How Did You Get There? An Interview with Dan Curtis

By Kinexus on 15 March 2018

Dan Curtis, Fincantieri Australia’s Seaworthiness Manager, has years of experience in leadership and management, effective planning and implementing complex projects within Govt. and Civil. He’s a respected leader of diverse, multifaceted teams with an Executive Masters in Complex Project Management and a Bachelor of Engineering, Naval Architecture.

We chat with Dan about how his career has developed over the years and what advice he has for others.

What was your first ever job?

I hired out sailing catamarans, windsurfers and mopeds to tourists. This was interesting because I needed to figure out how to communicate with people from all over the world and teach them how to use the boats and mopeds. I was too young to operate the mopeds, so I couldn’t demonstrate. Other parts of this job included spraying suntan lotion on beach-goers and operating a merry-go-round.

What’s surprised you most in your career?

I am constantly surprised how similar solutions can be applied to seemingly unrelated issues across different contexts.

Tell us about how you got to where you are now.

After studying Naval Architecture and applying and developing my technical, management and leadership skills, I moved up to senior engineering roles, managing diverse teams of engineers and providing engineering services to Navy projects and support teams. I’ve been a chief engineer for several organisations. Having supported many projects, I moved to project management and delivered a maritime project and a program of infrastructure projects. After 26 years I left defence and the public service and took a break. I then joined Fincantieri Australia as the seaworthiness manager.

What do you think contributed to your success so far?

I have worked with people to achieve difficult and complicated outcomes. I don’t pretend to be the expert. I try to surround myself with the experts and work with them to produce the best outcome.

What would be one piece of advice you could offer someone looking to take a similar career path?

Change only a few aspects of your role when you make a change, so you don’t have to learn everything again. For example, stay in a similar technical role with a different organisation, or take a different role in the same organisation.

Why was project management the right choice for you?

I can apply project management skills in new roles across a variety of organisations. It suits me down to the ground. I believe great project managers are great in another field first.

What are the positives about working within the shipbuilding industry?

Shipbuilding requires such a variety of engineering, planning, trades and coordination roles that you can always learn new skills, take on new roles and join different organisations.

How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?

I make sure I spend plenty of time with my family. I make sure I am ‘in the moment’ when I’m with them and when I’m at work. I also work from home whenever possible to save commuting time.

Dan Curtis
Seaworthiness Manager
Fincantieri Australia

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