest U.S. achievements in space at Lockheed Martin, advises young companies how to achieve their own daring visions.

Each of the candidates, of course, has unique ideas, and you can find them in these interviews. What struck me most were some common signals in their visions for how to better serve prospective AIAA members at a time when consumers have more choices than ever about how to enrich their professional lives and build their career networks.

One theme was that members need more than a venue for sharing technical information, as important as that will always be. Hassan says AIAA needs to “expand to include those whose career paths are going in a different direction.” Nield says AIAA “can be a bridge between jobs, or even a bridge between careers.” Sigur wants to make 10-year professionals “aware of current opportunities and how to grow their careers.”

Each candidate also recognizes the importance of thinking differently about information sharing and professional networking. Hassan notes that “we have something called Google,” which means that AIAA must adapt how it delivers information and also “how we accomplish the ability [for members] to network.” Nield notes that “work-life is changing. Companies are changing. The whole idea of a professional society needs to change along with some of these new technologies,” and he offers some specific proposals for how to become more relevant. Sigur wants to find new ways to empower midcareer professionals to have direct contact with seasoned experts: “Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to call the guy? I mean that’s what’s the difference between people at the top of the organizations and folks that are working in the trenches so to speak: They know the guy.”

This is just a sample of what you will find in these interviews. I encourage you to dive in before you vote.

Photos, from left: Basil Hassan, George Nield, Wanda Sigur

About Ben Iannotta

Ben keeps the magazine and its news coverage on the cutting edge of journalism. He began working for the magazine in the 1990s as a freelance contributor and became editor-in-chief in 2013. He was editor of C4ISR Journal and has written for Air & Space Smithsonian, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, Reuters and Space News.

AIAA presidential candidates strike some common themes