The new chairman of the IT industry’s biggest lobby group here celebrated his new position by looking after a problem well beside his 19th century farmhouse outside Toronto.
Jim Muzyka, whose day job is as senior vice-president and general manager of services at Xerox Canada, was named at the end of the week the new chair of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC),
ITAC represents some 1,300 companies across the nation, including IBM Canada, HP Canada, Dell Canada, Deloitte, Cisco Canada, Oracle Canada, BlackBerry, Bell, Rogers and Telus.
ITAC roles include promoting information technology, working with federal and provincial governments on industry initiatives and advocating that the industry become more diverse in hiring.
But reached Saturday to discuss his appointment, Muzyka was involved in the more mundane duties of resurrecting the well on the 1880 farmhouse near the town of Creemore, where he likes to get away from the business world.
And, he can literally get away: Until recently, he said, the house didn’t have a reliable Internet connection.
Before the board chose him as the chairman for the next 12 months, he’d been the group’s vice-chair.
Despite its powerful members, ITAC has been relatively quiet association, Muzyka admits, in part because the IT industry is so changeable. Thanks to two recessions in the past 12 years, there has been some thinning out (Nortel Networks, for one, is gone).
When he joined ITAC’s board in 2008, “it was an organization in need of a refresh,” he admits.
Not only had it gotten tired, some members often work with other groups – for example, the telecom members have the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) – for narrower interests.
Last year ITAC focused a lot of energy making sure a World Congress on Information Technology conference in Montreal ran well.
But Muzyka says ITAC is still relevant. “We’ve seen a real revival in interest and engagement of our membership. We’ve attracted a dozen new members in the last four months. Our committees have new vitality thanks to Karna (CEO Karna Gupta) and some of the new initiatives we’ve taken.”
Among those is pressure to make ITAC membership – and the IT industry – more diverse. At Xerox Canada he encouraged women to get into executive ranks, and Muzyka continued that work when he was asked to take Xerox Canada’s seat on ITAC’s board.
In the ITAC release announcing his appointment outgoing chair Jen Evans, chief strategist at Sequentia Environics, credits Muzyka for helping raise the number of women on the board from one in 2008 to 10 of 33 today.
Muzyka, who says the sector “has been branded to some degree as a male-dominated industry,” believes there are ways of encouraging more women to seek careers.
“You’ve got to get the flywheel going. You’ve got to have role models that women can emulate. Part of the (ITCA) women’s advisory group is to promote the introduction of role models. So we do a speakers series with women executives.”
In addition, he says, the industry has make sure high schools and universities are aware of why the sector is attractive.
One skill Muzyka has gained over the years is an understanding that squeezing governments too hard publicly can be counter-productive. So while ITAC’s job is promoting a digital society, he declines to say he’s disappointed the Harper government has yet to produce its long-promised digital strategy.
“I think we’re part of the consulting process,” Muzyka said. “I think the time will come for that, but it’s definitely something we’d prefer them to do sooner rather than later…. We definitely have a lot of interaction with them now (on the issue), a lot more than we would have had three years ago….We’re hopeful we’ll see more execution of our advice.”
Muzyka first joined Xerox [NYSE: XRX] in 1985 on the urging of a friend and started by selling work stations when the company had a personal computer line. After spending several years as an instructor at the parent company’s sales institute in Virginia, he returned here to start the Canadian divison’s outsourcing business.
In 1998 he left to help create Optus Corp., a transaction processing company, then moved to Mobile Computing Corp. and helped it restructure.
He went back to Xerox Canada in 2008.