In the hot seat: Construction and cultivation

In the hot seat: Construction and cultivation

What was your first job?

Evan Kourambas (EK): I started working in a hardware store, sweeping the floors for $0.20 per hour when I was 14 years old. I was going every night after school and Saturday mornings. I later went to Monash University and completed a degree in civil engineering. This took me into an exciting career where I was working on some of the largest engineering projects in Australia during the '80s. When I was 26 I quit my job and started my own construction company. I left the industry to start Lako Vision. My engineering glory was to project manage the sliding roof construction of the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne.

How did you end up in the IT industry?

EK: The recession in the late '80s and early '90s saw a dramatic slowdown in construction and development activities throughout Australia and Melbourne in particular. At that point I was studying for a graduate diploma in project management. One of the guest lecturers worked for Lend Lease and I stayed back to ask him what plans his company had for the future: they were investing in software development. After some consideration I decided to start Lako Vision. [Lako Pacific since 1991.]

How did you progress to where you are today?

EK: The company has always imported and sold innovative IT products. The first we imported was a frame grabber. This was a card (ISA) that took a composite video input. The concept was to take a single frame of video and turn it into a colour image on the screen. Even though this sounds commonplace today there were some major hurdles to overcome. Firstly, video is 25 frames per second and the frame grabber took 60 seconds to digitise one frame. So from the time you stared digitising the image, 1500 pictures had gone by. To overcome this you needed to keep very still or photograph inanimate objects. Our entry into distribution came when Canon started buying frame grabbers from Lako Vision to bundle with its ION camera. This kit became the predecessor of today's digital cameras. We started importing these cards, which we sold to Canon and various camera resellers around the country. We also became involved in some large imaging projects during this time, including the NSW driver licensing system, security photos on Australian passports that could not be duplicated and an insurance accessing system that allowed assessors to take pictures in the field. These pictures were later transmitted to the office where another assessor decided what to do.

What do you like about your current job?

EK: When I started this company the philosophy was that everybody that works here should enjoy coming to work. Even though we have our moments, it is still the basis under which the company is run today. I have enjoyed working with people that can appreciate and share these ideals. My greatest satisfaction comes from giving young people a chance to enter the workforce. Over the years I have employed more than 15 young people that have gone on to become successful in their chosen fields.

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