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BICSI’s new chief

Canadian John Bakowski takes over as president of BICSI for a two-year term this month. In a recent interview with CNS, he talked about his goals, challenges and the overall state of the structured cabling industry.


January 1, 2006  


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CNS What are your primary goals for the next two years?

Bakowski There are two “i’s” in BICSI and those will be the focus for the next two years. One is to make BICSI more international. The next step is to become not only widely known and recognized globally, but become a valued entity in the international forums.

The places where we have gone in the past, we are enjoying some degree of success as in Australia, the U.K., Europe and the Middle East. Internationally we are recognized, but we need to provide more value-add.

The second “i” stands for internal. An internal focus means North America. The goal is to increase membership, not for the sake of numbers alone, but to provide a value added factor to Individual and Corporate membership.

CNS How does Canada size up and are you satisfied with the membership numbers in this country?

Bakowski Internally at BICSI, Canada is viewed as international, yet it’s not. BICSI, from my perspective is a North American organization, which means Canada and the U.S. I would consider anything offshore to be international.

In Canada, we are relatively low in terms of numbers. We currently have 842 members, but aspiring to eventually having 1,200-1,500 is certainly not unreasonable.

Although we have been around for over 30 years and have a successful profile in the IT business, we need to promote ourselves better. That is something I will be doing over the next two years.

We have started to partner with people who are affiliated with our business. Success will come not through exclusivity, but through partnerships with like-minded people.

CNS How critical is the full-time BICSI staff going to be moving forward?

Bakowski They are the engine behind what I and the rest of the board want to do going forward. They do the research and source the information that we need. The board is moving to a “knowledge based governance system” so this background and the research is critical to the whole organization.

One year ago, BICSI went through a lot of changes. We experienced a lot of staff changes, many people left for any number of reason, but today staff stability has returned.

CNS Was all the upheaval necessary in your mind?

Bakowski In a word, yes. I originally questioned the extent of the change and I was not comfortable with it, but when I sat back and talked with the president and executive director I certainly realized it was necessary. Donna French was hired as executive director to bring things into line that needed attention. She has the management expertise that we were looking for.

CNS Have the rest of the board members bought into curtailing U.S.-centric philosophy, which you want to get away from?

Bakowski Both the overall board and staff have. Everyone realizes that growth is going to happen quicker in the international market than it is in the U.S./Canada market. U.S. and Canadian membership is far from being over saturated, and there is a steady demand for what we provide. There is going to be growth, but nothing like the growth that we’re going to see in Europe, India, Japan, the Middle East and Africa.

CNS What are the challenges you see going forward?

Bakowski We need to give all of these different locations a certain amount of autonomy, but without making them feel like they have been cut loose. In other words, BICSI is BICSI regardless of where you go. Each location should, however, have a local flavour.

CNS The goal then is to create a truly global organization, correct?

Bakowski We have a global organization and presence today. The challenge for staff, the board and our membership is to make that notoriety a desirable part of the business. We’re successful both in Canada and the U.S. If a project goes out for an RFQ or an RFP the chances are an RCDD or equivalent is required. That is starting to happen offshore as well.

The barometer of the success of any organization, regardless of the location lies with the number of membership renewals.

CNS You have been a member since 1987, how has the industry and BICSI changed?

Bakowski Certainly in Canada, when I joined it was a telco-driven world. We followed the American model of inter-connect and despite the rocky roads, it all smoothed out and opened up a huge economic opportunity for both the telcos, electricals and the low voltage industry.

We helped create a low voltage utility. It has changed big time and gone from a telco- regulated world to an industry that is a “fourth utility”.

If I have any regrets is that I’m at the age that I am at a time when there is so much opportunity out there.

There is such a need for smart technical professionals. One of my goals is to reach out to the young people within the industry, making them aware and desirous of becoming a part of our Industry.

CNS What about the whole cost benefit side of BICSI? Clearly, in order to continue to build the number of members you have to provide value. Are you satisfied with what BICSI provides right now.

Bakowski No, I’m not entirely. The learning and training opportunities are not being developed as quickly as they should be.

Internally, we are doing a good job of developing training modules, but I’m not sure that the people outside this particular business recognize the type of expertise we bring to the table. We need to reach out to other professions.

We have not reached out enough. We have to do more and we need to do more quickly. The success of BICSI will depend on the quality of programs we provide to the Industry.

CNS Will BICSI give any consideration to reviewing and grandfathering other installer training programs into the BiCSI certified installer? For example, Ontario now has a provincial license (631A) for this work.

Bakowski I have personally been disappointed with the Ontario program. They have developed a standalone specialty program that is recognized in Canada only, but is it tied into BICSI? No. Is it tied into people who are involved in the big picture? No.

I was initially involved in the program, and saw a lot of potential for development, but was not able to continue to the degree I would have liked. The program development was then taken over by others without consideration to the full potential of the training and its geographic impact.

CNS Is it fair to say that what happened with 631A is a microcosm of the installer training dilemma in this country?

Bakowski That’s a fair statement, but the situation may certainly change. For example, BICSI is developing programs to reach out to other training institutions. Right now, we have a fairly complex licensing program.

We are currently in the process of redevelopment of the Licensing programs so that is more readily available to more people. If they recognize our program and CEC’s then we will reciprocate.

CNS Clearly, this industry is changing and the expertise must be there. Going forward, will the buck stop at the installer?

Bakowski When you start getting into 10Gig systems, quality is King. It has to be done once and it has to be done right. There is simply no room for error.

It’s not just copper — it’s also fiber and wireless. It’s the technician who the designer will revere. I have seen jobs that are lacking in quality, and others that would rank as “works of art”

You have to respect the talent of the person who “punches” that tool and makes the IDC connection. I’ve been there and done it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who is proud of their work.

CNS The stakes have risen, have they not?

Bakowski
In the telco world, connectivity occurred by placing a cable on the shortest route between two points. Today, connectivity is designed from end-to-end and even in places where you don’t see it such as above the ceiling, in the wall or under the floor.It has to be designed and placed properly.

Quality today goes in that wall, across the ceiling and comes out at the rack, cabinet or wall at the other end. A good structured cabling designer and the technician both know that your reputation in the industry is only as good as your last project.