Tomorrow's Technical Experts

Grooming the Next Generation

This year, the number of people retiring from ASTM International's staff has been higher than usual. It is not easy to say goodbye to people we've known for years, people who have excelled in their jobs and worked hard to make this organization successful. But the reality is that, at some point in time, every member of this staff will move on.

Retirement also affects our membership. Every year, ASTM International loses technical experts who are proficient in highly specialized fields. And, like staff, technical experts have to be recruited and prepared to assume the roles vacated by their predecessors. Surveys have told us that most ASTM members come into the organization through a colleague. It is a natural progression, and it works very well.

Some ASTM members bring others to the work because it means the preservation of a community of colleagues in which so much is shared and valued. For others, it is a belief in the work itself and the desire for its continuance. And for some, it is a tribute to a mentor, and the act of paying it forward.

Some time ago, I wrote an article about the lack of standards courses in universities. The fact is that most of our young engineers and scientists will graduate and go into the work force without even a basic understanding of standardization or its significance. ASTM International supports educational programs, guest lectures by staff at universities, internships and scholarships, but these programs are no substitute for peer advocacy and the hands-on expertise of a mentor.

Succession planning is part of the business of a whole standards organization, of technical experts and staff alike. It's a responsibility we all share. ASTM International prepares for the inevitability of retirement by training, mentoring and developing the skills of its newer staff members, so that when the time comes, there is a qualified professional who is ready to assume the role vacated by each and every seasoned veteran. Each transition has to be seamless, without interruptions and with no bumps in the road. The same must be done for our technical experts, by our technical experts, because there is no one else to do it. It's just that simple.

James A. Thomas

President, ASTM International


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