The mission of Going Global is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.
CHICAGO – John Janowiak is senior director of the International Engineering Consortium (IEC). He has held various leadership positions during his 20-year career with the consortium. In his current role, Janowiak is responsible for executive and university relations, international market development and technology transfer between industry and academia.
Janowiak is active with and serves as the IEC’s principal liaison to many information industry corporations and non-profit organizations. He currently serves on the Pacific Telecommunications Council board of directors and the Enterprise Communications Consortium board of directors.
He is also a member of the SUPERCOMM Program Management Committee, which oversees all sales, marketing and operational elements of SUPERCOMM’s annual exhibit and conference. Janowiak also serves on the DSL Forum Marketing Committee.
The IEC is a non-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing technology and business progress worldwide in a range of high-technology industries and university communities. Since 1944, the IEC has provided educational opportunities for industry professionals, academics and students.
In conjunction with companies, the IEC has developed a free online educational program. The IEC also conducts industry and university programs and develops research, publications, conferences and technological exhibits that address opportunities and challenges of the information age. Some 70 high-tech universities are IEC affiliates.
International expert Michael Muth sat down with Janowiak to learn about the IEC and the event and conference landscape.
Michael Muth: Is the IEC a trade association?
John Janowiak: The IEC really is the industry or a platform for the industry. We’re an industry service organization that is guided by what the industry tells us to do and by what we hear from academia about their needs. Because we’re affiliated with 300 universities, there’s this enormous linkage between industry and academia.
I don’t look at us as a trade association. We’re a platform for industry and academia to interact.
MM: When did the IEC become international?
JJ: As the National Engineering Consortium (which was our name before we became the IEC), we developed and presented a local conference for industry and academics. The NEC was basically disbanded when it became clear that the electronics industry was becoming three segments: computers, consumer electronics and telecommunications.
Since we had been serving telecom since the late 1960s, we decided to go with the telecom segment. In the early 1990s, we began to serve the electronic design engineering community (semiconductors and silicon chips). Our two major industry focuses are communications and electronic design engineering.
We became international at our 50th anniversary in 1994. We had a retreat. It was the collective work of our board and industry advisers that drew us to that conclusion. This is our 60th anniversary and we’re doing the same thing again. This fall, we’re gathering industry leaders to get their perspectives and look at how we’ve done the last 10 years.
We were very conservative when we went international. We didn’t just go out and start doing conferences and providing services. We did it strategically. We focused first on Europe where we were already bringing academics from Europe to our U.S. conferences. We built relationships with senior executives abroad and added them to the board. We then focused on the university community in Europe. We now have a great lineup.
This past year marks our entry into Asia with the support of the major carriers throughout Asia and China. We’re now in the process of adding universities in Asia and we work with executives and other groups to identify leading technology universities and institutes that serve the markets to which we provide education.
We rely heavily upon the goodwill and guidance of executives in different parts of the world.
MM commentary: The IEC was very smart in the way it went about international expansion. Getting senior leadership on board early is key. Reflective of the organization, the IEC took it slowly in a way that made sense. Private companies would probably want to move faster.
MM: Which of your constituencies is the most international?
JJ: We have a couple programs that serve an international constituency. We present educational forums with large technology exhibitions around the world. These serve industry and academia. The IEC has a program that allows 300 to 500 academics (graduate students and professors) to come to events in different parts of the world.
We also produce research publications from extensive libraries. These publications are provided to industry for a fee and are free to universities. We’re plugged into academia. In delivering content, our Web site is one of the most used in engineering. We have 450,000 registered worldwide users. Though the U.S. is the largest user, the Asian countries (including India) are a very close second.
MM commentary: I’m a little surprised that the IEC site is ranked that high in engineering. It would be useful to know the basis of comparison.
MM: How many are international visitors to the U.S.?
JJ: In Europe, they cross a lot of borders to attend our conferences. Because our program doesn’t cover travel, we can give out more grants each year. It’s also so more academics can attend and we can influence more people. We don’t see as many academics coming across the pond.
MM commentary: The model fits for private companies as well (i.e. share costs with partners so more people can participate in user conferences).
MM: Do you bring speakers here?
JJ: We try to cross pollinate a certain percentage of our programs that way. The true value the IEC brings is the ability to share perspectives and ideas from different parts of the world. These are some of our core aspects and strengths.
MM commentary: Though I haven’t attended any international IEC events, I can vouch for local IEC and ECC events, which are good networking opportunities.
MM: Sixteen of 74 university affiliates appear to be based outside the U.S. How did you recruit them?
JJ: Through executives and their companies, we identify leading universities in the communications education and design engineering areas. Often the schools and the companies already have a professional relationship. We go in at a high level and work with the university and provide them the benefits of IEC affiliation.
There is no cost for universities to be involved with us. They just have to meet certain criteria. We’re starting the process in Asia now. In May, we had our first Broadband World Forum in Korea with 50 academics. We are setting up the network for the people we serve.
MM commentary: Again, starting from the top helps. Also, being market driven (i.e. encouraging executives to recruit universities rather than by recruiting based on esoteric academic rankings) ensures the participation of schools that provide value to the marketplace.
MM: Only three of your IEC fellows appear to come from outside the U.S. Why?
JJ: Our fellows program is very exclusive. The board is extremely careful who is indoctrinated into the fellow category. It’s made up of Gordon Moore of Intel, Dave Packard of Hewlett-Packard and Bob Galvin of Motorola. Those kinds of luminaries reach that stature.
We are now beginning the process to identify candidates from Europe and Asia for the fellow program. You’ll see that dimension change over the next five to 10 years. This organization is 60 years old. The IEC is very careful about taking the right steps at the right speed. We’re after quality.
MM commentary: One area where even the most progressive companies are lagging is in international participation on boards of directors. Even companies with significant revenues from outside the U.S. still don’t have corollary international representation on their boards. Though IEC fellows are not board directors, this does mirror that situation.
MM: What’s your role at SUPERCOMM, which is one of the most international telecom shows?
JJ: One of our prominent roles is to develop the educational content, which is a massive undertaking. I think we have more than 500 speakers over a four-day span. We also play a major role in special exhibit floor demonstrations. We help organize those. We also do a good portion of the marketing. I sit on the executive committee for SUPERCOMM.
MM commentary: The IEC is one of the major organizers of SUPERCOMM, which will be in Chicago for the next couple years.
Disclaimer: The IEC is an advertiser with ePrairie
Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Click here for Muth’s full biography.
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