By his own admission, Sophos's Sean Richmond is in danger of becoming an archetypal crusty old bastard of technology. "I've been doing computing gigs as a living for more than 20 years now," he says. "Now I'm getting sad and I'll have to hit the bottle."
He is, of course, joking. But it's uncommon to find professional like Richmond, who over a 20-year career, has chosen to stay focussed on hands-on roles.
Like others of his vintage, he started working on mainframes straight out of high school. The job saw him join Elders in 1986, operating big beasts on the night shift - university never appealed to Richmond. "I went to a lot of lectures at Flinders University but that was mostly because my friends were going, so when I finished night shift at [Elders] I could go and hang out there," he says.
During his time at Elders, Richmond frequently spent time perusing bulletin board systems, following the latest trends in software and more importantly, malware. "That got me interested in the field," he says. "From there I got more and more interested in how self replicating code worked and what could be done to block it."
As Elders began rolling out PCs, Richmond's personal interest in computer viruses paid dividends. "It became an issue as Elders started rolling out PCs," he says. "Somebody got infected, and I knew what was going on because I'd been reading on BBSs and keeping in touch."
While he initially stuck with mainframes after leaving Elders, Richmond's interest in self replicating code took over, and he made the switch from mainframe contracting to a job at Dr. Disk, working with McAfee anti-virus software and on data recovery jobs.
It was his first foray into the world of security, and he hasn't turned back since. His work with Dr. Disk took him from Adelaide to Melbourne, and eventually, Sydney. There, he joined Sophos in 1999, where he remains today working in his current Senior Technical Consulting role, which essentially involves pre-sales consulting.
Richmond loves the technical aspect to his job, but admits his sales skills are woeful. "I'm extremely technical and working on the sales part of it ... I have a tendency to say to people 'Oh, you don't want it? Fair enough!'," he says.
It's enough to make any sales-bots' eyes roll, but Richmond sees his job in pre-sales as being primarily technical. He conjures technical solutions for Sophos' existing customer base, as well as prospective clients. "My role is coming up with technical solutions. Around the outside of that is best-practice functions for securing networks and keeping on top of new threats, with or without our products."
He has plenty of hands on experience. When he joined Sophos in 1999, it had four staff in its Sydney office. He was the first analyst to work in Sophos' Australian research lab, picking apart fresh nasties for analysis. "We started dealing with local things ... then we decided to open a full virus lab in Australia, so I was the first analyst outside our UK office," he says. "We've got eight to ten people in the virus lab now."
Many AV companies like running labs in Australia, and the reason is simple. Due to this country's status as "tomorrowland" - across the dateline from California -we often see malware first. Signatures can be coded and rolled out to US and European customers before they roll into work on Monday morning.
Richmond's seen Sophos in Sydney grow from a headcount of four staff to fifty. So why, like other techies, hasn't he taken the inevitable leap into a managerial role?
"I'm a hands on person," he says. And with technical roles at Sophos are increasingly interesting, he thinks he'll play to his strengths.
The company is diversifying, having recently acquired network access control technology through its purchase of NAC specialist ENDFORCE. "We've always been in anti-virus but now we're extending that to control, giving protection not just from malware but controlling what's running on networks," he says. "It's certainly back to more of the network things that I've been away from for a while."