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John Zabakkides has harnessed the power of his NC education

John Zambakkides’ 50-plus-year career is a mosaic of many firsts in the high-tech electronics industry, not the least of which was becoming the first Field Application Engineer in Canada for Fairchild Semiconductor before the age of 30.

The Power Engineering grad (Class of 1972) quickly progressed from Manager to District Manager and then to Manager for Canada, working on special designs and technology programs with Northern Telecom/Bell Northern Research, CDC, Admahl Computers, Mitel and more leading Canadian technology and communications companies.

It was nothing like the career as a pilot he had envisioned in his youth. His engineering mind and technical talents were fascinated by aerodynamics. But his family was worried about his safety and persuaded him to try the Electronics Engineering Technology program instead.
He never looked back.

Decades later, Zambakkides’ talents and contributions to the engineering technology industry have earned him recognition as a leader in energy management and conservation, and a nomination for a Premier’s Award for Technology. And it’s his Niagara College education that he credits for more than half a century of success.

“I really found my calling in college,” he said, recalling how nurtured he felt as his skills multiplied.
He said Niagara College gave him the knowledge and confidence boost he needed to head out into the workforce and land the very first job he ever applied for.

“Unquestionably, my program charted the course of my life,” he said. “I learned everything I needed to know to be successful, and then everything else was just icing on the cake.”

By the time he turned 31, Zambakkides was managing two companies—Fairchild and National Semiconductor—that were collectively generating $70 million in business. He was encouraged to move to Silicon Valley to work at Fairchild’s headquarters and maintain his career’s momentum. Instead, he chose to stay close to home and joined V3 Semiconductor in Scarborough, a 10-year-old basement operation without much progress.

With Zanbakkides’ fresh approach as President and CEO, V3 Semiconductor went on to become one of the industry’s leading companies, trading on the NASDAQ at $40 per share USD at its height.

“Unquestionably, my program charted the course of my life.I learned everything I needed to know to be successful, and then everything else was just icing on the cake.”

When V3 got caught in a downturn during the 2000 bubble burst, Zambakkides sold the company to join Goal Semiconductor as Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, then propelled to Director of the Americas when Goal Semiconductor merged with Ramtron International. In just two years, he brought in the company’s largest customer

In 2012, sensing yet another change in market trends and needs, Zambakkides regrouped with some other tech veterans and started Z3 Controls Inc. with a mandate to conserve energy, save money and reduce the carbon footprint.

Today, Z3 Controls designs, manufactures, markets and sells energy monitoring tools that are affordable, easy-to-use and provide real-time information using nothing more than an Ethernet cable. The company has developed a diverse network of partners and clients spanning Canada’s Wonderland, GM, Colliers International, City of Toronto, City of Markham and York Region.

Z3 also fosters close relationships with the Ontario Power Authority, and utility companies, such as Toronto Hydro, Hydro One, PowerStream, Enersource, Horizon Utilities, Enbridge, and others throughout Ontario and Canada.

Zambakkides has used his innovations to better his community by partnering with York Region at the Forest Stewardship and Education Centre in Ballantrae, Ontario, to achieve both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum and the more stringent Building Living Challenge certification. This was the eighth building on earth that undertook this endeavor. The outcome to this day is Net-Zero energy and water.

Zambakkides’ legacy further extends to today’s brightest college and university engineering graduates, 50 of whom have directly benefited from his mentorship and leadership.

This story is part of a series featuring seven distinguished members of Niagara College’s alumni community, who have been nominated for Colleges Ontario’s prestigious 2023 Premier’s Awards.