Introducing 2023 SAE President Todd Zarfos

By Rachel Wetzel posted 02-20-2023 07:34 AM


Former Boeing executive dedicated to a “prudently aggressive” mindset in advancing SAE’s goals in the mobility ecosystem.

Posted: February 2, 2023

Guest Post by Todd Zarfos (UPDATE Magazine)

Among the many projects and plans heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was the 2020 SAE International presidency.

I am Todd Zarfos, and as some of you may remember, it was I whose SAE presidency was held hostage that infamous and challenging year. This is an exaggeration, of course, as I was still free to perform many of the basic functions of the SAE presidency: participating in SAE International Board of Directors meetings, offering opinions and ideas to the board and SAE staff about how to expand SAE’s importance in the mobility industry, “Zooming” with industry leaders, and performing the sundry tasks required of the president.

But, like many of you, I was greatly hindered from traveling, tethered to my desk, as it were, but at least comfortable in my working from home casual wear. However, I was unable to support many important tasks of the presidency, including speaking at SAE’s major conferences, visiting with SAE sections, visiting with leaders from the transportation sector and other key SAE stakeholders. These are critical responsibilities of the SAE President, and I was personally frustrated at my inability to advance the goals of SAE through interaction with the SAE membership and mobility industry leaders.

SAE is not a passive organization. We must be prudently aggressive in making SAE an indispensable force of knowledge throughout the mobility ecosystem — from rivet makers to autonomous carmakers and all the companies and institutions between them.

In 2023, I plan to fully utilize the SAE president’s travel budget. If you see me at a conference or other event, please be sure to introduce yourself to me. I want to hear your thoughts on how we can mutually improve SAE, better serve our members and constituents, and advance the organization’s work in important new areas.

As we always have, SAE will continue to innovate in the area of standards to serve across the mobility front. SAE is important to all of the mobility sectors — automotive, commercial vehicle, and aerospace — and standards underpin them. They are essential. They represent a key tool to advance technology and adapt to our customers’ needs. That is why I’ve put so much of my time and effort into this focus area even before becoming SAE president.

I’ve been active in aerospace standards for over 30 years, serving in various capacities and in different organizations. I have a greater appreciation for the value of SAE because I’ve worked at the ground floor of what it takes to develop standards. Before retiring from Boeing in December of 2020, I oversaw how we used our standards and who supports them — encompassing the entire lifecycle of the process.

While standards are essential, they form part of a greater whole of knowledge and information. SAE has an overarching mobility strategy, and we’re going to make sure we continue to move forward in the major thrust areas. Additive manufacturing, autonomous technologies, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity are important new trends for which SAE is expanding its role. The entire transportation industry is rethinking every aspect of what it produces in the context of sustainability.

So, for me, it’s about making sure that we bring forward new capabilities — what new frameworks, workforce trainings, publications and standards do we need to develop to prepare industry as we move forward? That’s where we’ll spend a lot of time and effort on the board, refining our strategies to keep SAE at the forefront of standards development and as a recognized thought leader in the mobility space.

SAE is about providing the enablers around mobility: safety, accessibility, and affordability. All three of these focus areas go across all of our transportation sectors.

Encouraging students to go into STEM fields is a priority for me, as it has been for previous SAE presidents. The SAE Foundation funded A World in Motion ® (AWIM ®) curriculum specifically targeted for the K-8 community and the Collegiate Design Series —  these programs are the two main vehicles through which SAE develops and executes activities geared to entice students into an engineering career. I have some firsthand volunteer experience with those specific SAE STEM programs.

In closing, let me say that I’m here to support our SAE community. On that note, if there’s something that we need to improve or change — whether it’s SAE the institution, the team or within our industries — I’m more than willing to do my part to make the change happen.

I consider it a distinct honor to be part of the SAE leadership team and I am super excited about SAE’s future.

This letter from Todd Zarfos is appearing on the SAE Blog courtesy of the SAE publication, UPDATE Magazine. Check out the latest edition of UPDATE for more news on what's new at SAE International.