Dave Sullivan was appointed to Practice Leader, Geotech of Tetra Tech Coffey’s Sydney operations in 2022. As a Senior Engineering Geologist with more than 10 years’ experience, Dave leads a team of more than 30 geotechnical specialists.
Dave’s career has seen him work on tunnelling projects across Australia and New Zealand, and leveraging his industry experience and leadership skills, he is bringing together our geotechnical, engineering and technology teams to enable our clients to deliver on some of Australia’s largest and most significant infrastructure projects.
Dave is completing a Master of Engineering Science, Engineering Geology and Geotechnical Engineering from the University of New South Wales, Australia and holds a Bachelor of Science, Earth, and Geological Sciences from the University of Newcastle. Dave has also been accepted into Tetra Tech’s Leadership Academy in 2023.
We spoke to Dave about his team and how they are enabling our clients’ projects to be delivered to the highest standards of his discipline.
Tell us about some of the projects you and your team are currently working on in the Sydney region?
Right now in Sydney there’s such a diverse range of projects, and on any given day members of my team can be found executing a range of services and projects.
Our major infrastructure projects include a number of transport projects, involving tunnelling and complex remediation challenges. Sydney’s CBD continues to expand and grow taller, and our teams are scattered around sites working on deep foundation works for towers within Sydney.
When you look at the projects and clients we partner with – you can really start to see the depth of experience and skills we have in our team. It is an exciting and a dynamic industry right now.
What are some of the projects which are exciting you at the moment?
Our tunnelling work and projects always excite me. They are very challenging, complex projects which always tests us professionally. But I am also enjoying the work we are doing in the renewable energy space.
You seem to have a ‘deep’ understanding of tunnels – how has it influenced your career?
Tunnels is where it all began for me. I am a Geologist by trade, but I’ve worked in Geotech my whole career. I started out in the coal mining industry (in the Hunter region of NSW, Australia) performing exploratory work, which was followed by underground work over the next 5-6 years.
After working across longwall and board and pillar mining, I wanted to diversify my career and try different types of tunnelling and get into the Civil industry. I was fortunate to move to Sydney and be part of the construction phase services of the M4 East tunnel where I worked within the CPS team. I spent the next four and a half years building my skills and understanding in underground excavation, engineering geology, geotechnical rock engineering, and construction phase services work.
From there I expanded out into detailed design phase for some major projects working on the Sydney infrastructure, including the WestConnex Rozelle Interchange Tunnels. Working at Tetra Tech, I get to apply my skills and experience across so many areas and projects.
Where do you see your industry moving towards?
We are rapidly evolving our digital engineering and GIS platforms, which are the two big things that I think are different to what we’ve done in the past.
We are really embracing 3D modelling of the ground geology and producing 3D structural models of the geology which is taking it to the next level. We are fortunate to have some leading minds in this space here and I am excited about how it can deliver more benefits to our clients and their projects through efficiencies and cost benefits.
You are responsible for leading and shaping all aspects of the Geotechnical business in Sydney. How do you support continuous learning in your teams?
We acknowledge that along with the pressures and demands of our work, it’s the projects and people we work with which provide the most reward. I feel so fortunate to work with some of Australia’s most experienced geotechnical and geophysicist specialists who are always there to help solve technical challenges. That’s what is great about working at Tetra Tech, I only have to ‘reach out to ask a question’ and within minutes I have some brilliant minds ready to help. Collaboration and sharing of knowledge is something that I encourage with my teams, which is really at the heart of continuous learning in our profession. I also believe in ‘giving it a go’. My career to date has been about trying new things and exploring new technical areas. I really encourage the next generation of engineers to always ‘give things a go – you never know where they will take you!’
What is a key tip you can share with others who are supporting teams?
I focus on giving clarity and assurance up front. I try to do as much as I can to give people the understanding I have of the project and explain how they sit, where, and how their role affects the machine that they’re working on.
I say ‘machine’ in the sense that these highly complex infrastructure projects are on an immense scale and complexity. It can be overwhelming. As a leader it is my job to help my teams feel confident in their role and how our work contributes overall to the project.
Connect with Dave at Dave.Sullivan@tetratech.com
Photo from the Field: Dave Sullivan (2nd from left) pictured with his M6 Motorway Tunnel Mapping team in 2022.