Dave Sammut

BSc (Hons) 1994

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am an entrepreneur, the principal of DCS Technical Consulting. Through DCS Technical, I also co-manage two additional businesses, Access RnD Tax Solutions and Rod Campbell & Associates.

DCS Technical provides technical consulting services to a range of domestic and international clients in the minerals processing and industrial waste recycling industries. We are the world’s leading consultancy in the field of mixed halide hydrometallurgy, and are the official provider of technical services in relation to the commercialisation of the Intec Process.

I am responsible for the strategy and planning, corporate deals, staff management and technical leadership. I conceive the experiments for the development of new innovations, these are implemented by staff and contractors, and then I lead the evaluation of the scientific data. As part of this work, I travel approximately 6 weeks a year, both domestically and internationally. In the last ten years, I have visited 34 countries for business purposes.

In addition to the revenue generating activities, I am also active in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, I run the RACI Mentoring Programme for Young Chemists, I lecture at universities around Australia on how to make the transition from uni into the workforce, and I write monthly feature articles for Chemistry in Australia magazine.

How did you transition into this current role from a science degree?
I was very fortunate to land a great commercial role from the beginning of my career. But then I worked very hard, I offered myself up to every opportunity, and I made sure that I always paid attention to the bigger picture. It wasn’t enough to do my job, I always wanted to understand the commercial context of my job, and the drivers that created value from my job.

After a few years in industry, I then went back (part time, while working full time) to get a business degree. This significantly broadened my commercial understanding. Much of the rest of my career has been spent at the nexus between the technical and business paradigms of each company I have worked for. I was effectively a ‘translator’ between staff of the two quite differing skill sets.
Success in business is in many ways scientific. The scientific method involves the systematic and logical evaluation and testing of ideas. These are fundamental strengths in business.

What are your interests outside of work?
I am a husband, father and businessman – in that order. My own needs occupy a very distant fourth place in the hierarchy. But when I can find the time, I carve stone as a hobby. I love the tactile nature of the work, and the fact that it requires me to set aside all other thoughts – just concentrate on the stone. Stone is unforgiving.
I also do standup comedy. One of the great epiphanies of adulthood was that regardless of my failings and my limitations, I am great just as I am – as long as I am happy with myself. With nothing to lose, I can get up in front of an audience and have a go.

Secret talents? I can hold a pen and write with my feet. :)

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
The biggest piece of advice is ‘The Power of YES’.
The best possible thing that you can do in your career (and your life) is to be relentlessly positive. Can you help with this? Yes! Can you give this a go? Yes! Grasp every opportunity, and give your best every day. Within three years of beginning my career, I went from (literally) bucketing mud from place to place in a pilot plant to running an R&D lab by always keeping an eye on what the company needed done, then volunteering to do it. It gave me enormous opportunities to learn and grow, and the status and pay quickly followed.

Also, for the women: There is a meme that says ‘Women should be like mediocre men’. In simple terms, it says that a mediocre man, when faced with an opportunity for which he has 60-70% of the skills or experience required, will say ‘I’ll give that ago’. Many women will wait until they have 100-110%, but they should try to be like the mediocre bloke. It’s just another version of the power of ‘yes’.

There is a lot of great advice available through your school, through the university careers services, and your professional associations – particularly the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.
The ‘Understanding the Job Market’ video series and other useful materials are available at the Young Chemist Group YouTube Channel

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