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Who Am I?

Dorian Hausman

Those of you who are long time Probians—and who have a good memory!—may recall my dad's Who Am I presentation that he gave some 21 years ago. I'm honoured to follow in his footsteps, both figuratively and literally, with you this morning.

I grew up in Wallaceburg, Ontario, a small town located roughly between Chatham and Sarnia, not far from the St Clair river. I attended elementary school there in the early 1960s and did all the usual things kids did at that age.

During that period, my mom, whose interest in studying medicine was thwarted by the second world war, decided to train as a medical records librarian, what's now known as health information management. When she graduated, she found work at K-W Hospital, now Grand River Hospital, and so we all moved to Waterloo Region.

Dad purchased a lot on Manitou Drive in Kitchener, designed and built a factory on it, and proceeded to develop his metal fabricating business. I spent much of my summer vacations there with him, learning practical things such as how to operate machine tools like lathes and milling machines.

I attended Kitchener Collegiate Institute (KCI) during the second half of the 1960s. In my spare time I developed an interest in electronics and became a licensed amateur radio (ham) operator. I was determined to study to become an electrical engineer.

Then the University of Waterloo introduced an innovative program with KCI and WCI. Students who did well in math and science got the opportunity to take a special computer science course in grades 11 and 12 in addition to the regular curriculum. I believe Jim Bowman taught those courses at WCI. I signed up immediately. Computing very soon became my passion. I 

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began to spend way too much time sneaking onto the University of Waterloo campus to run computer programs and sitting in on computer science lectures. I even got into a bit of computer-related mischief as an early hacker.

So naturally, when I graduated from high school, instead of going into the engineering program at U of W, I enrolled in the Computer Science program offered by the faculty of Mathematics. As a co-op student I spent work terms in Toronto with an information technology company that serviced several smaller insurance companies.

Back in those days, in the mid-1970s, there were few high-tech jobs in K-W. After graduating from U of W I accepted a position with the data processing subsidiary of Crown Life, now part of Canada Life, and moved permanently to Toronto.

In those days a computer system would cost millions of dollars. Like other insurance companies at that time, Crown had spun off their computing operations into a separate enterprise. This allowed them to offer their data processing resources to smaller companies via data networking and thus help pay for their computer centre. My work was in the systems part of the company. I wrote software to help manage their growing network. We take it for granted today, but back then it was quite an accomplishment to be able to link a network of terminals in offices across Canada to a central computer.

One of my colleagues at work was married to a lady who happened to have a twin sister. He set me up on a date with her. As you might imagine, since I'm telling you this today, we hit it off immediately. Christina and I have now been happily together for more than 30 years.

In the early 1980s both e-mail and personal computers were in their infancy. Crown Life created a new subsidiary, called Crowntek, to try to exploit such new technologies. I got involved with projects to develop software to link e-mail systems between the large mainframe computers of that era and the PCs that were just starting to pop up on peoples' desks.

Unfortunately Crown's foray into high technology was not a success. My colleagues and I could see storm clouds coming our way. It was not a good time. Three of us decided to start a software development business to capitalize on all the experience we had gained over the previous decade in these new technologies.

So in 1986 I took the bold step of resigning my position and became the first employee of TBS Software. After our first product proved to be a success, my two partners decided to take the same leap and joined me. Crowntek continued to flounder. Soon its various projects were either sold or shut down.

Meanwhile TBS flourished. We developed software to help companies with IBM's mainframe e-mail systems to manage their growing populations of users. We soon entered into a business partnership with IBM. Their worldwide sales force began to introduce our software solutions to their customers. Back in those days when “no one ever got fired for choosing IBM” that was quite an endorsement! As others discovered the hard way, it was better to partner with IBM than to try to compete with them.

As the years went by and large companies began the transition from mainframe-based systems to smaller, distributed systems we developed software solutions to migrate their users to those new computing platforms. Also as fewer people were left in the industry who understood the legacy technologies, we did a good business in providing consulting services in those technologies.

By the early 2000s it became apparent that my parents would need increasing amounts of our time to look after them. The regular drives back and forth between Toronto and Waterloo were also taking their toll on us as increased traffic resulted in constant delays. We decided to move back to Waterloo in 2004. I made arrangements with my partners to semi-retire and to work remotely from home as much as possible. “Call me if you need me,” was my position. Fortunately, judging by the number of calls and e-mails I got, they didn't need me much.

My interests include hiking, travel, technology and investing. Christina and I get to indulge in the former two activities regularly. We travel to the Alps most Septembers where we go on lengthy mountain hikes every day. We also hike on the Bruce Trail and other areas that are closer to here. In the winter, rather than escape to the sunny south, we prefer to cross-country ski and snowshoe.

As for technology and investing, I use the former, especially the Internet, to learn about the latter. The hardest part about investing I've found, especially in periods of market turmoil is to follow this advice, “Don't just do something. Stand there!”

Looking back on the past several decades, I'm grateful for the good fortune to have lived in good health during a period of general peace and prosperity. I have no regrets.

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