If you had asked Scott Dunlop what his career plan was when he entered law school in his early twenties, he would not have answered “helping some of the world’s biggest musical artists put on spectacular shows for their fans”.
Luckily for Scott, he learnt something not long after finishing law school that many people with JDs never realize – having a legal education opens so many career pathways, including many that are nowhere near a traditional legal career.
Scott is the President & Chief Executive Officer of Pyrotek Special Effects Inc.
, one of the world’s leading providers of live special effects. Pyrotek helps its clients design and execute impactful special effects moments for their live performances, using things like pyrotechnics and flame effects. If you have ever been to a large arena or stadium concert, you have likely seen Pyrotek’s work in action – their clients include Katy Perry, Metallica, Green Day, Iron Maiden, Five Finger Death Punch, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, and many others.
How did he go from law school grad to performance-dream maker?
Scott’s career in law didn’t start much differently than most lawyers. After finishing law school at Queen’s University
, Scott started down a traditional path, articling at a big Bay Street firm followed by five years in a corporate/commercial practice. Scott’s work was primarily done for one large company client and he eventually moved into an in-house role with that company. An in-house job gave Scott the opportunity to get involved in broader corporate development and general management work with the company, instead of focusing only on legal work. Being a legal expert, Scott was easily able to get a “seat at the table” with all the other professionals at the company. Once you work on enough corporate/commercial or merger and acquisition transactions, you start to understand the whole process and develop expertise in other areas.
It was only natural, with his growing set of skills and interests, that Scott began managing a Corporate Development portfolio. Ultimately, Scott moved from transactions into operations, becoming responsible for the general management of one of the company divisions he helped build.
Inspired to keep going in his new direction, Scott moved on to set up a small, boutique private equity firm called Cobalt Capital
. He helped the firm position itself as a solutions partner for businesses in need of capital and management expertise to facilitate growth. Pyrotek was one of the companies that Cobalt Capital acquired. When Pyrotek’s business got to a point where it needed major expansion, Scott decided to move into a full-time executive role at the company.
As President & CEO, Scott is responsible for directing all of Pyrotek’s operations. He leads a small executive team and has direct involvement in any significant matter affecting the company, including in the areas of corporate finance, risk management, research & development, human resources, and marketing.
Despite Scott’s busy role at Pyrotek, he relies on his legal education and expertise, regularly doing legal work himself as well as supervising the work of the company’s outside lawyers.
The thing Scott loves about his job at Pyrotek is, first and foremost, the enormous breadth of its scope. There are, literally, 20 different things he could be doing on any given day, some of them legal-related, many of them not. Scott is also extremely passionate about the importance of what Pyrotek does. He has always been a huge music fan and has spent his life going to concerts (how many has he been to? He lost count a long time ago). He knows first-hand the impact that a good performance can have. In fact, passion for live events is one of Pyrotek’s core values and they believe that one exceptional moment in a show can have a positive impact on the course of events, lives, and histories.
Scott’s advice for someone who wants to follow a similar career path is to take full advantage of the critical thinking skills that a legal education provides. He suggests taking every advantage to learn as much as you can after law school in all the areas you are interested in. In both law and business, you have to keep learning and luckily, you will have opportunities to learn something new every day if you take advantage of them when they’re presented to you. You might be surprised where these opportunities take you. Letting your career evolve “organically” is key to following a trajectory like the one Scott has. Sometimes, the options you open yourself up to lead to completely unexpected but totally fulfilling outcomes.