For the first few years of his working life he was a product engineer, but he then changed tack and for two years was chief of staff to a senior Australian federal cabinet member. He returned to industry as financial controller of a major manufacturing plant, then became strategy manager for the entire firm - one of Australia's largest and best-known. His role - proposing strategy to the CEO and board - occupied him for a total of thirteen years. For most of that time he also had a second role: he successively controlled the firm's information technology activity, then its government relations, before becoming its chief economist, then its treasurer.
While holding those day jobs, Chamberlain accumulated supporting qualifications at night. He now holds four degrees - Doctor of Business Administration, Master of Business Administration, Master of Engineering Science, and Bachelor of Engineering - and three professional diplomas, so his qualifications range across business administration, management, psychology, accounting and engineering. His doctoral research centered on his life-long interest in strategy. He says he chose that area out of a feeling of frustration: he had searched the professional literature and could not find an adequate description of strategy. He wanted to see explanations of what it is, what it does, and how it does it; the forces that shape it; the processes that form it; and the reason different strategists choose different solutions to the same strategic problems. He could not find answers in the literature, which he said is "Like a clear night sky--there are thousands of pinpoints of light, but little or no general illumination." When developing case studies for his research he found no difficulty in interviewing the CEOs of unfamiliar organizations then describing and critiquing their strategies. However, when it came to comparing the strategies of different organizations--especially different types of organizations--there was a shortage of clear, standardized concepts and terms that he could use. He decided that what was needed to solve these various problems was a basic general theory of strategy. His doctoral dissertation contained a great deal of new research data and provided some insights into individual issues, but it did not satisfy his mission; it did not offer a theory of strategy. It took him six more years and another three thousand hours of work before he completed his theory and finished writing his first book: Understanding Strategy.