How Sean’s Passion for Education and People Led to Success in IT
Success comes when personal and professional interests align, but that doesn’t happen through sheer luck. In Sean’s case, he worked hard to combine his passions and achieve greatness in every aspect of his life.
How did Sean find himself in the field of IT?
Sean was introduced to technology from a young age when his father purchased a failed shareware store. Two major events helped further Sean’s passion: a computer-building project and meeting an individual named Rami with “an alphabet soup of letters behind his name.”
The first happened when he was 16 and was asked to build a computer for an engineer that was a friend of his family. Sean obtained his first loan from a local credit union to build the engineer’s computer. At 17 years old, Sean obtained the CompTIA A+ certification. The wife of the same gentleman called him up many years later and asked if he’d be interested in working for her new franchise business called Computer Moms IT (CMIT). Sean had just finished his Bachelor's degrees in Business Management and Risk Management and Insurance from C.S.U Sacramento. He agreed to help with marketing and sales as he began to train to become a stockbroker.
Sean eventually acquired a series 7 and 66 license along with life and health insurance. He worked as a financial advisor creating a foundation for his love of vCSO delivery years later. Sean went on to get a master's in business administration (MBA) from the same university.
When the recession arrived in 2007, the owner of A Leap Ahead IT (previously CMIT) was ready to move on. She offered the business for sale to Sean who effectively “bought his job” using company income. Thirteen long years later, A Leap Ahead IT partnered with Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS) to become its Sacramento branch.
As for the other pivoting point in his IT journey, he met a consultant named Rami that held several titles, such as PMP and CISSP, along with a dozen others.
“Rami was instrumental in helping me take on the harder certifications through sponsoring my applications to discussing how to plan and prepare. You just get started and keep going... prior to Rami, I hadn’t looked at security-specific certifications,” he recalls. “Rami continues to mentor me today, always offering guidance when needed.”
Now, Sean has also completed several certifications with designations attached to his name - so make sure to address him as Sean Harris, MBA, CISSP, PMP, CCSP, MCSE.
How does Sean share his passion for learning?
Sean’s advocacy for education starts at ITS. As Senior Vice President of Cybersecurity, he’s constantly on calls with clients, partners, and other members of the organization. And though he enjoys discussing the nitty gritty of cybersecurity for businesses, his love is with something else.
“I love hardware. From my first phone and gaming system modifications, I have loved hardware. I maintain a physical penetration field kit that contains such things as Wi-Fi Pineapple’s, screen crabs, card scanners, and rubber ducky's, to name a few tools,” he mentioned. “I love that I can merge this fascination of making things do what they were not intended to do with protecting our clients. I find showing firsthand what something can do is an extremely effective teaching method.”
His passion for education doesn’t end there. Outside of ITS, he has other roles that allow him to help others and expand his own knowledge. For starters, he teaches an intensive cybersecurity bootcamp at the University of California, Davis. These boot camps are six months long for five hours a class, three nights a week. He also has a nonprofit called Bit Fellowship, which teaches people tech skills.
“The initiative of that was to help bridge the skills gap for those non-technical. Prior to COVID, we were at several senior centers doing senior classes on how to use the iPad and iPhone securely and safely [and] basic computer classes. We had a couple of classes for bridging skills, like vets that were coming out of active duty.”
When asked where his love for teaching came from, Sean laughingly said, "I just like people. I always told the joke that I would get as much education as I could when I was younger so that when I'm old, I could go teach a class, and people would need to listen to me, so it would be perfect."
As for his own educational growth, Sean actively works on several new certifications a year, with his current targets set on the new CMMC 2.0 CCA certification.
What’s Sean like in the comforts of home?
Once he’s done being an SVP, advocate, professor, entrepreneur, tech enthusiast, and student, Sean puts on his biggest and most important role: a family man.
Sean’s been married to his wife and best friend for almost nine years, and together they have two little boys and five pets. They’ve got their hands full with a nine-member household, especially since their kids, aged 7 and 4, are homeschooled. With his wife in charge of educating their children, his number one priority is to give her some breaks to allow time for herself.
“We bought a bike recently that has a bench seat on the back where both kids can ride along, so I've been biking them to places. You think I'd be healthier, but the places are always to get ice cream or donuts, so we undo whatever calories we [lose].”
As for their pets, they’ve got two dogs, two chickens (yes, chickens), and a cat. Dogs and cats, that’s pretty common. But chickens? That’s not something you hear of every day, and they actually were unexpected additions.
“My wife found a chicken coop online – on Facebook marketplace – and she bought it. And she’s like, ‘This would be fun with the kids,’ and then a chicken showed up in our backyard... And then we got a rescue chicken.”
Although Sean admits he is closest to their cat, with regards to their plans of expanding this little safari, he said, “Probably more chickens. That's gonna be the plan.”
How did he achieve success and what are his future hopes?
According to Sean, IT is a fickle industry, and the best way to stay relevant is through continuous learning and upskilling.
“It’s one of the few fields that, if you stop doing it for a period of time, you may be completely obsolete. You’re not going to know anything [because] things change so much in five to ten years.”
Dedicating oneself to a life of learning certainly is no easy feat, but Sean is able to live by his words because of his passion for cybersecurity, technology, and people. As for those who don’t have the same fire as he does, he advised, “You shouldn’t get into IT just because everybody says [so] or you want to make money. Life’s too short to do things that are only about money, and without passion for your work, a career like cybersecurity will burn you out.”
And though his pursuit of knowledge did contribute a lot to his success, he owes a huge chunk of it to his very supportive family and the amazing people that he has worked with. He even recalled an impactful conversation he had with a colleague.
“I had a call with a CPA yesterday who has helped me a lot with my business. He [said], ‘I think that I was a part of your success,’ and I replied, ‘You were in more ways than one.’ And it felt good to tell him that. He is one of a dozen or so individuals [who] have been a huge part of my success and who took an interest in me, offering me guidance and help along the way. So, I live my life to pass that mentorship, fellowship, and guidance on to others in the hope that I can pass along what was so freely given to me.”