A career in standards is often an unexpected life trajectory. While working on an electrical engineering senior design project with the task to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy to charge a device (i.e., cell phone), Muhammad Ali, now the senior standards strategy and policy leader for HP, Inc., realized the importance of standards and how they support the technology that powers the devices. Since then, Ali, a certified standard professional, has dedicated over 11 years of his career to leadership in voluntary consensus-based standards development, standards policy, conformity assessment, and emerging technologies in the consumer and electrical industry sectors.
As the co-vice chair of the ANSI Committee on Education (CoE), Ali’s latest venture includes educating the next generation of leaders so that they have a greater voice at the table when it comes to standardization development—and a larger impact on the world. Ali recently spoke with ANSI about the CoE’s latest efforts and how emerging leaders can get involved.
ANSI: From your perspective, why is it so important to educate students and emerging professionals about standardization?
Ali: Succession planning in the standards ecosystem is necessary to maintain the U.S. approach to a decentralized, bottom-up, sector-based approach led by the private sector to develop market-driven, voluntary consensus-based standards. It is important to have the relevant skillsets and competencies required to be successful and effective in standards engagement efforts. This is why standards education must be a priority for a sustainable standards system.
Furthermore, the standardization school of talent should be based on a ‘T-shaped’ value-driven systematic solution, which means that one needs to know the depth of the discipline of standards development, in addition to its breadth, which includes cross-discipline competencies in trade, intellectual property rights (IPR)/standards, essential patents, business implications, digital literacy, and more.
ANSI: What are some of the top latest efforts within the ANSI CoE to promote standardization awareness for next generation leaders?
Ali: The ANSI CoE offers free online educational courses for the standards community on various topics, such as an introduction to standards and leadership skills. ANSI also offers an annual ANSI Student Paper Competition to increase the awareness and value of standardization, and it organizes standards simulation exercises to provide hands-on experience to students and emerging professionals.
ANSI: What are simulation exercises and why are they important for educating the standards community? What elements of standardization can participants learn from simulations, based on your personal experience?
Ali: A standards simulation exercise is an in-person or virtual interactive, moderated, standards management game with a small number of participants targeted for students and emerging professionals. Before they get started, we recommend that the simulation participants review an introductory course on standards by ANSI. The goal of this simulation activity is to learn about the standards development process, its different interest categories, and the necessity of negotiation skills, as well as how to make consensus-based decisions and realize strategic benefits of standardization.
ANSI: What inspired your personal pathway to the CoE? How did you get involved and why is the mission of the CoE important to you?
Ali: I became a member of the ANSI CoE five years ago and was appointed as a co-vice chair in 2021. In my current role at HP, I mentor and train the technical experts participating in standards development activities to ensure they are effective in their roles. The mission of the CoE is important to me and my organization as it is promoting the standards literate workforce of the future, which helps to maintain a sustainable standards ecosystem, increase diversity and inclusion, and equip the U.S. to increase its standards leadership.
I also serve as a chair of the International Federation of Standards Users (IFAN) Working Group 16 on education and training to support and promote initiatives in the standardization field at international, regional, and national levels.
ANSI: What’s next on the horizon for the CoE?
Ali: We are looking to continue our successful efforts on standards simulations and welcome the support of sponsors to help fund these simulations; we continue to collaborate with ANSI Member Forums to find mutually beneficial activities to act on, and we look to engage more students for the annual student paper competition.
We are also going to be initiating a new collaborative activity with Society of Standards Professionals (SES) to provide a mentorship program for emerging professionals to enhance their knowledge and skills around standards and conformity assessment, utilizing the guidance of experienced standards and conformity assessment professionals.
About the ANSI Committee on Education
The ANSI Committee on Education (COE) oversees all Institute initiatives related to standards and conformity assessment education. The committee works with the entire standardization community to introduce the importance of standards to the academic community and to the public at large, and continually seeks partnerships and opportunities to engage and inform new constituents of all ages.
The COE helps to fulfill the objectives of the United States Standards Strategy, including Strategic Initiative 10, Promote and Encourage a Standards-Literate Workforce by building Standards awareness and competence among various communities, and responds to other issues that may be delegated by the ANSI Board of Directors or Executive Committee, or suggested by the National Policy Advisory Group.
About Muhammad Ali, CStd
Muhammad Ali is a senior standards strategy and policy Leader for HP, Inc. He is responsible for managing the overall external standards engagement and leading HP's efforts in U.S.-based standards organizations.
Ali earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from George Mason University and has served on Society of Standards Professional as a Board Member. He currently serves on the INCITS Executive Board and is also an ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology, appointed Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) mentor and Systems Integration Facilitation (SIF) facilitator. He is a past recipient of the ANSI Next Generation Award, SES Emerging Professional Award, and INCITS Chair Award.