Meet Sharif – the whiz kid with an answer for everything

sio-mugshotSharif Olorin has a reputation around the office for 3 things: his deadpan sense of humour, his numerous tattoos and piercings, and his obsession with Russian Caravan tea.

So far, the best Russian Caravan he’s found is at the Glebe markets in Sydney’s Inner-West, an area he now calls home.

In many ways, Sharif is stereotypical of inner-Western Sydney. He’s young, wicked-smart and tech-savvy. He doesn’t wear a suit to work and he cares more about getting the job done than whose responsibility it is.

He has a lambda – the Greek letter λ often used in mathematics and science – tattooed on his right forearm, and even uses the symbol as his signature!

“I like Lambda Calculus. A lot,” he explains.

Indeed, beneath the quirky exterior lies a very intelligent mind, with a gift for mathematics and computer science. Like a lot of other Anchorites, Sharif’s fascination with computers began at an early age.

“I started seriously tinkering when I was 15 or 16. I got obsessed with competitive informatics…It’s essentially a programming competition.”

“Usually you get a problem set of 4 or 5. You get 4 to 5 hours to solve them. The problems are hard, but most of the difficulty lies not in getting an answer, but in getting an answer that runs fast enough. I ended up getting into the invite-only summer school which they use to train people for the international competition,” he tells me, with a note of pride in his voice.

After trying his hand at his own startup at the tender age of 17 and being a key early employee of two others – OrionVM and 99Dresses – Sharif got bored of building web apps and wanted to sink his teeth into more complex technical challenges. He found exactly that at Anchor.

“Here I get to flex my systems architecture muscles. Building large-scale solutions is something that I’ve always found rather fun.”

Sharif admits he was expecting a bit of a culture shock when he first started working at Anchor.

“I was very pleasantly surprised. This is the first company I’ve worked at that had more than 5 people. Usually the bigger a company gets, the more difficult it is to keep the technical skill level high. ”

“But here? There are always several people who know something you don’t. It’s an exceptional learning environment.”

After discussing the intricacies of competitive informatics and learning which body piercing hurt the most (the helix, in the upper ear, in case you were wondering) –  I decide to end the interview with what I thought would be a light-hearted final question:

“So Sharif – what do you think would happen if SkyNet (from the Terminator movies) ran on Linux?”

“Put it this way,” Sharif says with a grin. “I couldn’t see it running on anything else…”