As an engineer by profession with a Master’s in Business Administration from Henley, BMIT CEO Christian Sammut’s unique blend of both technical and management skills meant that he was primed to lead one of the country’s key technology companies.
After working in the private sector for Dowty Group, followed by a stint in the UK aerospace industry, Christian joined Management Systems Unit (today known as MITA), and was responsible for the Government’s technology infrastructure and data centres. Then, in 2001, he joined Maltacom (now GO), to set up Innovate – a Maltacom subsidiary, before taking on various tech and commercial roles within the Group, and ultimately accepting a position there as Chief Officer for Strategy.
In 2008, as technology developed further and further, Christian was given the responsibility of exploring investment opportunities in the data centre environment and, in 2009, GO acquired BMIT through an initial investment and, in 2011, bought the balance of shares so that it became the outright owner. “That’s when I moved here as CEO,” Christian explains. “Ever since, my role has been all about understanding shareholder objectives and requirements, and meeting their expectations. I have built a solid team around me to do exactly that.”
Christian’s team has, today, grown to 45 people, and the company operates two data centres – one in Handaq and one in Smart City – and is currently building a third in Zejtun. Although Christian had managed teams in the past, this role was his first as CEO – and thus his first opportunity to have full accountability and responsibility over a team, with a vision to lead it into the future. “There is no doubt that my strong team – with its diverse skillset, characters and backgrounds – has helped me to move the company forward in the last few years,” he says.
“I love to enjoy my work; so I like to work hard but to have fun doing it at the same time. I also like to build and shape my own future – what I do, how I do it, and how I achieve my objectives, and I try to enable the same for the people around me. I am clear about my requirements from them, but I strive to enable them to shape things in their own way.”
Christian believes that it’s important for a CEO to be able to inspire those around them. “There’s a lot to the role,” he says. “It’s vital to be able to motivate your team, manage shareholder expectations, and make sure that the company you are responsible for grows and develops over the years. Here at BMIT we have been experiencing consistent growth year-on-year since day one.”
Of course, growth is a very positive thing in business, but Christian does explain that it can be a double-edged sword. “On the one side it is absolutely fantastic, but on the flip side your shareholders do expect you to maintain that growth in a market where technology is constantly changing. The economic environment in Malta today is very positive, but the success we’re enjoying has also created a number of challenges related to successful recruitment, which can test growth plans. As a result, having an achievable and carefully thought through strategy becomes vital for maintaining anticipated levels of growth.”
Asked about what he enjoy most about his role – a role he is extremely passionate about – Christian says he loves ‘building stuff’. “I love having an idea and then bringing it to fruition with the help of my team, even if it seems far-fetched to begin with. We continuously raise the bar, and that has been one of the secrets of our success here at BMIT. We never look at what other companies are doing or let competition worry us; we only consider what we’re doing and how we can excel at it. We constantly look to the future of the next big thing and what we need to do to be part of it.”
Of course, rapid developments in the tech world bring both challenges and opportunities. “The internet changed the way people live, the cloud changed the way people access tech on the internet, and now there’s blockchain and the Internet of Things that will bring another new wave of revolutionary change. Our biggest opportunity and challenge is to identify the coming trends, and to position BMIT as an enabler within the market.”
Christian says he manages the inevitable challenges of that by genuinely enjoying what he does, and by transmitting that ethos of enjoyment to his team. “When I wake up in the morning I look forward to going to work. I think it’s important to find a healthy balance between working and family, time for friends and yourself in that order. Being able to switch off when you need to switch off is vital but it’s also good to be able to work round the clock to make things happen on occasion when you need to.”
It is clearly an approach that works as, under Christian’s leadership, BMIT has experienced record success on an annual basis. Now he is focused on taking the company to the next level – with not just gradual, organic growth but by making the next quantum leap. “I set high objectives and look towards the opportunities that both the tech world and the region give us. Our next phase of growth will include expansion into other geographical areas, and we are already striking the right partnerships to be able to get us there.”
As for where he will be in the next five years, Christian says he hopes to still be running BMIT but that it will be bigger, better and more international, with more customers and more cutting-edge products. “As CEO, I would like to be remembered as a leader that inspired, motivated and enabled people to develop and achieve; and as a mentor who allowed people to develop around me and accomplish their goals. Meanwhile, from an industry perspective, I would like to be seen as one of the leading contributors to the tech space on the island – especially in relation to data centres and the cloud.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.