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Ian Collins, BEng '85

Electrical Engineering | The Infrastructure of Change

When Ian Collins graduated from Electrical Engineering in 1985, the emerging world of digital electronics offered an exciting new frontier to explore.

Three decades later, he admits that he never envisioned just how far those explorations might take him.

Starting as a junior engineer with Hamilton Hydro, Collins rose through the ranks of the organization to eventually head the Fibrewired telecommunications business unit responsible for developing a Hamilton-based fibre optic network.

Building that business from an idea to an organization generating $7.6 M in revenue over a five-year period hooked Collins on the excitement and possibilities of telecommunications.

“The world was changing from the traditional voice infrastructure to the “new” internet protocol world,” he explains. “I was inspired by the opportunity to change how we consumed broadband, to work on leading-edge network infrastructure and develop a business around it.”

“Being Hamilton-born and part of the McMaster community, I was particularly proud to have brought fibre optic infrastructure to every school – urban and rural – as well as hospital and public sector institution in Hamilton, including McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences,” he adds.

During the boom of the development of Internet infrastructure, Collins held key positions with Toronto Hydro Telecom and Cogeco Data Services. He also served as president and COO of Atria Networks, a company that eventually sold to Rogers Communications for $425M.

“Having P&L responsibility for the business forced me to grow beyond my engineering background, but one thing that my Mac B.Eng taught me was to ‘learn how to learn’ and not be afraid to pursue new things,” says Collins. “So I learned the business of running a business which as it turns out is a very transferrable skill. “  

Today, Collins is COO of CEO Global Network, a senior executive peer group organization offering mentoring and leadership to business owners and entrepreneurs.

“One thing I would say to students, albeit with 30 years of hindsight, is that a B.Eng provided me with the confidence and courage to pursue any opportunity that I was interested in,” he says. “Challenge yourself throughout your career to continue to learn.  The journey is not one to miss.”