A Conversation with Outgoing President Bill Hedges

Reflection on a Presidency that Passed By Too Fast

Bill Hedges recently stepped down as the President of the Institute of Corrosion, handing over to Stephen Tate. Bill will continue to be involved as Immediate Past President for two years.

Having completed his two-year appointment as President, we caught up with Bill to get his insights into what it is like to be President of the Institute of Corrosion. We’re sure you’ll find what he said to be interesting and enlightening, as well as entertaining!

“Bill, what inspired you to become involved with the Institute of Corrosion?”

“Well, I’ve spent my entire career working in the area of corrosion and corrosion management. A great career, aided by the advice and help of many fellow professionals. This generosity has always inspired me to do the same for others and support our field of engineering.

“I guess, in many ways, it started when I lived in the United States. I was very involved with AMPP (formerly NACE). On returning to the UK in 2012, I wanted to support the Institute of Corrosion as well. In 2018, I was honoured to be elected as the Vice President. After this I became President in 2020, and handed over the presidency to Stephen Tate in 2022. I’ll now remain as Immediate Previous Past President for the next two years.

“It’s a great leadership system, spanning six years in each presidential cycle, from Vice President to President to Immediate Past President. It helps to ensure that the leadership is consistent, innovative, and forward-looking.”

“The last couple of years have been a rollercoaster ride. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your tenure as president?”

“A rollercoaster is putting it mildly!

“Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge – as it was for everyone in all walks of life.

“One of the great benefits of the Institute of Corrosion is the networking opportunities it provides, but, with COVID-19, all our face-to-face meetings had to stop.

“This was frustrating, but, like many organizations, this cloud had a silver lining. Our rapid switch to virtual meetings enabled more people to attend meetings and seminars – it’s very time efficient for delegates. Another benefit is that it helps us to reduce our carbon footprint, and sustainability is a key motivator in the world of corrosion.

“The global downturn was also a concern. Unable to run our classroom-based training courses meant we lost some revenue, though this has since recovered well.

“Finding individuals who have the time to get involved in the Institute is another challenge, given the busy and fast-paced nature of modern life. However, we are fortunate to have many dedicated members who are willing to get involved – the rewards of being a part of this really are something.”

“How did you measure the success of the Institute during your time as president?”

“As the president, I had a few key metrics that I used to gauge the success of the organization.

“Among the most straightforward was the growth in membership numbers and the financial stability of the organization. For example, the number of members we now have on LinkedIn has grown from virtually zero to more than 10,000. Another key indicator was the positive feedback I received from members.

“However, I should point out that all of the positive results we have achieved during my time as Vice President and President is a testament to the efforts put in by the council and staff as well as myself. No man is an island.”

“That’s a great point, Bill, and leads us nicely on to the next question. What do you consider to be the Institute’s greatest accomplishments during your time as president?”

“Of course, I am proud to have seen the Institute overcome several challenges and come out stronger. The team effort has been colossal during the most challenging time that most people can remember.

“Some of our greatest accomplishments included surviving the Covid-19 pandemic and global economic crisis; introducing virtual meetings; refreshing our training courses; developing new courses in Passive Fire Protection (PFP), Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC), and Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI); and ISO 17024 compliance for many of our courses.

“We’ve also established strong relationships with our partners (such as ABRACO) and, as I said earlier, made strides in social media with over 10,000 followers on LinkedIn.

“Additionally, our Young Engineer program continued to thrive and our cathodic protection (CP) training centre was opened, which was a major milestone.”

“That’s quite a rollcall of achievements. How do you see ICorr evolving in the next few years, Bill?”

“In the coming years, I see ICorr continuing to grow and evolve as we introduce new training opportunities and expand our online and classroom courses, developing more speciality and engineer-level offerings.

“Already, one-third of our membership is based outside of the UK, and I think we will continue to explore how we can offer greater connectivity and opportunities for these. We are investing in new IT systems. This will make it easier for all members to access our services and keep their details updated.”

“You’ve spoken of the role of the Council and staff in the activities and success of the Institute. How did you work with them during your tenure as President?”

“Working with the council and staff was one of the highlights of my presidency. ICorr’s day-to-day operations are managed by the President, with support from the other four Trustees, and we met monthly or as needed.

“The council, made up of committee chairs and branch chairs (26 in total), was incredibly supportive, and I always valued the feedback I received from them. A wonderful team to work with.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without the three staff members in our office. They are an essential part of our team, and I was grateful for the administration and organizational support they provided. We rely on them heavily.”

“The Institute’s mission is crucial. How did you ensure it was upheld during your tenure as president?”

“You’re spot on: ensuring that the Institute of Corrosion’s mission is upheld is essential. It’s a top priority and it’s this priority that makes it relatively easy to ensure we focus on the mission.

“The President is held accountable by the Trustees and the Council. I always made sure to consult with them and stay on track with our mission. By working together, we were able to achieve our goals and maintain the integrity of the Institute – no matter what this mad world threw at us!”

“Working together seems to be a theme here, Bill. Tell us, how do you involve members of the organization in decision-making processes?”

“For some of the big ideas or decisions I would ask for feedback via email or through my bi-monthly column in our Corrosion Management Magazine.  For this purpose, I created the president@icorr.org email to encourage members to connect with me directly.  Many did and I responded to every email.

I also valued the wise counsel of my fellow Trustees, Council members and past presidents who always gave their time and knowledge generously.

“However, this is an area in which we can continue to improve. We always wrestle with the balance of asking our members for input versus overloading them with emails etc.”

“Only two more questions, Bill. The first is how did you balance your responsibilities as President with your other (personal and professional) commitments?”

“My wife asks me the same question ─ but with a slightly different tone to yours!

The truth is that I’ve always liked to be busy. Being the President of the Institute of Corrosion was simply a part of this. It did take more time than I anticipated, though maybe that was partly my fault as I love to get involved with ideas and projects. 

“Being President has been incredibly rewarding, especially when we came through Covid and I was able to get out and meet with our members again ─ but I was also delighted to hand over to Stephen at the end of my two-year term!”

“We can imagine. And on this note, what advice would you give to the incoming President to help them succeed in their role?”

“I’ve spoken to Stephen about his ‘new life’ as President, so he knows this already: delegate more!

“There are two benefits to delegating. First, it reduces the workload of the President. But at least as important is that delegating provides great opportunities for others to contribute. This is especially the case with some of our fantastic younger members who are incredibly enthusiastic.

“But the most important advice I can give is to make sure you enjoy your time as President. It’s a fantastic role, and I have been extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to fulfil it. But those two years – they pass by in a flash.”