My work history, from a personal perspective
This section is not a resume. If you want to read my resume, you can visit my profile on LinkedIn. It is a anecdotal retelling of highlights from my work life from a personal perspective.
Bain & Co. (now part of Deutsche Bank) did offer me a permanent job after I graduated, but I was keen to explore other options. I was attracted to a fintech startup called Option Technology - they were a boutique options trading firm that specialised in manufacturing synthetic options allowing their clients to hedge their foreign exchange exposure.
The phrase “fintech startup” did not exist back then but the company definitely fitted the label. It was founded by a charismatic person, Ralph McKay and his wife Nanette. The hiring process included a spiritual reading of my soul by Ralph’s guru. I decided I instantly liked the McKays.
The company had won a contract to productionise the software they used to for trading and portfolio management of options, and I was hired as an analyst.
The work involved translating the mathematical concepts behind option pricing and so called “Greek letter” derived parameters used for risk measurement and management. We used a series of Sun workstations to do the computations, and I used my knowledge of distributed computing to distribute the workload across the workstations. I ended up writing a technical paper on it which was published on SunTech Journal.
My work colleagues were all recent graduates from the University of Sydney. Like Bain & Co, they would only hire people from USyd and never from UNSW. The old students university network operated very strongly back then. Some institutions even cared which private school you went to.
It was my first real job, and I loved it. I bought a compact camera, and used it to take photos when we travelled, which was seldom because I couldn’t quite afford plane tickets. We had just bought an apartment, interest rates were sky high at 17%, and almost all our spare cash went towards paying the mortgage.
All the coding was done in C, a language I was familiar with. The company wanted to switch to C++. Object oriented computing was a fad in those days, and everyone wanted to jump on the bandwagon. The company sent us to C++ training classes, taught by none other than Bjarne Strostrup, the inventor of the language.
I hated C++, and had long conversations with Bjarne. He accepted my criticisms but said C++ was a compromise given the need to transpile to C. He said C++ will improve once there were object code compilers. To this date, I dislike C++ and have never written a line of code in it. I also dislike all the C++ related languages like Java and Objective C.
Unfortunately, Option Technology ran into financial difficulty because the venture capital dried out, and they were not able to get a product to market in time. Sadly, I had to find another job.
State Bank Victoria
I soon found a position as an analyst at the Treasury Department of State Bank Victoria (SBV). Even though the bank was based in Melbourne, they had purchased Australian Bank (which was primarily a trading bank), and retained all the trading functions which were in Sydney.
I continued my work on option pricing and risk management there. I was employed by the Treasury Division, and not part of the IT department, so I had a lot of freedom that I probably would not have if I worked in IT. For example, I had root access to the production Pyramid Unix supercomputer, because they just trusted me. I definitely had full access to my Sun 3/60 workstation, and completely replaced the horrible Sun graphical user interface with X Windows, which I compiled myself, and I downloaded lots of source code from USENet, including Perl, gcc, bash and the first version of Python.
One of my duties was to write a simple trading system in Oracle, as the bank had purchased Oracle but it was a white elephant as all the production system used C-ISAM files. I wrote a very simple set of screens, and was made the Oracle database administrator. I became super nerdy and managed to configure Oracle to use raw partitions to store database tables, something brand new at the time.
Once, I completely botched up an Oracle upgrade, resulting in a loss of about 3 days of transactions. I cried, and I was sure I will be fired. To my surprise, they were okay about it. All the traders supported me by staying back to re-enter the transactions manually and I was glad I kept my job. I learnt a big lesson that day.
I co authored a technical paper on Unix security, which advocated for an improved Unix password system as the current one (based on a slightly broken 3DES implementation) is to easy to compromise using brute force password searching. To prove the point, I wrote a password guesser that took advantage of large memory on modern Unix computers and as a test managed to hack into several accounts at one of the computers at the University of Sydney.
Several days later, I received a call from the system administrator at the university. They had “discovered” my hacking efforts. I explained the situation. I think they forgave me. Then they said in the future if I wanted to use their computer, I could get my own account for $10 a month. They offered dial up IP internet services!
So my home computer managed to be one of the first personal computers connected to the Internet, well before the word was even known to the public. It was fun. I ran NetBSD at home, and was able to sync to the official repository, and effectively ran a rolling release distribution, keeping my computer up to date with the latest version.
Even though I was still relatively inexperienced, my position at SBV was reasonably highly paid compared to other staff at the Bank. I was graded a Level 4 which was equivalent to a bank manager in status. I was very surprised when I visited the head office in Melbourne for a training course that I was allowed to dine in the executive room with full table service. I really thought I had made it.
State Bank Victoria went through a crisis in 1990. Irresponsible lending by a subsidiary (Tricontinental) led to its collapse, and it had to be rescued by the Commonwealth Bank that bought it for just over $2 billion. I think I even took a photocopy of the bankers cheque for the sale amount.
Soon I was working for the Commonwealth Bank in the large Treasury office (it seemed like the size of a football field) at Harrington St. I did not enjoy working here. Commonwealth Bank was owned by the Federal Government and it was like working in the public service - people had tenure and the whole place was very bureaucratic. Due to union regulations, staff were forced to take morning and afternoon breaks. I wanted to work through, but was politely escorted out where I was made to sit in the courtyard for 15 minutes.
My boss knew how unhappy I was and sent me to a “training course” that included both bank staff and their key clients. It was supposedly about “options” which I thought I already knew. The course was a week long stay in house at the bank’s exclusive executive training facility at St. Ives.
I wasn’t happy to attend. I was studying for a Graduate Diploma in Investment Management at the Securities Insitute of Australia and I had an exam coming up right after the course. I needed valuable study time.
I arrived by taxi at the training facility and immediately realised it was a junket offered as a incentive to corporate bank customers and regarded as a bit of a perk by staff. The “training” was minimal, it was all food and wine provided in copious amounts. People were cuddling up to each other, it was like a night in Hugh Hefner’s mansion. I locked myself in my room and started studying.
When I came back, my boss winked at me and asked me if I had a “great time.” I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I meekly smiled.
I was still unhappy at the Bank and decided to look for another job. I saw a job ad looking for “Unix System Engineers,” Since I loved Unix, I thought this was a great opportunity to do what I love for a living, just like the fun times I had at Bain & Co.
I applied, and to my surprise was accepted, mainly because the interviewer got along really well with me. I was graded a Level 5, which was quite a senior grade, and some of the existing system engineers who were older than me were a bit envious.
Soon after, AT&T bought NCR and I was actually excited. I am working for the company that invented Unix!
I had a great time working at the company and in hindsight it was a great place to work. I made lifelong friends, and the company was willing to pay for my Masters of Applied Finance degree that I had enrolled in. For my various contributions, I was awarded Employee of the Month twice.
The company sent me on my first overseas business trip. I went to Copenhagen for a week training, and it was a very unique experience. I experienced Europe for the very first time, and I made friends with a colleague from Turkey and together she and I explored Copenhagen in our spare time and took lots of photos. I also got along well with some Italian colleagues and we went out to visit Tivoli. On my last day, my Turkish colleague and I took a train to visit Krönborg, also known as “Hamlet’s Castle” as Shakespeare’s play was supposedly set there.
After that I went to Los Angeles for two weeks training. I was with another Aussie colleague from the Brisbane office. He had hired a car, and because I did not drive, he would take me everywhere. We had a great time trying out different restaurants for dinner, and going shopping and visitng famous places that I’ve only seen in films, like the Beverly Hills Center and Santa Monica mall and the famous pier. We visited Hollywood, Rodeo Drive and went to Universal Studios on the weekend. Along with a Dutch colleague, we went to Long Beach and visited the Queen Mary.
The Dutch colleague told me he had access to Unix source code, and promised to send me a tape (he did).
I really enjoyed my time in Los Angeles, but was unused to American food serving sizes. Initially, I tucked in greedily in every meal, but by the end of the week both my colleague and I were really full and we had both put on a lot of weight.
I woke up one night sweating and with heart palpitations. In panic, I called for a doctor. He said I had high blood pressure and prescribed pills. I couldn’t believe it - I was not even 30 and already had health problems.
After that I wanted to cut down on food intake. But it was impossible. We decided to have salad one night. It came in a big bowl with grilled chicken pieces and what seemed like a whole can of mayonnaise.
We went Japanese the next night because we were under the impression the Japanese were into small portions and dainty food. Stupidly, I ordered chicken teriyaki and my colleague ordered beef. When the meal arrived, we both laughed. I was given half a chicken and my friend had maybe 1kg of beef!
After my return from my overseas trip, it was back to work. I remembered being an instructor providing training to staff at Newcastle Permanent Building Society. Because I couldn’t drive, I flew to Newcastle and felt important. I got along well with the CIO, and he confided to me that he was worried about performance issues on Oracle and he was aware I had some experience with Oracle.
I asked him what his concerns were. It turned out he started as a programmer for IBM mainframes, and he used to write code that optimised disk access based on the rotation speed of the disk (so that the next block read would happen to align with where the head would likely to be situated).
I said to him computer performance and disk technology had improved a lot and there really wasn’t any need to do optimisations like that. He was dubious. So I said it’s actually not possible to do those kind of optimisations because disk drives reported a logical geometry rather than a true physical geometry. With caching and newer density based writing mechanisms, it is simply not possible or even desirable to optimise for disk rotation.
I also remember trying to solve a particularly difficult customer situation. The customer was a large women’s clothing retail chain, and they had bought a lot of machines and were suffering performance issues. The AT&T support staff weren’t able to diagnose the issue and the customer was threatening to physically throw the systems out the window if we didn’t fix the problem.
I was sent in to project manage the problem resolution. I had to deal with the customer as well as interface with the support staff, who were not that happy to deal with me since I was quite young.
It was also a particularly stressful time for me, because I was studying for my Masters and exam time was coming up. In fact, I had to sit for the exam, and rush out immediately afterwards for a board meeting with the customer.
In the end, we managed to resolve the issue for the customer, who became good friends with me. It was also fun chatting with the store buyers who were responsible for determining what clothes the stores should stock. They were very helpful in telling we what was in fashion and what was coming out of fashion. They also told me the best places to eat for lunch.
I remember working with many clients and loving the work. One client in particular was a Bank trying to implement an asset/liability system for a client. Because of my finance background, I was sent in to help them, initially just to gather business requirements. I got along well with both the IT team and Treasury officers. I remember we had great difficulty exporting data from an HP 3000 series mainframe. It generated what seemed to be CSV, but the high bit was set for negative numbers which was definitely unusual. Nobody could figure out how to import the file. I facilitated numerous discussions with the vendor of the software, and they were not very helpful, apart from saying we needed to convert the file to standard CSV.
In desperation, I wrote a small script in Perl. I managed to get Perl working on MS-DOS, and demonstrated that I was handling the high bits and converting to standard ASCII. I said it was only intended to be a proof of concept, and that they should not be relying on something written in Perl running on a PC. But they were so relieved I think they wanted to put it in production!
Another incident I remember from my time at the Bank was lunching in the cafeteria one day. An old man came up to me and asked if he could sit down with me. I said yes, and we started chatting. He was very friendly, and keen to know what I did and listened attentively. When we finished lunch, he was very courteous and wished me well. Afterwards, someone came up to me and said “I see Fred had a chat with you. There must be a board meeting today.” It turned out he was one of the founders of the Bank and was a board member.
Towards the end of my career at AT&T I was unhappy. I was not getting along with my direct manager, and he gave me a poor performance review simply because I was too busy with one client and could not take on another client. He lectured me on working smarter rather than harder and what he proposed was that I should work full time with one client, and then spend the evenings with another. In disgust, I decided to quit, and wrote a resignation letter late one Friday evening knowing that no one would read it until Monday morning. I then packed up and headed for the lifts.
I met the director of Professional Services in the lift. He immediately said to me “Where are you going?” In my innocence, I replied that I was heading home. He then smiled and said “No, I meant what job have you accepted?” It turned out he had read my email. So I poured my frustrations to him.
To my surprise, he made a concerted effort to make me stay in the job over the next few weeks. He offered me a promotion, a chance to work in the US, anything to make me stay. I was flattered, but I had already accepted another job offer and I could not go back on my word. He accepted that, but I sometimes wonder whether I should have stayed.
I accepted a job as an Architecture Consultant, mainly because one of the things AT&T introduced me to was the notion of strategic IT planning and enterprise architecture, and I quickly became a fan and an evangelist.
The woman who hired me was super impressive herself. Although an Australian, she had worked for years in the US and was a keen sky jumper and mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. She was also known as a Wonder Woman at HP and was highly respected.
I had always wanted to work for HP, dating back to my high school years when I was exposed to and fell in love with HP calculators. HP was the biggest Unix vendor in those days, and I wanted to continue my career with Unix.
Working at HP was a mixture for me. Although I had a chance to visit the famous HP Labs in Palo Alto and also the Cupertino office (now the site for Apple Campus), I did not get on well with some people at the local Australian office, although I also made very good friends with others. HP also did not exactly know what to do with me.
I also learnt to drive. My salary package included a company car, and I was not allowed to swap it for cash. It was a requirement for me as a consultant to be able to drive to client premises. Also, HP was located at Macquarie Park, and in those days there were no easy public transport options to the HP office.
I failed in my first driving test attempt, because I went through amber lights. On my second attempt, the driving examiner flirted with me, which turned out to be good as he gave me a pass. Soon I was driving around in a brand new red Holden Commodore.
On my first trip to the US to visit HP corporate offices, I was told I needed to rent a car at the airport. HP does not reimburse taxi trips, as the HP office is too far from the airport and car rentals were US$22 a day at HP corporate rates.
I said I was scared to drive on “the wrong side of the road”, as I was barely out of my L plates. My colleagues assured me that I’ll adapt quickly, but the hardest maneuvre to get used to is the left turn as I need to turn into the rightmost lane and force of habit will automatically make me veer left.
They said I had to execute three left turns in succession when leaving the Hertz car rental lot, so that’s plenty of practice.
When I arrived at San Francisco, I rented the car from Hertz, and sure enough I had to do three left turns, which I managed to do carefully. I became more confident. What my colleagues did not tell me though was that the road then immediately ramps up to the freeway. Remember that scene from the film Clueless when Cher and Dionne were screaming when they accidentally got onto the freeway? Well, that was me, all the way to the hotel freeway exit.
However, after a few weeks of driving, I became to used to it that I started driving like a Sydney taxi driver, weaving in and out of lanes. It was a while before I realised Californians are much more relaxed on the road compared to Sydneysiders and that I should really just calm down and chill out.
I do remember attending an HP conference in Singapore. I was so excited I rang my parents and asked if they wanted to join me in Singapore. To my surprise they accepted.
They asked me to book a room at the hotel I was staying. I went downstairs to reception, and was shocked to discover a night at the hotel was over S$300! I rang some nearby hotels, and they were equally expensive. Then I had a brainwave. I rang the hotel, and asked them for the HP corporate rate. They quoted S$120! Wow, I never what a good discount corporates get on room rates! My parents popped over for a day and we had a happy mini reunion.
In my last year working at HP, I was seconded to Boral for nearly a year. They had migrated from HP 3000 to the Oracle Business Suite running on HP 9000 Unix computers and they needed someone to mentor their staff and do some architecture work for them. I joined their enterprise architecture team reporting to the head of Strategy and Architecture Peter Reynolds.
I really enjoyed my time there. Peter was a great and enlightened manager and I really admired him and the way he worked - he was really empowering and treated me no differently than his permanent staff. I helped them write a business case to justify their massive hardware upgrade and successfully presented to the board. Both HP and Boral were really happy for me.
They had a new CIO, Mark Wright, who took me under his wing. He had an ambitious plan to centralise Boral’s computing into a massive new data centre located in Adelaide and he wanted me to help him write the business case.
Master of Applied Finance, Macquarie University
Sometime around my career at HP I completed my Master of Applied Finance. We were the first set of students the course was offered to. I really enjoyed the coursework, which had a mixture of students ranging from people who had just completed their undergraduate degree to professionals who have worked in the finance industry for years.
Somehow, I managed to top the class and was awarred the Banker’s Prize from the Institute of Bankers. The course was also taught in Singapore and I was invited to meet the Singaporean students who came over to Australia to do the final weeks of their study.
One day, I received a phone call from a recruitment consultant. She asked me if I was interested in a project management opportunity. She said there was a large financial institution who had outsourced their IT several years ago but was looking to insource some capabilities and regrow their IT team.
I said I was not interested in being a project manager, but I certainly was keen to find out more about the organisation. I explained that my focus was enterprise architecture and I would be keen on an architecture role.
Next thing I knew I was lined up for an interview. I assumed given my discussion around enterprise architecture it was for an architecture role so I accepted.
Imagine my surprise when I attended the interview, and Bob Kershaw asked me about my project management skills. He explained that he was in charge of rebuilding the MLC IT organisation and he was looking initially for project managers to help plan the process. MLC was also hiring a CIO and a new IT leadership team.
I explained to him I wasn’t interested in becoming a project manager, and I am sorry for having wasted his time. Intrigued, he asked me what role I thought I was applying for.
I ended up explaining to him the concept of enterprise architecture, what the benefits might be for an organisation such as MLC, particularly one that was essentially reinventing what IT might be. Of course, I was mainly quoting textbook benefits, but I was passionate and really believed and he could see the fire in my eyes.
I left the interview expecting never to hear from MLC again, but they contacted me several days later. Apparently Bob was very taken in by my evangelisation and had spoken to the CEO of MLC, Peter Scott.
Next thing I knew I was lined up for a second interview, with Peter and Denis Curran, the global CIO of Lend Lease, MLC’s parent company. I was asked to re-explain my views of enterprise architecture. They were very attentive.
Bob then sneakily asked me to pretend I was an external consultant and bidding for a contract with MLC. How would I submit a tender offering my services? I took up the challenge and wrote a detailed proposal outlining exact what I would do if I accepted a role in the organisation, what benefits I would bring, and how the organisation will improve.
To my surprise, they accepted my proposal, turned it into a job role, and offered me the job! I became MLC’s first Head of Strategy and Architecture.
I was still in my early 30s, with barely 10 years in the workforce, but I have now landed a job as an executive in a large financial institution, with an office and a personal assistant, and even car parking privileges. I felt like I had made it. I had a budget and a team to recruit and manage.
We had also recently paid off our mortgage, so suddenly the money was flowing in. I was able to get a new car, and we started going on overseas holidays. First to the US for two weeks in 1998, then UK and Italy in 2000.
I had a good career at MLC and made many lifelong friends. I was responsible for the IT Strategy in 1998 and delivered an enterprise architecture to the organisation. I created a strategy and architecture team. I was very pleased that an external audit of the organisation praised our team and the auditors it was one of the best examples of a functional architecture practice they have seen. I started presenting at international conferences on enterprise architecture.
In the year 2000, I attended the Lend Lease CIO Conference in Hong Kong. It was my first time visiting Hong Kong since the 1980s, and not too long after China’s takeover of Hong Kong from British rule. I was surprised at how run down Hong Kong looked. After that, I went across to the US to visit Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, HP and IBM. It was my first time visiting HP as a customer rather than as an employee, and it was interesting.
Soon afterwards, I was in Perth on a business trip. I finished my meetings early, and decided to do some shopping in the city. I received a phone call from Michelle Tredenick, the CIO. She was looking for all the enterprise architecture documents. I promised I’ll send them to her as soon as I got back to the office. I guessed (correctly) we were being sold and she needed the documents for the due diligence.
Soon enough, Lend Lease announced they would sell MLC to the National Australia Bank at a price of over A$4 billion.
National Australia Bank (NAB)
I became part of the integration team merging the wealth management operations of NAB and MLC together in to a new organisation called NAB Wealth. After that, I accepted a position as Head of Architecture at NAB Distribution, and then later on worked as Head of Architecture for the retail bank.
My position was based in Melbourne, and my team was in Melbourne, but I was still based in Sydney. To NAB’s credit, they did not force me to relocate to Melbourne, but instead paid for weekly flights and accommodation.
So began a period of over three years when I became a regular commuter between Sydney and Melbourne. I flew so often I earned Platinum status on Qantas and the staff started calling me by name as soon as I came on board a flight.
In the evenings, to while away my time, I used to compose music and also studied Japanese. I became overweight from fine dining too many nights in a week.
I remember working on the Group IT Strategy in 2005 and also leading the Corporate Centre IT Strategy in 2007.
Around 2006, I went on a business trip to the US with a group of NAB colleagues. We visited the usual technology vendors: Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, IBM. Towards the end of the trip, I received a call from my manager saying I have been requested to assist with the European wealth management strategy and instead of returning home, I should catch a flight to London.
When I arrived in London, it was an unseasonably warm and sunny day in February. Birds were chirping, flowers were blooming at Buckingham Palace. Little did I realise that would have been the only sunny day for the next 6-8 weeks. The rest of my stay was miserable, and I was homesick.
NAB offices in London were located on Wood St, pretty much in centre of the London financial district. It was located near the Moorgate on the old London Wall, and very close to St. Paul’s. Also nearly was the famous Barbican Centre, known for having superb acoustics. I spent a lot of my evenings attendings concerts and operas at the Royal Festival Hall, Covent Garden and the famous St-Martin-in-the-Fields, also known for great acoustics.
I also flew to Glasgow on the invitation of the Head of Architecture for Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks. I enjoyed my time there, and was amused that the taxi driver who took me to the airport for the return journey thought I was a local Scottish resident.
Although I enjoyed my stay in London, in the end I was very homesick and pleaded to be allowed to return home. My manager said that was awkward because the UK management liked me and was requesting for an extension. I remember crying and said I really miss my family.
One day I received a call from an executive search firm. They said there was a position as Head of Strategy and Architecture for ING Australia coming up and whether I was interested.
They seemed to have done a lot of research on me. Without me saying a word, they alredy knew my career history, and knew that I had been commuting to Melbourne weekly for the past 3 years. They guessed I was probably tired of travelling and emphasised that the ING position will be Sydney based.
Of course I was interested. I attended the interview, and discovered one of my interviewers was Greg Baster, who I had met previously at Lend Lease and I had spent a weekend with him in San Francisco touring the city when we were both on a business trip to the US.
I accepted the position, and soon was deep in a lot of work. The new CIO wanted to outsource the IT organisation, and the organisation was also in the middle of large eBusiness app design.
I visited the ING regional headquarters at Hong Kong for a regional architecture conference. It was the first time I had returned to Hong Kong after the Lend Lease CIO conference in 2000, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the intervening years had completely transformed the city state. It is now a bustling metropolis with some amazing architecture and lots of great places to eat and shop. The ING office was located at IFC 2, which is above the Hong Station Station with the express train to the airport.
I felt like a jetsetter, checking in to my flight in the morning at Hong Kong Station, then working at ING right up till 5pm, then casually boarded the Airport Express carrying nothing but a handbag and satchel, to the lounge to have a shower and meal before boarding the plane home.
I also went with a group of executives to a business trip to India to assess potential partners for outsourcing. It was a really interesting trip as I have never been to India before. It was only a few weeks after the Mumbai 2008 attacks, so security was very tight. We stayed at the Leela Palace hotel, a luxury hotel set amongst a lovely garden complete with waterfalls and fountain. It really looked like a palace, and initially I thought it must be centuries old, then I discovered it was built in 1986.
We visited Infosys at Bangalore. The Infosys campus looked like a theme park. We found out later employees were allowed to bring their parents to stay at the in-campus accommodation, so it was in fact run as a resort. Then we visited Microsoft at Hyderabad, and a small software development company at Chennai that prided themselves on employing disabled people (or, as the founder proudly says, “differently abled”).
Unfortunately, I caught a cold around this time, and could not shake it off. Eventually it developed into pneumonia, and I could not really enter an air conditioned room without hugh coughing fits.
Then the Global Financial Crisis came. People who do not work in the finance industry probably don’t really realise what a shock this was to the global finance community. People seemed to think the world was ending, and finance will never be the same again.
ING in particular suffered badly. Their share price plummeted to only a few cents, and the call centre was swamped with retirees calling in to say they need their distributions otherwise they will starve. It was not a good time for everyone.
ING negotiated an exit for me, and I was glad because I could not get rid of the pneumonia.
For the next two years I did not work and focused on regaining my health. I was overweight, and sick, with high blood pressure and a fatty liver. My health problems were affecting even my eyes - they became very astigmatic and I no longer have 20/20 vision.
I took up cycling again. I remember enjoying cycling when I was young, and I needed a way to get fit.
My first ride, just up and down the street, was both elating and humbling. I rode down the street, not realising it was slightly downhill, and marveled at how easy cycling was. I barely needed to pedal, and I was going so fast. Whee!
I then turned around at the end of the street and started cycling back. That’s when I realised cycling was tough. I could barely rotate the pedals. Eventually I gave up and walked up the hill. That was very humbling, and told me how unfit I was.
Over the next few months, I cycled every day and gradually improved my fitness and strength. I started cycling longer distances: to North Sydney and back, to Eastwood, around Sydney Olympic Park, and even around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra (which has long been on the bucket list for me).
I soon became brave enough to consider joining cycling groups. The first bunch ride I did was shameful. The guys laughed at me when they saw my hybrid bicycle and said I would not be able to keep up with them but I could certainly try.
As soon as they left, they immediately dropped me. I valiantly tried to follow them all the way to Roseville Bridge, and realised it was hopeless, and turned around to cycle back.
My next attempt at joining a cycling bunch was a little better. They started at 6:30am, which was just after sunrise, so I had to cycle to the starting point in darknesss. I had lights on the bicyle, but they don’t work on corners. I made the mistake of cycling there on a bike path, and crashed my bike navigating the corner. So I made it to the start with bleeding legs, which wasn’t a good impression. The ride leader was so concerned with my inexperience he opted to stay with me for the entire ride just to make sure I was okay. Luckily I managed to survive the ride to Taronga Zoo and back reasonably well.
After that, I was a regular participant on bunch rides on my Giant hybrid. Eventually I decided I needed to upgrade to a real road bike, so I bought a second hand Giant TCR from Ebay.
I had developed the cycling bug. I upgraded all the components of that bike over time, and continued to ride it for more than 5 years. I eventually progressed from riding with the “C” group (slowest) to the “A” group. I was cycling 400-500 km per week. I was really fit.
However, the money was starting to run out. I did some day trading and made some money, and this convinced me to sell our investment property and go all in on shares and fixed income. This helped stabilised our finances but I realise I need to get a job.
I reconnected with a friend who I met when he was working at Accenture and assisting NAB with the IT Strategy in 2007. He managed to get me a few days consulting for the University of New England. That was a nice taste, but I really needed more money.
A former MLC colleague had recently become the CIO at Transfield Services. He invited me to do some consulting to help define an IT Strategy and migration roadmap to assist the organisation in getting approval for an SAP implementation. It was supposed to be 6-12 weeks of work, because I liked because it was just enough money to buy a new bicycle. I ended up working there for over 6 years, in various roles.
I then started my own consulting company, called Hello Tham, and did various consulting assignments for Broadspectrum as well as TransportNSW.
- Retirement (2020-)