How Howard Solomon changed the Canadian IT industry

Most of the thousands of Canadian IT people who have been reading and enjoying Howard Solomon’s stories for the last decade and a half have been missing out on one thing he never puts on the page: the pregnant pauses of which he is the undisputed master.

When speaking, he will begin a thought — and then stop. You will wait. And then wait some more. Then wait a little longer, until you reach the point where you just want him to finish his bloody sentence so you can get back to your day. But more often than not, what comes next makes you feel like that pause had a payoff. It could be an astute observation, a pointed critique or some inimitable sarcasm, but it’s always pure Howard — the same knowing voice that has chronicled every aspect of IT in this country.

Although he’ll likely continue as a contributor, Howard formally retires from ITWC this month, which is an occasion that demands a pause of its own: to reflect on an extraordinary career. You could start with the technology milestones it spans: From the early days of the Internet as a force in mainstream society to Web 2.0 and now the Internet of Things; from PCs to laptops to smartphones and now wearables; from print media to social media to apps; from desktop software to software as a service. It’s difficult to imagine that a single journalist could have been on the front lines of so many changes, much less a journalist as dedicated to providing the best possible coverage of those changes.

In Howard’s case, however, technology has not been the only thing that changed. Howard changed. As someone who began in traditional newspapers, he could easily have been written off as a dyed-in-the-wool print reporter. Instead he morphed from print to online seemingly overnight. He moved across publications and beats, from Computing Canada to CDN, to NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld and finally back to Computing Canada and IT World Canada. He was the last person I would have thought would enjoy working in video, but was among the first to sign up for professional on-camera training. His ability to write in-depth feature stories made him seem like a bad fit for the meagre 140 characters of Twitter, but before I knew it, @HowardITWC became a real thing.

The other element ITWC readers missed in all of Howard’s work was the theorizing behind it. Some of my favourite moments with him have been when he would stop by my office to discuss a new development in an ongoing story, like the fall of Nortel, the rise of Wind Mobile and the machinations of the spectrum auctions. His on-the-spot analysis has always been inspiring, all the more so when it gets translated into the endless stream of articles, blog posts and curated pieces he’s published. Then there’s the coaching, mentoring and support he’s given to so many of us who have worked with him across three different companies, through the 90s and the Aughts up until today.

On behalf of the Canadian IT industry, and ITWC, I can only say thank you to Howard, and hope that this isn’t truly the end of the stories he tells for us. Hopefully it’s just another pause.

Shane Schick is the editor of CanadianCIO and the former Editor-in-Chief of IT World Canada.

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