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.
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.