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Oral-History:Joe Butler

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About Joe Butler

Joseph (Joe) Butler was born in Portland, Maine on August 1st, 1945. The family lived in Maine for a few years, then in several places in Massachusetts. Butler graduated from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics in 1967. Fresh out of college he worked part-time at different places but not in the engineering field. He went on to pursue an master's degree in physics at Williams College Massachusetts. Upon completion of the degree, he took a position with RCA Aerospace Systems in Burlington, Massachusetts. He later acquired an MBA from Northeaster University.

His first project at RCA Aerospace systems was for helicopter searchlight systems. He was originally involved in the environmental test group then moved to work on EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) at Raytheon. He stayed there nine years working on exclusively military EMI issues. In 1986 he joined Chomerics where he is now Marketing Manager for the Chomerics Division of the Parker Hannifin Corporation.

In 1998 he became Vice President of the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society (EMCS). In 2000-2001 he was president of the IEEE EMCS and in 2002-2004immediate past president. He is also a past member of the IEEE EMCS Standards Committee and has been involved with EMC standards development with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the Association for the Advancement for Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). He has also previously been involved with EMC standards work with the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), and the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA). He is a National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers (NARTE) certified EMC engineer and is a past member of the Board of Directors of NARTE.

About the Interview

Joe Butler: An Interview Conducted by Mike Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, August 8, 2012. Interview #618 for the IEEE History Center The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: Joe Butler, an oral history conducted in 2012 by Mike Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE:Joe Butler

INTERVIEWER:Mike Geselowitz

DATE:8 August 2012

PLACE:Pittsburgh, PA


Beginnings

Geselowitz:

This is Mike Geselowitz at the IEEE History Center and I'm here with Joe Butler who is a past president of the IEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society. We're here in Pittsburgh at the EMC Symposium and I'm conducting an oral history interview on his career and his professional career with EMC. Joe, if you would, I'd like to start at the very beginning with where you were born and then what your education was.

Butler:

Okay. I was born in Portland, Maine on August 1st, 1945, just after World War II. I lived in Maine for a number of years and then moved several places in Massachusetts, and went to high school in Massachusetts, north of Boston. I went to Merrimack College in North Andover Mass where I started out majoring in mathematics because I was good in math in high school. It became obvious after the first year of mathematics, where mathematics is just a lot of heavy duty equations, that I was not sure what to do with it all. I was intrigued that there was a physics department at Merrimack College and switched my major to engineering physics so I could do physics and engineering. It's a unique degree that's not offered many places, but you get a bit of everything of mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering, as well as some basic physics, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics.

Geselowitz:

And what year was that?

Butler:

That was in 1967. I had been working part-time at different places but not in the engineering field. That summer I did do some part-time work at RCA in Burlington, Massachusetts, but it became necessary to advance my career. At that time it was the Vietnam War, and you were going to be in the army if you didn't do anything. I applied to Williams College in Williamstown Mass, which is a very exclusive school in the westernmost part of Massachusetts. They had a graduate program in physics and they only took six people. In joining that two-year course you became automatically a teaching assistant, so you were required to teach labs, do recitation sections on homework, and it was a fulltime job. You were paid and at the same time you went to school, days and nights depending on the curriculum, and I had to do a thesis. I spent two years at Williams College and during those two years they changed the draft laws a number of times. I did go and was classified 1A, and at the end of my first year I had to change my status from student to teacher.

I went to MIT for the summer, finished some coursework, and then when I started my second year at Williams College. I became an instructor and was part of the faculty at Williams College and I got a deferment for that. I'd finished my Masters at Williams and at the time, once again facing the prospect of going to war, I applied for and got a job at RCA Aerospace systems in Burlington Mass and they assigned me to a project for helicopter searchlight systems. I got a deferment for the war effort for working on military hardware, eventually spending a couple of years there. They changed the rules again and at that time they had the draft lottery so you had to put your name in for one year and every month they drew out birthdates. In my town they went to 120 drawn people for the draft. My number was 125. After risking my time, I would've gone, hopefully by that time with a Master's in Physics, I would have been teaching somewhere, but I was going to go if I was called. But I didn't get drafted, so after putting my number up for a year, I was now free to stay there. So, I stayed at RCA. I was in the environmental test group but the EMI group was at the same locale.

Geselowitz:

So EMI is…?

Butler:

Electromagnetic Interference; and since my background was in physics more so than mechanical and environmental testing, I shifted over and started doing work in the EMI group as a novice test engineer. They taught me how to use some of the most rudimentary EMI test equipment left over from World War II, some of which is on the floor here at the symposium; the Empire devices NF-105 is one of the older EMI receivers in our business. There are two different versions of it down on the floor now shown for historical purposes.

Geselowitz:

Who's exhibiting that?

Butler:

The IEEE EMC Society has a booth here with one in it, and then one of the Retlif Testing Laboratories has a refurbished unit that looks like it just came off the assembly line floor. They're both demonstrating it as one of the early origins of the EMI business, and I started with that so I'm part of that group of people.

Geselowitz:

What problems was that group working on?

Butler:

It was almost all military at that time. EMI first reared its ugly head back in World War II with some radio communications; hence, in the early days it was called RFI, radio frequency interference. They had RFI receivers that if you had a piece of military hardware, you wanted to put it in a metal chamber, use this receiver and measure what radio or electromagnetic signals came out of it. You wanted to be sure that the signals that came out of it weren't on the same frequencies as the communications equipment, which was the problem. All of us who started way back when learned how to use this NF-105 receiver to make the measurements. The idea of doing analysis to the problem was very new. It was all slide rules. Calculators came in eventually, but compared to today with all these $10,000 and $20,000 analytical computer programs, back then it was very rudimentary. Most of the time you spent was in the lab measuring prototypes and that sort of thing, as opposed to doing upfront computerized analysis before you even made something. I stayed at RCA for a time and then went to school nights and got an MBA degree from Northeastern University.

Adding a Business Perspective

Geselowitz:

What made you decide to do that?

Butler:

I was laid off at some point. It was the space program and the space race was winding down since at the time it was after they landed on the moon. There was a cutback and I got caught up in that cutback as one of the younger folks. I took the opportunity to go back to school. During that period before I got my MBA, I did go back to work with Raytheon nearby in Bedford, Massachusetts, and ended up staying at Raytheon for nine years working on again, exclusively military EMI issues. But at the time, after spending nine years at Raytheon, I ran the EMC group doing a lot of testing, analytical consulting et cetera.

It became frustrating for me, though, because in a large company you tend to be a number rather than an individual. You could do well, but if somebody at your same level didn't do well, everybody was treated the same. I wanted some individuality and I looked and I thought about the commercial world as being a little different. With the military, even as an engineer, it was somewhat of a union-like atmosphere. I decided to start looking around and I left Raytheon and went to GenRad, General Radio Company. There I became Head of Corporate Standards and did some EMI work for them for a number of years. That company fell on hard times and I was let go. At the time, all those many years, I had been recommending products from Chomerics, which is the company I now work for and have for the last 26 years. So, when I called them up, they invited me in the next day and hired me an hour after the interview. They started thinking that I'd really already been with them, recommending them for so many years, so they were delighted to have me and I've been there ever since.

Getting Involved with the Local EMI Community

Geselowitz:

Okay. Before we get on to your career there, let's step back again. When did you become aware that there actually was a society of individuals interested in EMI issues?

Butler:

After I got out of school with my masters and I began to work for RCA and then started to do the EMI work. I became aware of the publications in the industry and started reading about the symposia and the like. I'll be perfectly honest with you, I don't know at what point I said, gee I need to be part of this. I think I went to a symposium, and I think I went to a local chapter meeting. But at some point it became clear that if I was going to be in this business that's where they all met. If I wanted to learn more, become more networked, I needed to get more involved. I started to go to more chapter meetings, went to a couple of symposia and when I worked at GenRad I was involved. My mind's a little hazy as to exactly when I did it, but it became clear that if I enjoyed the field of EMI, I needed to go and be with that group and participate.

Geselowitz:

Was the Boston chapter very active?

Butler:

It was not. It was not 50 people; it was more 15 to 20 people a month at meetings. But, again, they had interesting speakers come through and I guess it was a group of core people you got to meet. So at that time I did get involved. At one point the Boston Chapter won the right to hold a symposium like this one. In 1985 they did host it—way back when—and I was the exhibits chair for that show. That was interesting because I then got to meet a lot more people from the companies that sell equipment in the area and made a larger number of contacts in the field because I was assigning the booths and listening to all their issues. Go forward 15 plus years, we had another symposium in Boston and I was the Vice Chair for the show as well.

Geselowitz:

Was that 1985 meeting when you first met the national IEEE EMC volunteers?

Butler:

Yes. To run a show like this they award the symposium to cities five years in advance. So there are many meetings over several years where the national people come through for the board meeting, for the tour of the facility to make sure it's okay. Then whoever is on the board at that time, it was W. E. “Gene” Cory then, who had to more or less approve the size and the logistics and whatever. Gene Cory is a longtime member who just passed away this past year. I remember him coming to visit us in Boston on multiple occasions to talk about what are you doing for this, what are you doing about a gala event, have you made provisions for this and that, and there was a lot of rubbing shoulders with some national people at that time. I think certainly that at that show I was hooked; I was in this for the long run.

Participating in the National Level of the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society

Geselowitz:

After the symposium what was your first national involvement with the society?

Butler:

When did I first get involved in the national? I think I started a little differently. I joined SAMA, the Scientific Apparatus Makers Association, and they had an EMC Committee, and they had some standards. They worried about security guards with walkie-talkies walking around power plants and setting off alarms and the like, and I worked on that committee on that standard, and then began to understand there were other committees with other EMC involvement. I believe I went to the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) AE4 Standard committee. AE 4 is a committee that's meeting here today, that worries about EMI in a lot of military systems. Then I found the EIA (Electronic Industries Alliance) had an EMC committee and I dropped into a couple of theirs. I started going to the symposiums on a regular basis and then as now, most of these ancillary EMC groups from SAE, EIA, RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics in) meet at this symposium every year because this is the center of the EMC universe. All these other organizations held their meetings here and since I was going to the symposium on a regular basis I started sitting in on all of them; automotive was here quite a number of years, and medical. I started signing up. I was fortunate in my position at GenRad and then when I went to Chomerics, that they allowed me to keep my finger in a lot of different standards activities that might affect their business. I think before I actually got involved at the international level with the IEEE I was involved in a lot of other peripheral groups involved in EMC, and only realized after a number of years that the center was the IEEE. When I joined the IEEE and started to get involved working my way up through the committees, I had had a lot of experience rubbing shoulders with EMC engineers.

Geselowitz:

Everyone knew you already even though you hadn't actually been active in IEEE.

Butler:

Let's face it, the EMC Society has 5,000 or so members, but to be elected to the Board of Directors you've got to know a lot people. If you just do your job and go to local chapters you're not going to get elected president. You really have to have some presence by getting involved in all of these different EMC committees and organizations and actually doing work saying, yeah, I'll write that or I'll draft this. I had some name recognition, and at the same time working for Chomerics early on I was traveling on the road 50% of the time doing EMC seminars. My company, at that time, was very big on teaching mechanical engineers about EMC, so I used to do three-hour seminars, as many as ten a week flitting from company to company . You do that for a year or so, coupled with the fact you've been working shoulder to shoulder with many other EMC engineers in different venues, by the time you want to run for president, you have a lot of name recognition. I was fortunate due to my work experience to be able to do that.

Running for EMCS President

Geselowitz:

What made you decide to run for president?

Butler:

I'd signed on early in some of the standards committees. I was in the Representative Advisory Committee, the Technical Advisory Committee. The way it works in the EMC Society is that you sign on to be on a committee, and as you do work and they realize they can count on you, they ask would you do this, and you continue to run. It's always the situation where you're running sometimes without an opponent, but you move up in the organization and after awhile you get into that level.

Then as you move up into the ranks into a VP status, there starts to become an invisible pecking order of how people might run for president, and you get in line and follow each person till they pass their two-year term. I got into this line of progression of people that I indicated I was in for the long-term, and sure enough there are not many head-to-head elections for president. There have been several, but not many. It's usually somebody who's been in working for the IEEE and the committee for ten plus years who have paid their dues and when they throw their hat into the ring everybody else steps back and says, okay it's not my turn. Eventually everybody who wants to, I think, becomes president because most of us are in it for 30, 40 years. There's only a two-year term as president, so I think you get into this ordered list of people, due to their tenure in the ranks.

Geselowitz:

In other words it's not tough if you really want to do it. If you're willing to do the work they'll elect you to the job.

Butler:

If you want to sign up for 20 years you could probably get to be president, but if you want to flit in and out for a year or two; not going to happen. It's more of a recognition that you have enough knowledge, personality and experience, you can do it, and they recognize you can do it, and you want to do it. You rise and they let you move forward, but you just don't flit in for a few years and attend meetings, never take any action items, never do anything; not going to happen. The people that become president of the EMC Society have paid their dues many times over. Most of them by that time have awards.

I was talking to one of the gentlemen, Bruce Archambeault, who is going to get the Cuming award for service to the society. He's still a member of the board. He's done more work than many, many people with awards and he's being given the award for long-term, lifetime service. He's been plugging at our society for 20 years and certainly he deserves it many times over. What you see more often than not is many people become president; they have a lot of awards that have been placed upon them long before they become president because they've been doing it for 20 years. That seems to be the formula if you want to get ahead.

You have to show, you have to have chaired committees; you have to have managed crises of standards, and getting people to agree, and essentially paid your dues. That's one of these things that I tell many people who want to get involved, because you went to the room and sit there and signed the attendance book you're not going to be recognized or they're going to forget who you are. If you raise your hand and say yeah, I'll do that and you do that many times over, and you keep doing it they'll, recognize you and you move up, but you have to get your hands dirty.

Geselowitz:

Because we're engineers?

Butler:

We're engineers! In 1986 when I joined Chomerics, I was in marketing. My job was technical marketing. I was an EMC engineer but I wasn't working on EMC stuff. Chomerics sells EMC products so I lived and breathed EMC every day but my title was marketing. In the world of marketing you tend to flit in and out of things and identify prospects, and then move on to the next. Not the case if you want to stay in the EMC Society. If you did that with the EMC Society you'd never move up in the organization. There's a commitment.

Geselowitz:

Now how common is that for someone on the marketing side to stay so involved in the technical society?

Butler:

I don't know of anybody else who has done it. It was a comment that was made to me by a couple of people. It was odd that somebody who worked in marketing would be able to stay in the senior administration and be president of the EMC Society. Most of the people, when I look around, are EMC consultants or they're in academia and they live, eat and breathe EMC every day of the week. I sometimes worry about tradeshows and the internet, and in advertising that's a little different bent, so I'm the only one that I know who've moved up so far whose actually in marketing. Even to this day I'm in marketing.

Geselowitz:

Chomerics encouraged you, though, to keep your involvement?

Butler:

Absolutely. They let me go anywhere and everywhere. During my two-year presidential tenure we were in meetings in Tokyo, Canada, Paris, Rome, Bruges in Belgium; nobody said boo. At that time 90% of the sales of Chomerics were for EMI reasons. They viewed it as an investment in institutional advertising. To have my name and the word Chomerics next to it and the IEEE name there as well has been very good.

(EMC Secretary) Janet O'Neil, recognizing that if somebody's going to give their time and the company's going to allow them and pay their way, you really got to give them a nod by at least listing who they work for next to their names. She's been very good at doing that in the newsletter. She made it clear every time I did something or went somewhere as Joe Butler of Chomerics. The company, when they saw that, viewed it, okay, this is institutional advertising, and we may be reviewed in a better light than perhaps our competitors. I think it worked in some cases because when they said Joe Butler's in the area with our salesman can we come and visit, all of a sudden the waters parted. They weren't going to talk to our salesman, but if I was in the area they would show me their lab. So, it worked.

Geselowitz:

It's interesting that other companies didn't catch on and leverage their employees in the same way.

Butler:

Well some did. Eventually some did. Mike Oliver, whose running the symposium this week, works for MAJR Products and he stepped up and did it. He did it the same way and Gary Fenical of Laird Technologies has done it as well. But I think I got involved in the IEEE long before they did. Also, they were involved in one or two committees. I was involved in a lot more with the IEEE. Most people didn't recognize it as the way to go. I'm surprised.

Standards

Geselowitz:

Very interesting. Before we get to the issues that faced the EMC Society when you were on the board and when you were president, you've mentioned standards a lot. I was wondering if want to say anything about the role of standards in EMC and the relationship between the EMC and the IEEE Standards Association. It seems to me that all IEEE Societies are involved in standards to some level, but at EMC it really seems to predominate.

Butler:

Yep, yep. It does. I think EMC is a real world problem. There are a lot of regulations, depending on the industry, that say you can't sell your product till you meet this published legislated law we made. The FCC or the FDA or the aeronautical or automotive, agency whatever it may be, draws some lines in the sand. You've got to set your up equipment, pass the test, and then they'll give you the label, and you can sell it. There's a need for standards to direct people how to do this, how do you meet these things, and how do you properly test it so you can get your ticket and go forward. It's a real problem. On the other side, sometimes it’s a matter of the device won't work. If it has an EMI problem it might not work so it’s a real world problem. It's not an artificial regulation or something. You really have to meet it, pass it, to go forward, so the need for standards on how to properly test it, how to properly solve the problem is real. I think in that sense there's a need for these standards to allow everybody to do it the right way, do it the same way, and so it's real.

Geselowitz:

What you just said about one right way is interesting. In a lot of industries you can just compete—look at Betamax versus VHS, one of the classic examples of technological competition in the marketplace. But what if you market a product that's interfering with other products? You can't do it.

Butler:

You can't do it. Right.

Geselowitz:

Everyone has to sit down at the table and say what are the EMC requirements?

Butler:

Right. Absolutely. You have to sit down and competitors have to sit side by side and talk about their experiences. When there's a standard and somebody says, okay, I propose we do the test this way; you've got two competitors, whether they be test labs or equipment suppliers, and they've got to run round-robin tests and exchange technical information. I'm sure their senior management rolls their eyes at the level of cooperation, but it's not going to work unless that's the way it is. I'll be honest with you, even though you see them as competitors, whether they be consultants or whatever, everybody is pretty cooperative with one another when it comes to trying to solve a technical problem. So, standards are very important in our business.

Geselowitz:

IEEE EMC is very effective in bringing standards to market?

Butler:

Absolutely. The IEEE has a very disciplined process for how they prepare the standard, the voting, the balloting groups, so there's no question when something becomes an IEEE standard that it is been properly vetted among the user groups, the general interests; no special interest group has rammed this through. It’s a very interesting, open process. For many of the other societies and professional groups that write EMC standards, it’s not so; they don't even send their standards outside of their little world. When the IEEE sits in a meeting and says, who or what other groups do we know might like this, and somebody says SAE or RTCA, they send the standard to the other group saying give us some comments. They actually solicit other groups to make sure they get all the comments they need.

I sit in these other groups and that standard doesn't leave the 15 or so people working on it. Even though it might be an approved standard with that group's imprimatur, it certainly didn't see the light of day anywhere else. The IEEE is much more open and very much on the offense in terms of including everybody to make sure they get as many comments as they as they can before they just arbitrarily create something. It's a much more rigorous process. So many people, I think, look at the way we do standards as the standard.

Geselowitz:

The gold standard?

Butler:

The gold standard of standards and the way it makes it all go; you get people like Don Heirman. He is the gold standard of standards. If you get people like him running the group and Andrew Drozd and Don Sweeney, and many others who have paid their dues and have spent their time, it's people like that whose attention to detail and relentless pursuit to make sure it's right. That's how it happens. If you didn't have those kinds of people it wouldn't work either. You can have the process but unless you have the people who sign up for it and believe in it, it won't happen either, so those are the kinds of people that make it tick; very important, the IEEE EMC Society.

Core Issues during Tenure as VP and President

Geselowitz:

Okay. When you started to move up to this higher echelon and my notes say that you became a VP first in 1998 of the EMC. What were the issues facing the group as an IEEE Society at that time?

Butler:

There were several: budget issues. At that time the IEEE was still floundering a bit with their finances and all the money was held by the technical societies. Among the societies, there was some “them” vs. “us” about the monies, and it went on for several years thereafter, but there was always budgeting issue as to how much reserves you had and how much you could grow. Our big event moneymaker is this symposium. There was always some issue; how much money did you make this year, and are you keeping up with your reserves, and that sort of thing, so dollars were definitely an issue.

Also, there was starting to be some emergence of globalization issues. There were other conferences running around the world that many people sought our technical support because they wanted to be able to use the IEEE logo on their literature to say hey, this is a technical cosponsored event, this is a highbrow event – again, the standard the IEEE has for technical papers and whatever is pretty rigorous, and if you could get a technical co-sponsorship from the EMC Society with reviewers from the EMC Society, that raised up the profile of what you were going to hear and see with regard to technical content. Many people around the world were vying for our approval on that regard and it was starting to work its way in. It continues to this day and I think that was something we were all interested in.

Going Global

Geselowitz:

What about trying to get engineers of those other places to join the IEEE EMC rather than just partnering on conferences? Was there an effort in that area?

Butler:

There was. There was a starting effort in that area. I think it started under my predecessor Dan Hoolihan and then continued with me – because before then we didn't really have focused membership development around the world. During my tenure Motohiso Kanda, of the University of Colorado, passed away. He was editor of the EMC Transactions and I had occasion to appoint Carlos Satori from Brazil to the Board of Directors, and we had just picked up Dr. Takeo Yoshino, who's still with us, in Japan, and they both started to focus on global recruitment around the world. I think in Dan's term continuing to mine, we actually started to turn around to these groups who were asking for our imprimatur and say, why don't you start a chapter where you are, and why don't you become one of us. It started then and then it took off.

I think my colleague from Israel, past president Elya Joffe, probably did the most with chapter development around the world. The origins of this starting to think about global chapters and pursuing it a little bit more started with Dan and started to flourish with me. Clearly the U.K. and even Japan had chapters way back when but not many more.

Geselowitz:

How about today? Would you say it's grown out to a global society?

Butler:

Oh, absolutely. Today it's a global society. As I look in past years Francesca Maradei was just our president from Italy, Elya was our president from Israel. We've had a couple of international EMC Symposiums so yes I would describe, even though it's North American centric, it's a global society. There's no question about it. I think we're better for it absolutely. I think we started to realize that these other pockets of high EMC activity – whether they be in the U.K. or France or Poland or Rome or Japan – really has helped us greatly.

A Shift from a Military to a Commercial Focus

Geselowitz:

Was that in a sense both a need to globalize and also an ability to globalize, and all impacted by a shift away from military dominance of EMC issues to, to commercial dominance? Am I reading that right?

Butler:

Yeah, I think you're probably right. I think you're right. That, and I think we realized that there was a lot more to the EMC world than just the United States, and as you start to see the number of papers coming in to our symposia and other symposia are growing and being highly global, we realized that there's a lot more to this than the U.S.

Geselowitz:

My point was when it’s the different militaries who are doing it they're not going to encourage or allow cooperation, but when these different groups in other countries, if someone in India's working on a commercial product then you want to be talking to them.

Butler:

Absolutely. No question about it. I think it certainly made it happen and then even today you've got all these companies that have their headquarters in the U.S., design center in the U.S. but it's not made here. Their EMC engineers are here and there, so there's a need for this global coordination, absolutely.

Geselowitz:

You've identified two major issues as IEEE finances and globalization. Anything else you remember from those years that is worth mentioning?

Butler:

Not really. I was going back reading the EMC newsletters from those years and I have them in my briefcase. We started to continue an expansion of globalization and recognition that we need to sit down with these other organizations. At that time it was the people from Poland at the Wroclaw Symposium, it was the Zurich EMC Symposium, there was a Rome EMC Symposium, there was one in St. Petersburg, Russia, there was one in Japan. The need was there to talk with the organizers who were the senior EMC people in that area and we all agreed, that we needed to talk more. And they did want our IEEE EMC Society endorsement, but we wanted their continued participation in discussions with us as well.

In reading back and thinking about all that now, I think those are the two major issues. To be honest I don't think that as you review and you listen to all of the presidents, I don't think you're going to see some big thing that I did during my tenure. I think I was more outgoing, friendly, professional; I didn't rock the boat. I didn't bang on the table, I didn't call anybody out. I think it was pretty much business as usual following some globalization trends, so I don't think I did anything outstanding. I didn't establish anything that wasn't there before, but I did keep things running smoothly.

Geselowitz:

In your experience as a member of the board, and then VP, president and past president, did anybody rock the boat or is it pretty much an even keel society? You had to deal with certain issues when IEEE came and said we're taking your reserves, there might have been a little table pounding but within the society, do you think pretty much people kept calm.

Butler:

Not everyone. No but I don't want to point any fingers or …[laughter]

Geselowitz:

…name any names?

Butler:

I know in my tenure when I was in the middle, was Dan Hoolihan before me and Todd Hubing after me, I'd like to think everything was continued. They started some initiatives as well but no, I don't think any of us rocked the boat. It's not like we offended the people in Europe or Asia or somebody by making some stupid statement. No, I don't think there was anything worthy of note. If you go back through the minutes of the meeting by Janet O'Neil, with her level of detail that she put in our meeting minutes, you can go back and read them, and I don't think you're going to find anything in my term that would stick out and say, oh my god, he did this during his two years. No, I don't think you're going to find that.

Geselowitz:

So, you were president in 2000-2001 and immediate past president in 2002-2003.

Butler:

Yep.

Stepping Away

Geselowitz:

How have you managed to stay involved since 2003?

Butler:

Actually, I dropped off. Having been involved in so many societies, all the while I was president I kept up my activities and EIA, SAE, RTCA, AIME. I was involved with four other societies so when my tenure ran out after having been involved, I decided I needed to step away, so I did. I have not been involved in any IEEE EMC groups since that time. I come every year to the symposium no matter where it is. My company doesn't exhibit here anymore because we've become more market-focused and we're going to military electronics show, automotive electronic shows, unmanned vehicle shows, medical shows where our salespeople can actually talk with people with EMI problems, and we walk away with 150 sales leads to sell our product. Here it tends to be the same group of senior EMC guys that come through every year. While it’s a great show to show you're in the business, you don't find many applications because these are the guys that you need to make sure they know who you are and will recommend you.

Geselowitz:

You were just saying that how you got started is recommending them and you must need to keep a little bit of a presence.

Butler:

Yeah, you do. We have a full-page ad in the program and I'm walking around with my logoed shirt all day, and I'm still keeping a presence, and I sit in the various meetings. I'm heading to a meeting today so I'm showing my involvement at the symposium but not during the year. During the year I'm not going to any meetings. I'm not working any documents, et cetera, so I have largely stayed out of the limelight, and unlike many of my colleagues, I have no interest in coming back. In the years since I departed there's been a trend where many people who have been on the board of directors then presidents have decided they want to get back involved and they have and the ones that have done it, I think have done a very good job.

But I'm a firm believer that you need change. Change is always good. No matter how good you do, there's somebody else who's going to build on what you did and raise it to the next level, and I firmly believe in that and this is helped by the required term limits. I have no interest in inserting myself back into that chain.

Geselowitz:

Are you still involved in any standards committees?

Butler:

No. No I've dropped out of all of them.

Geselowitz:

Does your company still send younger engineers?

Butler:

No, they don't. We backed away from all of that for different reasons, so my company doesn't. I've advocated it and once in awhile I do go to a standards meeting. It's interesting we do have EMC engineers other than I, but they're all in our test group. They all test products and the only way you get revenue is to test products, so you can't send an EMI guy to a standards committee meeting because he's not bringing in revenue. We have just enough people on our test group to generate and do the testing. There are no extra EMC guys in marketing.

I was in marketing, so I was free to travel for other reasons because as I attended IEEE meetings I would also visit customers so I could combine trips and make it useful for other things for the company. We don't have any other EMC engineers and not many companies do either. Big companies like mine and others that sell EMI products and stuff don't have senior EMC engineers on the payroll. A few do but you count the number of fingers of my hand.

Research and Development

Geselowitz:

Where does the research and development come from for future EMC products?

Butler:

We visit customers directly. We send our R & D guys to visit. We invite the EMC guy of the company and say, look we want to bring in our R & D guys. We wanted to hear what your problems are, what problems you have, what products can't you find; tell us you've looked at all the products, you've looked at ours, our competitors, what do you need. What does this thing need to be able to do, what specs, what temperature range? We actually do what they call a deep dive interview of the customer and take extensive notes on what they want. Then we come back and maybe partner with them and develop the product. We do involve the EMC guy but it's the EMC guy for that company and everything is under wraps, under secrecy agreement and then if we do something it may well be introduced to the marketplace, but it's not something we would bring in, throw around the table here at the symposium.

Geselowitz:

A big part of EMC is individualized consulting? Whether you're a small consulting firm in your own shop or a big company like Chomerics, you're customers have problems and you're working directly with the customers?

Butler:

Absolutely.

Geselowitz:

I guess any basic research that might be and is going on in the universities is what you're saying the companies are not doing the basic research; they're just doing direct development with customers.

Butler:

Some of the bigger companies that have bigger R & D departments do some but a lot of it’s being done in the universities. You only have to look at the papers in the symposium record for this show now and look at who they're from; most of them from the universities. So much of the work is going on in universities.

Geselowitz:

Yet, my understanding is that that EMC is not really taught at the undergraduate level in universities; rather, students wander into it professionally. There may be a graduate lab or the professors doing it, and those graduate students are into it, but otherwise it's not recognized as a field the way that signal processing is.

Butler:

Right. In the last umpteen years the EMC Society recognized that slightly before or after my term where we decided that we really ought to provide seed money to universities to have them start an EMC course. That's gone on for the many years and I can't quite remember whether it started during my tenure or Kimball Williams; probably under Kimball Williams but the EMC Society's been trying to foster that.

Geselowitz:

Has that been successful to some extent?

Butler:

I believe so, yeah. There are some laboratories, there are some universities. University of Missouri Rolla is probably the one that I recognize the most that has graduate-level EMC masters and doctoral courses, and Clemson now, with Todd Hubing, has something, so there are some graduate level places that you can get EMC, but undergraduate – not really. You can't go to school and college and say I want to be an EMC engineer.

The reason for that is it's so all encompassing – I mean its circuit design; and when you get into my business where we make EMI gaskets and conductive partitions and shielded windows; its chemistry – it's formulating elastomers, its formulating chemical compounds, formulating paints, so it's basic chemistry. Then when you throw in, what about if I'm near the ocean, you're talking about galvanic corrosion issues and metallurgy and what happens when one metal is against another in salt spray, and you throw in sulphur dioxide from stack gases, that's another issue. Now you're into advanced chemistry and metallurgy and the very basics. You buy a conductive EMI gasket from my company and you need to put it in the box. Somebody has to calculate the deformation of the cover and how much bolt spacing you need, and how to seal the bolts.

So it's mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, metallurgy, physics. The breadth of EMI is so wide there is nobody who knows it all. What you find is some people are good at signal integrity, some being good at board layout, somebody's good at testing – they have the testing standards down pat – others are good at equipment.

You go out on the floor and look at the people selling equipment, they're the experts. I'm an expert in EMI gasketing so many of my colleagues who are consultants call me and say, Joe I've got this problem, we think he needs a gasket, will you talk to him. Then they just pass them to me. I play 20 questions and we find the type of gasket he needs, tell him how it works, what it can and can't do, then they go back to the consultant and they continue on. I think everybody recognizes that everybody isn't an expert in everything. And then when you start throwing in nuclear EMP and lightning and electrostatic discharge, the specialties are just endless and there's no nobody who knows it all. Everybody has their own niche that they they're recognized for.

Geselowitz:

You talked before about the standards meetings, with competitors sitting down and cooperating to the level where the senior management are rolling their eyes. Do you think that part of it is, unlike other fields, the nature of EMC lends itself to the fact that no one can do it alone so you have to cooperate with your colleagues.

Butler:

Absolutely. There's no question about it. There's no question about it, yeah. When they're talking about measurements and what thing to include, you've got this knowledge you might have for what customers want, you've got to dump that into the equation or the standards are not going to come out the way they ought to be. There is definitely necessary collaboration and to that end with all these different facets of EMC, it’s very interesting when you sit in a room and talk about this, and you have this collection of people with various backgrounds. One guy’s an expert on automotive, one’s an expert on aircraft, one’s a medical guy, and have the views tossed onto the table when you're discussing something, it's like oh wow, I never would have thought of that, so it's an interesting scenario.

We're not all in the same business because you're sitting next to the guy from Raytheon building missiles, to the guy from Motorola building radios, to the guy from Chrysler with automotive issues, and the guy from the FDA worrying about medical device electromagnetic interference. When you sit in this forum it's kind of interesting that you can pull so many people from so many markets with so many technical specialties, yet we're all EMC people. It's very interesting.

Life is good in that when you work at a company like mine, for instance, where we sell shielding products to the masses, I can be looking at a tank one day and a radio the next, and a medical device the third, and that's always the latest stuff because you can't sell it till it meets the standard. So the companies are calling you saying hey, we think we need this in order to be able to go to market. You're in consultations with them and looking at things that haven't been shown to the rest of the world yet, so that's pretty neat too. We have a whole group of people who do nothing but sign nondisclosure agreements so we can talk about the latest stuff before it's on the market.

To that sense for me, somebody like myself who works for a company that sells components, I'm not working for the same company. I did that way back when with Raytheon and RCA, but with Chomerics now, besides being able to get involved in the standards arena with all these different things about EMI, I talk to actual customers who need product as well. To be able to tell them that yeah, I know what you're trying to meet, I know that standard and I can have a discussion. In many cases depending on who calls, I know more about the standards they're trying to meet than they do because I sat on the committee, so that's kind of interesting. It helps me and I think that's another reason why the company has allowed me to do what I do.

Geselowitz:

I think that pretty much covers your career and society activity.

Butler:

Yep.

Geselowitz:

Is there anything that you'd like to add for the record that you can think of that we didn't cover? In terms of either IEEE or EMC more generally?

Butler:

No, I don't think so. I think the continuing thrust of globalization of the IEEE and the EMC in particular, absolutely necessary. I think that there's still a tremendous amount of standards work going on here and in Europe with the IEC and that will have relevance to many people. I think it's a good field to go into with the economy dipping, and even in Massachusetts, where I'm from, we're waiting for jobs to come back. I come here and there's a lot of jobs for EMC engineers posted down there on the bulletin board. Apple computer for one is looking to fill several positions, and it’s like, wow, EMC engineers seem to be immune from this economic thing which is good.

And that has happened before. Just when you think the business is slowing down ,you see this EMC jobs, and once in awhile they decide to close the lab and outsource, but to come here and see so many jobs looking for EMC engineers across the country is very encouraging, so. I think I'm in the right field.

Geselowitz:

Great. I think you are too. Thank you very much.

Butler:

Thank you very much.

Geselowitz:

I really enjoyed interviewing you.

Butler:

Thank you.