A startup’s wealth lies in its team – which is an issue if you struggle to attract top talent. Take the lead of Melbourne-based small tech firm Scan-Xpress and ensure your startup or small business is millennial-friendly.

Understand their expectations. Millennials are well-educated, adaptable, and seek challenges. They prefer a collaborative work culture to hierarchical-induced isolation. They want freedom and the capacity to pursue other interests (remember this desired flexibility can work both ways – they seek flexibility with their time and projects, but as younger people, are more capable of spontaneity, travel, and overtime). They want to develop, feel valued, and make a difference.

Understand their value. Out-of-the-box thinking. Agility. Enthusiasm. Energy. Thirst for learning and leadership. The relationship between you and the employee should be a value exchange – though it’s the employer’s obligation to extract the value.

Understand the role. Give them a worthwhile purpose. Provide training and professional development. Make them part of a team. Allow them to lead. Drop unnecessary rules. Guide their career.

Scan-Xpress understands all of the above and is consequently a rich source of engagement and development for tech talent, David Purser.

David Purser.png
Image: David Purser with a drone and its controlling and tracking equipment, all of which he designed and built singlehandedly.

David Purser graduated from RMIT University with First Class Honours in December, 2016, with a Double Bachelor Degree of Aerospace Engineering (Honours) and Business Management. He completed an internship at Airbus Defence and Space in Germany and is on the VicHyper team that competed in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition – the only Australian team to reach finals in Texas and subsequently progress to the second phase.

David is focussed, intelligent, and ambitious – and is currently working as an Application Engineer at small tech Melbourne firm, Scan-Xpress.

You have the world at your feet. What attracted you to work for a small tech firm?

Scan-Xpress is a high-tech company catering to large aerospace manufacturers. Due to study obligations, I needed work flexibility that those large manufacturers couldn’t provide, but in this position, I am still working with them indirectly through Scan-Xpress. It is also a local job, which was an advantage while study had me tied down geographically.

What benefits do startups have to keep employees like yourself engaged?

Startups and small firms are very agile. There’s no bureaucracy or hierarchy. I contribute to the direction of the business. At Scan-Xpress, I expressed that we needed a 3D printer and my boss Kevin Warwick was responsive to that – we had a 3D printer the following week. It’s easy to communicate to him what I need, or it’s simply apparent to him because he’s present at all times. There’s not that power distance.

He also uses me as a consultant. I’m able to tell him what graduates expect from employment and what the industry is moving towards. Likewise, he has a lot of experience, which is what I lack, so we complement each other.

I’ve been told you’re quite the entrepreneur. How does this role enable you to use and further develop your entrepreneurial skillset?

As a small business, Scan-Xpress is still developing and establishing its brand image and awareness. I get to be an ambassador of that, getting out there and flying the flag. In a team of five, we’re all responsible for the brand and ensuring that it’s highly regarded. And that’s really exciting for me. I like feeling responsible for the business, and like that the decisions I make matter and have an effect on the business.

Do you juggle more than one job?

Yes. Since graduating, I jump between optical metrology for Scan-Xpress and working for Amaero, a company that prints 3D metallic components and caters to the defence and aerospace industries.

What are the benefits of working in a digital business incubator space such as Melbourne Innovation Centre Northcote?

I like the fact that we’re surrounded by so many businesses from diverse fields. Digital-oriented business is a vast encompassing umbrella term, so there’s a lot that can fall under it. For example, there’s a game development studio next door to us. That team complements our work, because they work with 3D models day in, day out, so they’re able to give us insight when it comes to applying texture to a 3D model, for instance. Likewise, we have the capability to 3D scan people, and they like that so they can use themselves as playable characters.

Anything unusual that you’ve 3D scanned?

We scan all kinds of stuff. I was most curious to move into this line of work because of the aerospace applications – and we do a lot of those. We do aircraft components and parts for spacecraft and satellites and things that will enter lower space orbit. I get to handle them, I get to inspect them, and I get to approve them, and that’s really exciting for me, because that’s what I’ve studied.

Then we get requests out of left field. We scanned the sculpture of The Kiss by Rodin at Art Gallery NSW recently. We drove to Sydney at a moment’s notice throughout the day, scanned overnight, and drove home the next day. There was also an endangered stick insect at Melbourne Zoo that they wanted scanned for posterity. We were on stand-by for one to die of natural causes – then had to move quickly, as the abdomen deflates and we needed it to look like a living replica. Their legs fall off almost immediately, so I had to scan them individually and Google to figure out which leg went where, and digitally reassemble it. So we definitely get quirky requests!

What do you pursue outside of work?

I’m very interested in manufacturing – I like to know how things get made and I like to make things myself. I now own a lot of manufacturing equipment that I’ve bought secondhand from businesses selling their assets. For instance, I’ve picked up large CNC machines quite cheap, which I tinker with and fix up. Now that I’m not studying, I have a block of time in the evenings that I can spend doing this.