As a professional outside of the STEM fields, I had never heard of standardization prior to my first professional contact with it. My interests and passions led me to study energy-related topics, particularly electricity and regulation, that eventually became my specialty areas. Some of my decisions led me to my first professional experience in the energy sector, at the Ministry of Energy in Mexico, where I undoubtedly obtained great experiences and knowledge. However, I still had not come across standardization.

Standardization is a critical component in many industries, including the energy sector. It establishes guidelines and minimum criteria for quality, safety, and design, and is essential for facilitating foreign trade and boosting the competitiveness of companies, countries, and entire regions. While many STEM professionals are familiar with standardization, those outside of these fields may not be aware of its importance and impact.

I continued my career path and began to work at the Mexican Energy Regulatory Commission, where I developed professionally and specialized in electricity regulation. Eventually, I found myself in an area that I never imagined: the unit dedicated to developing Mexican standards in the field of electricity. After just a few weeks in this fascinating world, I began to ask myself what I could bring to the table and how I could contribute to standardization when I was surrounded by electrical engineers, and I had studied international relations.

It was there that I encountered fundamental concepts for any professional who wants to participate in the field of standardization: negotiation, consensus building and technical barriers to trade. The latter resonated particularly with me, because standards seek to establish guidelines and minimum criteria for quality, safety, and design (among many other things) that must not only achieve technical objectives but also help facilitate foreign trade and boost the competitiveness of companies as well as countries and entire regions. It was this concept that helped me realize I could contribute my skills to standardization by generating information and documents to point out the benefits and opportunities that Mexico gains by participating in the development of international standards.

Consensus building (along with negotiating) is one of the biggest challenges that emerging professionals–and experienced ones as well—working with standards or in standards development can face. My opportunity to gain experience in consensus building and apply these skills came in 2020, when I participated in the Mexican Program for Young Professionals of the Mexican Electrotechnical Committee. This was a highly enriching experience, where I had the opportunity to talk with leaders and experts in standardization in areas as diverse as energy efficiency and telecommunications.

Thanks to this program, I was able to represent Mexico as a young professional in an IEC General Assembly in Dubai where, along with brilliant and young colleagues, I experienced firsthand the challenges of building consensus and negotiating to develop a standard. There I verified that my analysis, communication, and leadership skills can make an important contribution in a highly specialized and technical world that, in the end, has the objective of benefiting the entire population.

This has been, until now, my professional path in standardization. My experiences and lessons lead me to say with certainty that I would encourage professionals outside the STEM fields to learn and develop their skills in the world of national and international standardization.

Author notes

Mónica R. Díaz is a public affairs and energy manager at Integralia Consultores and was named a Mexican IEC Young Professional in 2021. Follow her on Twitter: @mony_rdiaz