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After all these years I still find writing one of my least enjoyable activities. However your literary efforts have goaded me into action. Many of my memories of NSBHS are mingled with the two years at Artarmon Primary School. I still remember how long it used to take by train and bus, to and from school every day to Hornsby, and I swore I would get a job where I didn’t have to commute by train.
Many of my recollections are similar those already recorded, and I thank Chris Barrie for reminding me about the Battle of the River Plate, as it too had some influence on my career decisions. I was never going to be caught on board a ship on fire.
I also remember the drama of the “lost rifle” and the “bolt” after the Cadet Camp in 1961.
After NSBHS, I was able to fulfil a life long dream (since the age of 4) to fly aeroplanes. The RAAF Academy found my results (and those of David Mead) satisfactory, and I spent the next few years getting a science degree (electronics and physics) and my pilot’s wings. The learning experiences included many extra-curricular activities, and I enjoyed playing football (Rugby) for the Air Force, snow ski-ing, kayaking, long distance running and surfing. It was during this time that I met my wife-to-be, Maree, in Perth.
The next few years were spent swanning around various SE Asian ports of call at the taxpayers’ expense. Some of that time was spent in Vietnam, where I met many brave Australian and New Zealand service personnel. Apart from some time spent operating out of a large airbase at Phan Rang, most of my flying involved medevac missions back to Australia, and trips to interesting places like Tan Son Nuit (sic), Utapao, Subic Bay, Ubon, Korat, Kuching and other remote locations.
While employed by the RAAF, I became involved with the flight simulators used for training and got bitten by the software bug.. This was to work out in my favour, since all the swanning around was having a bad effect on my health. (it may have been the lifetime supply of alcohol I had consumed, but I doubt it).
After medical discharge from the RAAF, I was offered employment at NCR, where I remember reading about Richard Amiss, and catching up with John Hogbin. After nearly a year of management and marketing training, I was invited to join the Brisbane office on a two-year transfer. With my wife and three week old baby daughter (Caroline), we moved to Brisbane, bought a house and had another child (David).
The two years extended to eight and my wife managed to overcome her horror of having to live so far from the surf. I spent a lot of time away from home on business, as many of my clients had their own company aircraft. Most of the remote locations in Queensland had inadequate infrastructure to support computer systems, so site visits were a large part of the sales and marketing program.
When NCR asked me to move back to Sydney, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse from Computer Sciences of Australia. For the next five years I had a most enjoyable career in corporate life. On a personal note, it was very rewarding too. NCR paid out my superannuation when I left, so I fulfilled another lifelong ambition and spent it on gold bullion at $167 and ounce. A few years later, by the time I had organised to sell half, the price had reached $750. That paid for the mortgage. In the early 1980’s CSA asked me to take up a position in Sydney, and after commuting for a year, I decided to set up my own business in Brisbane and provide consulting services.
Many interesting and demanding challenges resulted. Two of the most memorable involved the State Premier (Sir Joh). He kindly signed, on separate occasions, two agreements for software products I had interests in, and handed over a $1million in the process. It was nice to reverse the flow of brown paper bags that the white-shoe brigade of carpet baggers were renown for.
In 1985 with support from CSA, I completed an MBA. I wanted to find out why so many Australian-owned organisations made such bad management decisions. When I found that 80% of these businesses were owned by 20 families, I rejoiced when Robert Holmes a’Court, Bond, Skase and Brierley started their corporate rampage.
In 1988 I retired, and spent my time commuting between Expo 88, Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island and my home. After about six months, I made the mistake of getting a counter lunch at the local club at Point Lookout. The Club Secretary joined me and asked me what I could do to help him with his new poker machine system and software. What started as a one day a month oversight visit, become a weekly and then a week a month effort, and before I knew it I was back full-time.
Shortly after the return to full-time work. I became involved with people from Griffith University. There was a need to do something about the emerging software quality standards, and I soon embarked on a third career, working in Academia. The Software Quality Association was established in Brisbane, and with funds from the State Government, we developed an Industry training program that was exported interstate and overseas.
To help out with a shortage of staff, I started part-time work at the university and became involved in the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Software Engineering standards are in demand, and I am now part of an international working group drafting and testing new standards. The most recent of these was a Software Project Management Standard. The working group meets three times a year in interesting places like Prague, Acapulco, Nantes, South Africa, Salt Lake City, Buenos Aires and later this month will be meeting in Moscow,. Now I am a full time “academic” working with IT, Multimedia and eCommerce researchers and students. Most of my time is spent with final year students who under take a software-intensive system project in teams of four to six for external clients.
It gave me a lot of job satisfaction to see one of my teams receive an IT&T Award for a system developed for Microsoft last year. On the personal front, my wife and I went our separate ways not long after I retired. Perhaps I should have taken up golf.
I have since remarried and have another delightful daughter (Courtney) who has just turned ten. Lenny, my wife, shares my enjoyment of fishing, swimming and travel. She also suffers from Crohns, which is an incurable chronic illness, that sometimes responds to management by medication. It hasn’t stopped us from visiting South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and other places. We lead a quiet uneventful life in one of Brisbane’s bayside suburbs, about fifteen minutes from the boat ramp. We also like weekend visits to Noosa or the Gold Coast, the most recent being the Jazz Festival at Noosa last month.
David, now thirty, is a gaming supervisor at the Treasury Casino, and Caroline, a linguist, is now doing a PhD at University of Queensland. When I am forced to look back, I realise that I have had a very fortunate life despite the career advice of a Mr Foster who told me “…you can do anything you set your mind to, young man, but you probably won’t excel at anything.”
I look forward to catching up with you all again after such a long break.