By Rebecca Todesco, Assistant Editor, Pump Industry Magazine

Valentina Tripp did not start her professional career expecting to make her way into the pump industry, but after almost two years as CEO of Davey, she feels like she’s found her bearings. Here, Valentina talks about the path that led her to the pump industry, the changes she’d like to see unfold during her career, and the challenges facing the industry in the future.

The journey to pumps

When Valentina started her professional career, it was not in the pump industry. “I started a career predominantly in food and beverage, taking Australian brands into international markets back in the ’90s.

“I did my MBA and then shortly after commenced with KPMG in their advisory practice in management consulting, which essentially gave me the opportunity to work across many different industries, solving lots of different problems and I ended up leading the strategy practice there for a number of years.”

Following her time at KPMG, Valentina joined global agribusiness giant JR Simplot, where she led the meat business throughout Asia Pacific and Corporate Development for Simplot Australia. In Australia, Simplot has a diverse portfolio of growing, manufacturing and processing assets across the country, and is home to a large number of leading food brands.

The broad exposure across the supply chain saw a strong interest develop in agriculture and sustainable food systems. “I was curious to understand the agricultural part of our business, keen to learn more about where our food was coming from and how we were managing our agricultural assets here in this country – right through the value chain from growing, processing to exporting, to building brands that have a global presence.”

It was during her time leading a large-scale agricultural business, Murray River Organics, that Valentina first came across Davey and its range of products. With 13 organic vertically integrated farms in the Sunraysia region, they were growing wine grapes, dried fruit, table grapes, and citrus, as well as processing a range of organic health products from their facility in Dandenong.

“Coming across Davey in that environment was probably the first time I really understood the role of [pumps], particularly in irrigation…and why water and water management was so important as we traded through the prolonged drought with limited water allocations.”

When the phone call came through from Davey asking her to consider entering the pump manufacturing industry, she was honoured and excited by the possibility. “I thought, ‘What an amazing opportunity with the most well-known brand of pumps in Australia and the last remaining large-scale pump manufacturing left here in Australia.

We could make a real difference in people’s lives, especially in our critical food and fibre growing regions. We could tackle some of the big water access and management challenges. We could find the innovative solutions to water security that our growing community really needs.”

Getting to know pumps

As with any new role, one of the first things Valentina did was try “broadening [her] horizon” by finding out as much as she could about the almost AU$2 billion industry she was entering.

“My first goal was really trying to understand and talk to as many people as possible to learn about industry, what were the key issues, how was the industry performing and what were key success factors to prosper and grow.

I wanted to understand the industry’s relative strengths and needs, and how Davey could play a significant role. Learning about the big issues from longtime industry stalwarts who were very generous with their time and insights helped a lot in the early days. It was fascinating.”

Something that struck a chord with Valentina was the pump industry’s continued resilience in times of hardship and ups and downs in the economy, something she said is “really important in times of global uncertainty like climate change and the supply shocks that we’ve had because we’re looking at moving from droughts to floods, to fires”.

“In all those instances, the infrastructure and the support that we give to the community is critical. “The sovereign capability element became more evident and how important it is to maintain a level of capability in our country from a policy perspective. We need to ensure we can support our country through tough challenges such as flood, fire, droughts, and some of the most extreme conditions in the world.

As well as ensuring we can support our community during times of global uncertainty.” This, she said, also provides a real competitive advantage overseas when people see and come to value the work Australia can provide. “If it can work in Australia, in some of the toughest conditions in the world, it’s just seen as a really reliable, highquality offering.”

The challenges on the horizon

Talking to and learning from the people who know the industry best has not only provided valuable insight but has also helped Valentina recognise and identify the global trends that are going to drive change in the industry.

“Climate change, growing global demand for water, water security, societal changes, technology and digitisation, are all critical issues and trends driving our think tanks and R&D teams to develop innovative products and solutions. We are working on how to make our products more efficient, user friendly, connected, and anticipate the issues for the future to solve these problems for our customers.”

A major component of this is working to mitigate the effects of the water scarcity issues that are predicted to arise in coming years.

“They are upon us, and they will continue to be upon us over the coming decades, even though we are in flood situations in big parts of the country, and now in our New Zealand market. “Whilst the immediate climate impacts are quite different and we’re responding to those, we know that droughts are around the corner.

We know that fire events are likely in the near term given the level of fuel from significant vegetation growth. We know we need to be ready to respond as a company and as a whole industry.” Shifting her focus inward, Valentina believes another key obstacle ahead for the industry is the challenge of drawing in new people and talent.

“We’re doing a lot to change, shift and refresh ourselves so that we can attract the best people to come into our industry. “There may have been some perceptions; it’s not the most attractive place to choose when you’re deciding on your career path out of graduate school or considering a move from other industries. We are really working hard to change that.”

Davey offers internships and graduate recruitment programs to attract new talent and diversify the workforce. “We’re focusing on diversity and attracting talent from other industries. “I think as a whole industry, I’d love for us to be able to do that on a much bigger scale. And give people careers, longterm careers, and transferable skills as well. We are a global industry; these skills are important, and you can take them into lots of countries.”

Preparing to embrace change

Renewable energy’s potential in future innovations is being explored in industries throughout the world, and Australia’s pump industry is no exception, with a lot of research and development and trials concerning renewable applications in pump operations in the works.

Of particular importance to Valentina is shifting mindsets away from the disposable economy that has developed over the last decade to more of a repair and maintain, whole-of-life cycle and sustainable economy.

This was kicked off at the Davey Master Dealer Conference in 2022, where pump dealers gathered for a few days and Davey was able to launch its strategy which includes a focus on renewables and innovation. Valentina identified this conference as the highlight at Davey, saying it was humbling and unforgettable to see the level of support and engagement behind the company from its dealer partners.

“They were so engaged and welcoming of some of the changes that we had made and want to continue to put in place over the coming years. It was thrilling to receive such overwhelming support for the transformation journey we have embarked on over the next five years.

“We’re excited about what that means for us, not just here in Australia, but also from a global perspective and how we turn that energy into innovative new products and services that we’re working on. All designed, engineered and manufactured right here in Australia and exported around the world to our 47 countries we service with our 97 global distribution partners.

Utilising the CEO platform

Pumps is often considered to be a male-dominated industry, something Valentina is no stranger to, having worked for most of her career in sectors with similar demographics. But more than it being a gender issue, it should have a broader focus.

“I encourage people to focus on broad diversity. It’s not just about gender, we also consider ethnicity, diversity of thought and different non-traditional backgrounds and life experiences.

“When we bring people together from different industries, different experiences, we create a better environment to foster innovation, collaboration, problem-solving and it enables us to test and challenge ourselves, to stretch our thinking and create better, more sustainable solutions.”

When it comes to an industry mentor, there’s no one person Valentina can nominate, rather a large network of colleagues, clients, and professionals that have helped her over the many years and throughout her career journey.

“I feel that whilst it’s not one mentor, there’s many. “I’ve just been really fortunate here at Davey because we have some amazing people in our team, people who have been with us for 30, 40 years. I love talking to them because they have an incredible amount of knowledge and insights. And they’ll answer all my questions, my endless curiosity. They have been very helpful to fast track my learning.

“I think we’ve got some amazing talent right through the industry that we’re tapping into. And, for me, it’s trying to get the best people and the best minds together around solving some of these issues.” If there’s one thing Valentina hopes people can take from her time as CEO, it’s the idea of just having a go.

“Just get in there and have a go because your voice is really valuable. And us as leaders, we need to encourage that and create the forums and the environment that encourages the interaction and engagement. “Surround yourself with talented, passionate, curious and engaging people. Ask for help. It’s okay.

“Put your hand up and call on others when you are not sure. And then make sure you give back in that process as well, because people want to help other people. They do. It’s just a natural thing that we do. There is great joy as a leader as you get further in your career, in being able to mentor, inspire and help others coming through. To help mentees stretch, learn, and achieve great things is very rewarding personally.”

It’s the same advice she would give to those who are just entering or considering a career in the pump industry. “It’s a place where there is a broad breadth of opportunities, and transitioning from other industries is possible, and you can have a big impact with new ideas, a new perspective or new skills… if you can listen, learn fast and seek to engage well, there are many ways to contribute and build a rewarding career.

“There’s no shortage of opportunities across all areas, whether it’s in R&D, innovation, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, and the commercial, marketing and category management functions.

We are on the lookout for talent across all these areas. We even have our very own dedicated in-house talent specialist who engages with new talent every day. It’s critical, our people capability is our most valuable asset. “We have a bright future as a company and our whole industry.”

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