30 Years at NEMA
By Mike Leibowitz, Program Manager, NEMA
I started at NEMA in 1985, when we were located at 2101 L Street in D.C. My first job was in the statistics department, known today as NEMA/BIS. In less than a year, I was promoted to assistant manager. In those days, everything was paper-based. We filled out industry reports manually and had them typed and mailed. New statistical forms were made using black tape and a ruler!
The fax machine was our first major new technological tool. Documents came in on rolls of thermal paper. They came in and went out at a snail’s pace, but they gave our members a way to send their data instantaneously and privately. We really hit the big time when we acquired a plain paper fax machine. Our department possessed the only computer in all of NEMA, which had green font and a dark green background. We later advanced to WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) IBM PS2 desktops, on which you could choose different fonts.
After five years, I wanted to stay with NEMA but because my supervisor was young there was no potential for growth in the department. So I tried my hand as a Conduit Fittings Section staff executive on a part-time basis starting in the fall of 1990. Section staff executives were one-stop shops for members. We handled everything, including standards, government relations, membership administration, and business statistics. That position allowed me to travel to Boston to attend my first NEMA annual meeting.
In October 1991, I went full-time as a section staff executive and was assigned additional sections: Connectors and Flexible Cords. Then-president Malcolm O’Hagan undertook a major reorganization that segregated NEMA’s services, creating “centers of excellence” for standards, business, and advocacy. I was thrilled because this allowed me to be completely immersed in what I had come to love doing: standards. This led to the assignment of additional technical committees, including building wire and magnet wire. I found magnet wire particularly intriguing, as someone who didn’t study engineering, because it involves multiple disciplines, including metallurgy, chemistry, electricity, physics and thermal properties. In less than 10 years, I was appointed secretary to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee (TC) 55, Winding Wires.
When NEMA moved to Rosslyn in 1995, we still used fax machines, but with the introduction of e-mail, we turned to e-faxing documents to our members, since very few of them had adopted e-mail in their companies. Within a year, though, everyone had e-mail; web meetings became commonplace, and faxing as a way of doing business went the way of the horse and buggy.
Some years later, I took on the role of U.S. National Committee Technical Advisory Group secretary to IEC TC 113, Nanotechnology for Electrotechnical Applications. Nano is a fascinating field. The experts I work with are a different breed than the traditional NEMA technical committee members. Many are material or molecular scientists, chemists, researchers, and professors. NEMA rightly got involved in nano at the conception of IEC TC 113 because, with standards now in development, nanomaterials are making their way into NEMA scope products.
It has been truly rewarding for me to be involved in this industry for 30 years. I have grown professionally, have had many wonderful personal and working relationships, and have come to appreciate the technological advances we have made. In my own work experience, I’ve seen NEMA go all the way from the IBM PS2 that brought us WYSIWYG to nanotechnology, which I guess you can say has brought us “what you don’t see is what you get”!
This is the first of three installments in the 30+30+30=90 Years at NEMA series. Originally published in the January 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.