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Jamie Oglethorpe
 

Jamie Oglethorpe

Early ambition and career choices

I have been in the IT game for a long time. When I left school I wanted to be a physicist or a mathematician. As the Brits say, I am a real swot. I was a Zambian citizen at the time, and opportunities were limited. I won a bursary from the Zambian copper mines to study Computing Science. Once I discovered what computing was all about, the rest of my career was laid out before me.

I graduated with a BSc Honours degree in Computer Studies from Loughborough in England, and worked for the mines for four years. This was a wonderful start to my career. Another early career choice that I have not regretted was to stick to programming and systems building.

Working for a living

Since leaving the mines I have worked for large and small software houses as an analyst programmer, for Burroughs (later Unisys) as a trainer and system specialist and as an independent contractor. Independent contracting is best. You get wonderful clients and get challenged to do great things.

Enterprises

My first business experience was as a partner in Meyer en Coetzee Mikrostelsels. We offered customized accounting software to Dutch Reformed churches in the early 1980s. It was a part time operation that required huge mounts of effort. We found it hard to sustain after about 10 sales over three years.

My second effort came in 1990 and was a hobby. At the time I collected comics and had established an account with an American supplier, Mile High Comics in Denver, Colorado. I started buying additional copies for a local second hand comics dealer. The volume grew until it became worthwhile to deal with shipping agents. I decided to register Jamie O as a close corporation. I wanted to learn about running a business by doing everything properly.

One of the hard lessons was the importance of financial controls. I allowed my client to run up huge debts, at the same time as using credit from my shipper. We turned things around with tight budgets. When I was retrenched in 1993 I decided that enough was enough. I came to an arrangement with my shipper to pay off the debt and eventually found a buyer for the excess stock, so I managed to recover some of my losses. I expect that the next time I will do much better.

My reaction to being retrenched was to go it alone. After all, I had a company already set up to use for this.