Intel Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) director, regional sales organisation, Philip Cronin, pays tribute to his friend and colleague, the late Ian Birks, in this letter to the editor.
Ian Birks departed this life recently, leaving a big gap for his family and many of his friends. He also left his mark on the Australian ICT world and made a real contribution to promoting Australian ICT innovation across the country and on the Asia regional stage.
Ian was a committed and passionate advocate for the ICT industry. His career highlights include CEO of the AIIA, Ideas International, and more recently, the Australian Services Roundtable for three years. He was also a member of the Australian Government's Small Business Ministerial Advisory Council; the CSIRO Digital Productivity Flagship and Services Advisory Committee; Chair of the Australian Government's IT Industry Innovation Council.
Ian led the charge for our industry tirelessly. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for progress were legendary. Ian brought with him stature and integrity – a sharp strategic mind and selfless generosity to his colleagues and peers. He was a strong and respected stalwart of the industry.
“Ian was more than a colleague”, said Kee Wong, Chair of AIIA, “he was an outstanding leader and voice in advocating the role of ICT in driving Australia’s economy.His passing is a great personal loss to me – and of course, a sad loss for the industry.”
Ian will be remembered fondly for his presence, passion and sharp wit. As the debate on the NBN Broadband Network grew, Ian coined the pithy but incisive phrase, “it’s about the trains, not the tracks” to crystalise the idea that our focus needed to shift to the benefits we would see.
On his final night as CEO of the AiiA, Senator Stephen Conroy presented Ian with a Manchester City shirt, which Ian wore with great pride when we watched City play on TV. Some years ago, I went to watch Ian playing soccer for his local club ,Wahroonga, and the sight of the big guy heading for goal at full speed would have terrified many defenders.
John Grant, former Chair of the AIIA, recalled Ian as, “a humble, charming, interested, respectful, sports loving, smart, good fun guy who loved his kids and was good looking to boot! We had some challenging but wildly inspirational times in the AIIA as Chair and CEO.”
I read back through some of our email exchanges from the time and can see how focused Ian was on promoting ICT at every opportunity. He understood that this industry of ours was a major, but understated, contributor to the Australian economy. He wanted to change that and shine a light on the great work we all do. Senator Stephen Conroy wrote, “I will miss a friend who was always a pleasure to deal with.”
He could not dance, but for a big guy, made a great effort at many events, the iAwards night picture captures those moments, Ian’s beaming smile, late at night, on the dance floor.
He had a particular passion for Australian small business, loved to see how successful they could be on the world stage & was a huge advocate of the hugely successful iAwards which creates a platform for Australian companies, entrepreneurs and innovators.
To his family, he was simply dad. I can only say thank you for giving him such great support over the years. As John Grant put it, “Our loss is nothing compared to theirs. They can be comforted knowing how much his friends and business associates loved and admired him. But there’s no comfort in losing him when the future had such great promise.”
We farewelled Ian on a beautiful sky blue winter day in Sydney. He would have loved the symmetry in that.