In the hot seat: Life in the fast lane

In the hot seat: Life in the fast lane

What was your first job? David Dicker (DD): I did a four-year apprenticeship as a refrigeration mechanic when I left high school.

How did you end up in the IT industry? DD: I was working with my father in a business we had making connectors and equipment used to build timber roof trusses. Every truss was different, with each part having specific lengths and angles that were traditionally marked out or measured for templates. Once that was done, 20 or more would be cut. It was inaccurate, slow and labour intensive. Our consulting engineers came up with the idea of using programmable calculators. We decided to get one so we could get familiar with it and keep an eye on what the engineers were doing. We started with the Hewlett Packard HP 97. I still have it today, although I think it might need a new battery. After a while it became obvious that I was making better progress then the engineers. So we decided to take the job in-house. Once we had workable programs we realised the limitations of the programmable calculator and wanted something more powerful. We looked at bigger calculators from IBM, HP and Texas Instruments but micro computers had started to come out and these looked to have a much better price performance ratio. We tried to buy systems in Australia, from places such as Computerland, but they really weren't much help. We were reading US magazines like Byte and Interface Age so we thought why not buy the micro computers ourselves - we might even be able to sell a few. I went to the US in July 1978 and bought four systems from a company called Vector Graphic. And the rest, as they say, is history.

How did you progress to where you are today? DD: By focusing on doing the best job we could and just staying in the game while all the other high flyers went broke. This included a 10-year stint trying (and failing) to build our own full-scale computer hardware and operating system.

What do you like about your current job? DD: Pay is good, hours are good, conditions are good and I am basically my own boss.

What is the biggest achievement of your career to date? DD: Consistently making real profits every year over a very long period of time.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry? DD: There isn't nearly as much new technology in the industry these days.

What do you think will be the 'next big thing' in the industry? DD: If I knew that I would be off to the US doing it. And I wouldn't be telling anybody else about it either!

What is the main focus for your company this year? DD: Same as always - increase our sales and make a profit doing it.

What do you do when you are not at work? DD: I like to mess around with boats and cars. I used to do a lot of skiing and 10-pin bowling, which included having my own bowling lane built at our old factory. From late 1997, I spent years trading the US stock markets at night and have just completed a four-year project to trade those markets with a fully automated computer program that I wrote in my spare time. My wife has a large property in New Zealand and I spend a bit of time there. I just bought a Komatsu D65 PX 12 bulldozer and have enjoyed using it to clear scrub and re-contour the land. I also do a little bit of amateur motor racing when I am in New Zealand. I have a Formula 1 and a Le Mans (GT1) car as well as a racing specification Lamborghini Diablo.

Do you like gadgets? If so, what is your favourite at the moment? DD: I've never been very keen on gadgets to be honest.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? DD: My parents drummed into me from a very young age that I should be a doctor, which seemed like a good idea until I was old enough to realise that I would have been totally unsuitable. I spent my teen years racing small boats and wanted to leave high school to become a sail maker but my parents wouldn't let me. When I left high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was very lucky to get into computers but once I had my own business it took over my whole life.

If you weren't in IT, what would you be doing now? DD: Trading on the US stock markets with a computer.

What is your biggest ambition? DD: To be honest I am pretty satisfied because I have achieved so much more then I thought was possible when I was a kid. But I still want to see if computerised trading can be as successful as it has been in testing. I also have a small-scale car project in development.

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