There are a very few qualifications that help you transfer from being Lieutenant in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to working in some of the world’s most popular start-ups in just a couple of years.
For Sam Zammit the transition from fatigues to jeans was executed with military precision, with an MBA from The University of Queensland.
Like so many others that pursue an MBA, Sam’s decision to re-locate to Queensland was all about re-skilling for a new career in corporate Australia.
And what a career it’s been.
Image: Getty Images / paksty; Hafiz Ismail; EyeEm
Image: Getty Images / paksty; Hafiz Ismail; EyeEm
Since graduating in 2013, Sam has been a consultant who played a critical role in the early growth of ride-sharing business Uber, helped establish an ‘order ahead’ restaurant platform called Hey You in Queensland, and more recently has overseen the launch of Uber’s scooter business Jump Bikes in the Sunshine State.
“I learned plenty about leadership and coordination in the army, but without the UQ MBA there is no way I would have had the skills or confidence to make my way in cutting edge technology start-ups,” he said. “It is an entirely different world.”
“All roles in those technology start-ups are highly cross-functional – you need to be able to understand marketing, finance and HR; as well as being able to work with a budget, read a P&L (Profit & Loss) statement, and be able to do it all at the same time.
“I don’t think I would have had the foundational knowledge or confidence to walk into a room and understand what is being discussed or the ability to ask the right questions without my University of Queensland MBA.”
Making the Transition
Sam’s university experience before embarking on the MBA was, by his admission, relatively inauspicious.
After joining the army straight from school he made his way to the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra where he undertook a Bachelor of Arts (History and Politics).
“At the time I was really interested in History, but wasn’t thinking about how a degree would shape my future career prospects… it was a means to an end rather than any great ambition to gain a degree,” he said. “I probably didn’t appreciate the opportunity as much as I could have.”
A few postings later Sam found himself serving as an Operations Officer in the army with responsibility for managing a team that planned, organised, and conducted training activities.
After 11 years of service, Sam and his family were keen to head home to Queensland and looking for ways to transition out of the army and into a corporate role in the civilian world.
“Growing up in central Queensland, I knew UQ had a great reputation and the MBA Director at the time (Assoc. Professor Sarah Kelly) was doing great things with the program,” he said.
“I had a strong sense that coming out of the army and moving to a new city meant that I would need to build some new social and corporate networks, so the full-time program fit perfectly with that.”
“Even a few years after graduating, some of the friendships and relationships I established during that one year are still very strong and extremely important,” he said. “The alumni network is one of the most important takeaways from the UQ MBA and that alone made it well worth the investment in time and resources.”
Images: Getty Images / t_rust; Ezra Bailey
Sam did experience some trepidation returning to the books after so many years with particular concern around the more technical subjects.
“I was probably a little bit intimidated by accounting and finance subjects, but found that I really enjoyed it. The whole experience was really positive, and the lecturers were great at supporting you through any challenges,” he said.
New ventures await
This year Sam is using his experience and contacts to embark on his own start-up journey with the recent launch of in-home-care provider Dahlia Care.
The business, which works with Government and privately funded clients to help them retain independence while accessing healthcare and social support, was borne out by his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis.
“After my wife was diagnosed, we had a pretty hectic year and we gained a good understanding of the varied level of support you get,” he said.
“While we’re lucky enough not to have to require in-home care, we knew a few people on the same journey who needed more care and didn’t have a great experience accessing it.”
“I started working closely with one of my defence connections Sarah Leadbeater who works in the sector and when she moved on from her previous role, we took the opportunity to start Dahlia.”
Just after Sarah was appointed CEO and things began to gather pace, the COVID-19 lockdowns hit, and the pair had to seriously reconsider their plans.
“Like everybody we took a bit of a pause to re-asses its viability but quickly concluded that we could push ahead. We were confident it could stand on its own and so far, so good.”
“This opportunity or another of the other incredible jobs I’ve had over the last few years would not have been possible without my UQ MBA and I am sure it will continue to serve me well for many years to come.”
Image: Getty Images / shapecharge