He was Australia's ambassador to the United States, head of ASIO, leader of two major government departments and had a stint working for Bob Hawke.
Dennis Richardson may have had a career to which other public servants aspire, but he didn't achieve it with any sort of plan.
Instead, he had a natural fit between his personal interests - foreign affairs - and his job. He also says he had some luck in his 48-year career.
"Essentially my career was about being paid to do a hobby," he said.
Mr Richardson, who first moved to Canberra the year he joined the public service in 1969, doesn't think of his life in terms of achievements.
Regardless, he can add a Queen's Birthday honour to the roll. On Monday Mr Richardson will be appointed a companion of the Order of Australia for his service to public administration and leadership in national security, defence and foreign policy.
The former secretary of the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments said he achieved little that could be attributed only to him.
"You aren't a sole practitioner, you are joined at the hip with so many others."
Mr Richardson was heading towards a teaching career when a university supervisor suggested joining the then-Department of External Affairs. He was 21 when he joined a public service more hierarchical, formal and male-dominated than it is today.
He worked in Papua New Guinea when the country gained independence in 1975, and was later involved in the program letting Chinese students in Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre to remain here.
Mr Richardson was also ASIO's director-general when the September 11 attacks pulled counter-terrorism to the centre of government policy.
He was Bob Hawke's last chief-of-staff, "a very rocky period but it was an experience that you can't buy". Working under many prime ministers, he's seen what they have in common.
"Each of the prime ministers I've worked with have worked really hard, have had the interests of their country at heart," he said.
"You may disagree with individual policies but they are committed. And they have a drive that is uncommon. And whether it be a Bob Hawke, whether it be a John Howard, these are really, really tremendous people."
Mr Richardson counts himself lucky to have had good bosses, and says the change he saw in the public service was overwhelmingly for the good.
"I worked with very good people and I had a supportive family. If you put all of that together, it works out."
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What Mr Richardson never told prime minister John Howard was that, at times as ambassador to the US, he would've done the job for free. The pay felt like a bonus.
"I had this tremendous alignment between my personal interest and my professional interest."
He recommends public servants take the "media test" to ensure their career suits their interests.
"When they access the media, whether through traditional newspapers or online, they should note where their eyes automatically turn to.
"And where their eyes automatically turn to, and where they work, should align. I know that's not possible for everyone and you've got to be a little bit lucky for that to happen. But that is the test."
The caveat, he jokes, is that sensible people start reading a newspaper from the sports pages. The long-time rugby league fan, now a Canberra Raiders board member, also likes his team's chances this year.
"I reckon if we have the right luck between now and the end of the year with injuries, I think we're a top four team."