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IETF 7 November 2014

IETF 80-IETF 90: Some Reflections before IETF 91 in Honolulu

Toral Cowieson
By Toral CowiesonFormer Head, Strategy & Impact Measurement

In the past four years, we have awarded nearly 140 first-time and returning Fellowships to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).  Twelve IETF meetings into my tenure and I continue to be impressed with the caliber of the individuals who are drawn to the work of open standards, and ultimately the evolution of the Internet.

In speaking with the returning Fellows and those first-timers who seem to get the most out of the experience, certain qualities stand out:

1. Curiosity and wonderment

As mentioned in an earlier blog, one former Fellow noted that “the Internet is Magic.”  This sense of wonderment with what we have at our disposal coupled with a genuine and deep curiosity about how others view the standards work and the world at large is instrumental in remaining open to the possibilities.  Many of our returning Fellows approach the work with an appreciation that others also have viewpoints, sometimes at odds with how they see the world.  That openness to other viewpoints is part of what contributes to how the Internet continues to evolve as a boundless platform.

2. Discipline and commitment

A number of former Fellows have been active contributors to RFCs and become Working Group chairs.  Even as regular attendees, this is hard work.  In the instances with the Fellows, many are contributing to the process via the mailing lists and online.  In addition to the regular jobs they hold in academia, business, and government agencies, they demonstrate discipline and commitment to the standards work.  In a meritocracy such as the IETF, one truly is recognized based on valuable and meaningful contributions. 

3. A pay-it-forward mentality

In the past few cycles, we have noticed more and more applicants noting that they are applying because of their mentors at school or in the workplace.  At least two former Fellows have made it a personal calling to go back to their communities and workplaces to promote the work of the IETF.  They encourage their students and colleagues to get involved.  More importantly, they impart what it takes so that these new voices can hit the ground running — and listening.  This is particularly critical for the Internet, as many of these individuals are coming from places where Internet penetration is low, and an understanding of how new voices can contribute is also not well or broadly understood.  Not surprisingly, these individuals who have made it their calling are also returning Fellows themselves.

That said, we are excited to announce our latest cohort.  Their bios can be found here.  For those at this upcoming meeting, I hope you have a chance to speak with some of the Fellows.   

I am also curious to hear what your thoughts are on other qualities you see in successful participants, Fellows or otherwise.  Let us know in your comments below.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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