Sir Robert, Knight of the Fishbowl

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

I know it was you, Fredo.

Rob has been with Web Applications since 2003 making him the longest serving member of staff. Not only that – Rob, Lee and Gordon go back, way back. Rob’s known Lee since he was 18, and Gordon since he was 20. There is no need to bandy about guessing ages, suffice to say that it’s in the realm of a 20 year acquaintance; give or take a decade.

Rob is Web Applications’ Services Manager. It’s safe to say that Rob is a prime example of someone who was worked his way through the ranks. Rob started as a developer, became a Senior Engineer, then briefly moved into Project Management and now resides as the head of the Services department. It used to be that the Services Manager meant being the Support Manager and the IT Manager; but with such a large customer base that is continuing to grow, IT infrastructure has been delegated to Robin and Allan. Don’t be fooled though, Rob is ready and willing to jump in whenever Robin and Allan are away. Of all the positions he’s had in the company, Rob is definitely happiest where he is now. Services is a great place to work and he enjoys having an impact on the company’s perception since the support team often interacts directly with customers.

I asked Rob what an average day looks like in Services. The answer? There is no ‘average day’ in services. Then I got what can only be described as an ideological call to action.

“You have to be proactive in Support, it can be difficult to plan in advance. You have to stop problems from growing out of proportion.”  Support is like being a guard to an exquisite treasure, you have to battle valiantly against every attacker, and never waver, whatever the cost may be. So engage that issue, pour your heart and soul into every query and never back away or be afraid to call in reserves! YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. Cue John J. Rambo’s breakdown from First Blood. Phew! I may have gotten carried away a little, but they are a very committed bunch, especially now that the fishbowl has its own little pet fishes.

After talking to Rob for a few minutes it became immediately obvious that he had two huge passions. One is movies – not so weird. The other is the reproduction of medieval armour and the subsequent use of the armour in medieval Live Action Role Play (or LARP). Now, who am I to say that medieval costumes and role playing are weird? It’s not weird, it’s pure gold.

Sir Rob, Knight of the Fishbowl

It is almost touching the way Rob talks about his medieval role play. You see, Rob has set up a workshop in his garage and uses his knowledge of metalworking skills he has honed over the years to create realistic reproductions of medieval armour. He enjoys the craftsmanship as well as creating something himself. His love of fine craftsmanship is also apparent in his preference of Formula One over more traditional sports. It’s also deeply satisfying for Rob that using nothing but his own skills and some hard work he can create something physical that he can look at, admire, and wear with pride. In some ways it is ‘the antithesis to sitting at a computer all day’ to use his own words.

Okay, here is how I see this working. Rob sits there and says, “I want to create something fantastic, what shall I do? I know, I will set up shop in my garage, car be damned, use the most dangerous tools I can think of, buy lots of sheet metal, and turn myself into a fashion designer for those prone to flesh wounds.” And that is exactly what he did. The chain mail is still a work in progress; all designers know the measure of a masterpiece is in the details.

Now the Role Play aspect of this is interesting to me. It seems that the people involved are pretty intense (come on, that’s not surprising) and so your character is consistent until something happens to you. Now, Rob for instance, dies about once a year, at which point he has to conjure up a new persona. I’m not entirely sure how often people get together for this but Rob personally participates two to three times a year through Curious Pastimes. Each time he joins the banner of knights he stays for the whole weekend, camping in a tent and living the life of his character. I’m told this fact is a good illustration of how committed Rob is (Rob is committed to his hobby, not committed to a hospital, yet) to his medieval role play…because he really hates camping. Hey Rob, I hear glamping is fun, it’s like camping but with all the comforts of home? It might be a little anachronistic to the medieval re-enactment, but hey, so are teeth fillings, Corona Light and the Styrofoam used to pad the fake swords. Just saying.

Ask Rob his favourite movie, just do it and see his reaction. I’m pretty sure there was a little explosion detonated in his head. After hee-ing and haw-ing for a couple minutes about how there were just too many options, Rob honed in on Star Wars, the Empire Strikes Back and declared it unequivocally the victor. There is something special in that movie, specifically in the baddies that makes it so fun to watch over and over again. Now that Rob has kids he gets to relive the feeling of watching Star Wars for the first time.

So that’s Rob, the Knight of the Fishbowl. Please, appreciate the montage of pictures put together for public consumption. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.