More than 30 years ago Siu-Ming Tam landed a job at a Bureau of Statistics that had no PCs and where staff were yet to call bosses by their first names.
When the bureau stalwart and chief methodologist finished his full-time career on Friday, he left as the agency grappled with questions hard to imagine when he started.
Dr Tam had a young family and was new to Australia when he decided against his career "Plan A" in academia, and joined the Bureau of Statistics.
His first Canberra winter as he arrived from a subtropical Hong Kong in 1985 had him jumping up and down to stay warm on a minus 4 degree day and vowing to never let his family get cold.
A career as a university researcher looked too unstable and he pursued what he'd known best at his old home, where he'd worked at Hong Kong's statistics department.
Despite his university degree and experience, it wasn't easy to get into the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a barrier Dr Tam puts down to a more conservative hiring policy back then that didn't favour outsiders to the agency.
"It was hard in those early days but in recent times it has more liberal policies and I actually did a count of our senior executive service officers, and I think about one third of them now come from outside the ABS, which is reflecting the fact that we are bringing talent and expertise from outside the bureau," he said.
Much else has changed too, and Dr Tam shares some of the credit. In the bureau's centenary year in 2005, he was involved in efforts to convince the government to let it publish statistics online for free use by the public.
"We initially were providing free publications and a few years later we provided free statistics so everything was now virtually free," he said.
"And that was one of the big things by unlocking the data, making the data much more freely available, it actually enables better decision making."
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Dr Tam was also part of the move to free people using the agency's data from the bureaucratic nightmare of seeking permission for copyright reasons.
A creative commons licence lets them use statistics without this, so long as they attribute them to the bureau. Dr Tam holds his role in bringing that change as one of his proudest achievements.
The roof would leak during rain at the bureau's old home in Belconnen's Cameron offices and the buildings, with multiple entrances, were a security headache. Its first computers were mainframes and when PCs arrived, they were shared between many people.
At its new digs in ABS House, software lets staff work securely from home and the agency is harnessing data from satellites and mobile phones to add value to its statistics.
Dr Tam said his workplace had taken a measured approach in adopting new technologies and methods, making sure its data could still be compared over time.
One of its challenges today is the difficulty in contacting people for surveys, although response rates in Australia are internationally high.
"But this model relying on interviewing or directly approaching respondents is going to become more and more costly into the future, so we are looking at finding alternative ways of still collecting high quality data, but at a lower cost, much more efficient data collection methods," he said.
Another challenge is the amount of data available.
Dr Tam is easing into retirement despite finishing on Friday, returning on Monday as a part-time consultant helping it answer such questions.
"Life is in a sense full of twists and turns, right?" he said.
After 35 years, Dr Tam can finally pursue his "Plan A" and become a researcher.
"But this time I know that if I fail, I can still feed my family," he laughed.