A major voice in Canada’s IT industry has fallen silent. IT World Canada mourns the loss of its CEO, Fawn Annan, who passed away this morning. Our hearts go out to her family.
Fawn was first president, and then CEO of IT World Canada (ITWC), beginning in June, 2010. She became one of the co-owners when former owner Michael Atkins retired, and was a driving force in the “second life” of the company, which had, like so many publications, been devastated by the impact of the internet. Fawn fought tenaciously to bring it back to profitability and to remain as the voice of the Canadian IT industry.
She led IT World Canada as it became the first legacy publisher to go fully digital in the world of technology publications. It was a courageous move, but one that paid off; her work is detailed in the book Digital Transformation in the First Person, which she co-authored with IT World Canada CIO Jim Love.
Fawn was a force across the Canadian IT industry throughout her career. Prior to coming to IT World Canada, she started the first Unix trade show in Canada, which became a massive success, through her firm Communications 2000. It was while working on that trade show that she met her then partner, and later her husband, Jim Annan.
At IT World, she continued in that pioneering tradition, building events like Showcase Ontario, a huge event celebrating technology in the province of Ontario. On the federal stage, she developed the Lac Carling Congress, which for many years was the premier event for government and technology. ITWC’s later CIO Summits were smaller versions of the Lac Carling experience, and are still fondly remembered.
She founded the Canadian CIO of the Year awards and created IT World Canada’s CIO Hall of Fame. The awards, which celebrate the accomplishments of CIOs and technology leaders across the country, continue to this day, now in partnership with the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN), another organization that Fawn supported.
“Fawn was a great leader and strategic partner to the CIO Association of Canada,” said Philippe Johnston, national president of CIOCAN. “She was a well-respected member of the business community who dedicated herself to growing the IT leadership in Canada, especially for women. We will miss her friendship, her industry insights and her many significant contributions to the ICT sector in Canada.”
She also founded the Canadian Channel Chiefs Council, aka C4, a not-for-profit organization for the multi-billion dollar industry that provides technology services and products through the thousands of organizations, large and small, across Canada, that are known as “the Channel.”
“Fawn was a very dear friend and respected colleague for many years,” said Gary Davenport, a member of the board of directors of the CIO Association of Canada and board advisor at the Canadian Channel Chiefs Council. “She was a pleasure to work with and an absolute giant within our Canadian ICT industry with enormous insights and impacts. She could always be counted on to provide a fresh perspective and to take positive action to make things better for all stakeholders.
“Fawn was a strategic partner of the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) and also took on a leading role at the Program Advisory Council for the Information Technology Program at the Ted Rogers’ School of Business. I am thankful for our friendship and her many contributions to the things we worked on together. I will sorely miss her.”
She was sought out as a board member by a number of organizations, including the Mackenzie Institute, ITAC, and Women in Communications and Technology (WCT), plus many others. She was a great champion of diversity in all its aspects. She was co-chair for the Sarah Kirke Declaration Caucus, a group that promotes diversity and women-led business in Canada, which presented her with the RBC and CATA Sara Kirke Award for her contributions to media and society.
Her talent for creating engaging and amazing events applied to her support of diversity in the tech industry. Events such as Women in the IT Channel and the Canadian Women in Cybersecurity awards have celebrated the accomplishments of women in tech. She also created IT World Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ event to celebrate the stories of diversity and allyship in technology.
“Fawn has been a true supporter and pioneer of women’s initiatives throughout her entire life,” said Corinne Sharp, co-founder of The WIT Network. “She was a mentor to so many women and men with her leadership approach that led from the heart. To me she was a dear friend, mentor, inspiration, business partner, and leader who I aspire to be like every day. The WIT Network will ensure her legacy continues in all that we do in her honour.”
Fawn was not just a supporter, she was a role model and the definition of what a leader should be in embracing diversity. Under her guidance, IT World Canada became the model of a diverse organization.
She freely shared her success with others. She was a mentor, a coach, and a friend to countless numbers of women and men who benefited from her guidance, her support and her help. She never talked about it, but she always found a way to help someone who needed it.
Those efforts led to awards including MISA/ASIM Dennis Steen Award, presented to a non-municipal community player that has greatly contributed to the overall well-being of the association and municipalities throughout Canada from their actions, and Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Award, which honoured those who have made significant contributions that have aided the progress of society and civilization, throughout the Commonwealth.
A graduate of York University with distinction, Fawn was a lifelong learner. She was most proud of getting her MBA from the University of Cumbria in England, which she did in her fifties, balancing running and transforming IT World Canada, her various boards and causes, and a punishing program of studies.
She is survived by her husband Jim, her beloved son Ashton, her daughter-in-law, Robyn and the two absolute joys of her life, her grandchildren Olivia and Kendal.
Plans for a memorial service will be announced shortly. Meanwhile, please share your memories of Fawn in the comments.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Fawn’s name to Princess Margaret Hospital or the Hospital for Sick Children.