CIO Association of Canada marks 20 year anniversary

VANCOUVER – It’s fitting that Catherine Boivie’s career with the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) would come to an end exactly where it began.

Boivie, one of the founding members of CIOCAN and a long-time serving board member, was recognized ahead of her imminent retirement from the organization with a toast and with a special gift. CIOCAN is donating $3,000 to support a new scholarship in Boivie’s name at the Ted Rogers School of Business at Ryerson University. It was presented to Boivie at the CIO Peer Forum on Tuesday.

“I hope the future generation looks at technology strategically,” she says. “A way of building a new world that’s technology enabled.”

CIOCAN President Humza Teherany toasts founding member Catherine Boivie.

Twenty years ago Boivie had just moved from Toronto to Vancouver. She felt the need to create a “safe harbour” to share information and tactics with fellow CIOs. A couple of peers, including A&W CIO Jim Williams, pitched in to create the CIO Association of B.C. It would soon scale to 100 members, and then across the country. Today there are six chapters of CIOs and one chapter of CISOs in the organization, and more than 400 members.

Boivie hopes that her legacy for the volunteer-run association will be the continuation as a safe harbour for CIOs that want to learn. And these days, CIOs need to learn quickly.

“By the time the knowledge is in a book, it’s too late,” she says. “It has to be just in time and it has to come from a practitioner. “

Just in the past year, CIOCAN has grown its membership by more than 30 per cent. The independent chapters have grown stronger across the country, says Humza Teherany, the current president of CIOCAN. For example, Its Ottawa chapter is run by Philippe Johnston, a CIO with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and has grown to 20 members.

The scope of the membership is also evolving to include CISOs, with that chapter launched last year and now counts about 25 members. It’s still in its infancy, but Teherany sees it as an important part of the association’s future. Come out of two days of strategy session’s with the volunteer executive of CIOCAN, he feels ready to help celebrate its membership in a broader way than ever.

“We as Canadians have to tell our innovation stories way more,” he says. “We are so humble and that defines us as Canadian. But we don’t tell those success stories enough.”

A new marketing plan will see Canadian CIOs chipping in their commentary on what they see happening in the marketplace, and what should be done about it. It plans to use its unique position of organizing hundreds of technology leaders as a sort of power network in the technology space, one that is vendor-neutral. He hopes to expand with new chapters in geographically strategic places soon enough, and encourages members in a region such as Kitchener-Waterloo or Quebec to get involved and start one.

“We’re growing organically now, which is great,” he says.

It wouldn’t have been possible without Boivie, Teherany says, and the vision she had 20 years ago to unify CIOs. Bringing he CIO Peer Forum event back to Vancouver to mark the 20th anniversary milestone only made sense.

Over those 20 years, the role of the CIO has changed, Boivie says. From a manager of the IT department to a business leader that sits alongside other executive management, the CIO role has also evolved to one that’s more collaborative with the business instead of adversarial.

CIOCAN members are celebrating 20 years for the volunteer-run association.

Boivie is just glad her association survived its early years. She remembers fretting about raising the membership fee from $100 to $300 about three years in. But CIOs kept signing up.

“It showed there was a real need for such an association and that people were willing to help out and put some blood, sweat, and tears into it,” she says.

And at the Peer Forum, when they raised a toast in Boivie’s name, those CIOs put some champagne in it too.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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