The MBA that helped Epic Environmental’s startup employee become GM and partner

The MBA that helped Epic Environmental’s startup employee become GM and partner

By Business News Australia
27 November 2023
Partner Content

Environmental engineer Romin Nejad began his career at Epic Environmental at a challenging time for the industry in 2015, but his inner entrepreneur was up to the task.

Within a few years of joining the Brisbane-based environmental consultancy, Nejad (pictured) went from being the first employee of the then fledgling startup to become general manager and partner in the business.

It was no coincidence that Nejad’s career took off after 2015 as he began studying a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at QUT, a decision that was as much as about broadening his business and leadership skills as it was to ‘learn the language of business’.

“When I joined Epic as an associate environmental engineer just two months into the startup, the company comprised just the two directors and I,” says Nejad.

“The two directors had a lot of trust in my abilities, and it helped that what I was learning through the MBA early on ran parallel with what we needed to grow as a company.”

In his early 20s, Nejad had ambitions to start his own business and he still harbours those ambitions. However, after graduating with a Bachelor of Environmental Science and working in the fields of construction and oil and gas in central Queensland, he has made the most of his position as general manager and partner at Epic Environmental.

“I get the best of both worlds as a leader and as a team member utilising my skills as an environmental engineer,” he says.

As general manager at Epic Environmental, the QUT Business School MBA alumnus now oversees a company that supports a team of 75 people in Brisbane and Sydney.

“My career has definitely grown with the company, and since 2015, we have been able to go from strength to strength, by hiring the right people and securing a strong pipeline of work,” he says.

“One of the reasons I studied an MBA was to give me that broader perspective that we need in business to succeed.

“One of the issues if you are purely an idealistic enviro engineer in the business world is that you are not talking the right language to decision makers. I knew business was the way I could get the vernacular I needed to talk at the level that decision makers will hear.”

Epic Environmental, founded by Brad May and Mark Breitfuss, deliver environmental science and engineering consultancy services to industry on projects such as infrastructure works, waste management, mining and construction.

Nejad concedes the business started at a challenging time for environmental consultants.

“I have had two major downturns throughout my profession - one was in 2007 and the other in 2014 when the oil and gas boom came to an end.

“But the three of us knew that if we could make it through at that time, we would survive for the long term.

“That’s part of the reason why I decided to study an MBA. While I had undertaken some post-graduate studies in carbon accounting and environmental management, I was at a crux in my career.

“I could have become more specialised in my field or even gone into law, but the MBA provided me with knowledge of a diverse range of business topics, for example commercial law, finance and HR, critical aspects of a business without having to go into a degree program that involved a deep dive of business focus area with a major.”

Nejad notes that the practicality of his studies proved quite useful for his role at Epic as the business started scaling.

“Among the courses I did during my MBA was HR which allowed me to build the HR management system for Epic,” he says.

“I was learning about finance and at that time I was working with the accountants and the directors to understand the ups and downs of cashflow. So, it helped me read the numbers better which was around the time I became a shareholder in the company. It allowed me to understand what I was buying into.”

Nejad says although he is heavily involved in the operational side of the business, his role still affords him the opportunity to maintain his technical skills.

“But it’s the operational side of the business that really fascinates me. I really like this style of business and through my MBA I feel that I can now readily step up to a corporate executive role.

“For now, I am focused on growing Epic, but if there is a new evolution of the company I will be able to leverage the knowledge I have gained from my QUT MBA to open other opportunities elsewhere.”

Nejad says he chose to undertake his MBA at QUT because it offered a broader range of course options, while giving him flexibility to study around his work commitments.

“To this day, the MBA still offers so many intangible benefits for me, among them the contacts that I have made.

“It’s probably the only place where I would have the opportunity to work side by side with a paramedic, a teacher, a doctor and an insurance broker. I still have many of those contacts which have been useful in our business as well.”

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