Alumni Spotlight - April 2022

Sean Gates '03


 

For Sean Gates, Oregon Tech class of 2003, his educational and career paths took many twists and turns that were not initially expected or planned. His perseverance and dedication to his passion, though, led him to a more meaningful conclusion.

Sean Gates was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the suburb of West Linn. After graduating from West Linn High School in 1995, Sean started his college journey as a soccer player at George Fox College. After one semester there, Sean embarked on a two-year missionary trip with his church, serving in Pennsylvania. Upon his return to Oregon, Sean took classes at Clackamas Community College, on a general business management path. Sean’s father exposed his children to computers early on and encouraged his son to look into the technological offerings at Pioneer Pacific College. Sean enrolled and earned an Associate’s of Applied Sciences degree in Networking and Computer Technology.

Sean’s next step was to complete his four-year degree, which is where Oregon Tech came into the picture, after he discovered the school while researching the public universities in Oregon. The Management Information Systems degree program embodied what Sean was looking for in his career; a way to blend his interests in both business and technology. At that time, the Oregon Tech programs most accessible to Sean were through the Portland Metro satellite campuses in Clackamas and Hillsboro. Although many of the classes from Pioneer Pacific were not transferable, the Admissions team and university advisors found creative ways to apply some of Sean’s previous experience to his degree. During Sean’s time at OIT, he worked part-time, got married, and the Gates family had their first child. Concurrently, Sean kept busy with side projects, building websites and learning to program on his own. This challenging time was worth it when Sean was selected as a student speaker at his graduation ceremony, with his toddler by his side and his wife, pregnant with their second child, cheering him on. 

Sean explains that after years of schooling and many hardships, he has never actually worked in the field in which he earned his degree. He emphasizes, “The degree is important, but how you learn, what you learn, is the most important thing you’re going to get out of it. So, if you can be curious and still follow your passions, even though it may not be in your degree, keep that going.” 

Sean’s employment path has been varied, leading him and his family across the country for many opportunities. Early experiences included working for a start-up bicycle company, an insurance firm, and a bank. Later, Sean found his groove working as a programmer for ADP Dealer Services. Yahoo! was the next step in Sean’s career before building websites for an online marketing agency which included clients like the State of Tennessee, Country Music Television, and a hospital system in Louisiana. Sean moved on to a position at eBay for a couple of years, but left to pursue a management position elsewhere. Shortly after, though, eBay persuaded Sean to return, and he thought he would stay there for the remainder of his career. After five-and-a-half years more at eBay, Sean suffered the devastation of being laid off. Luckily, he was able to transition into a new role at Rivian. Rivian created the first electric truck on the market, the R1T. Sean started as a principal front-end engineer and, within eight months, transitioned to a senior manager role, managing a group of eight software engineers for this 40-billion dollar company. Sean and his team manage the home page of the company’s website. 

Several different schools, many different career paths, and a few challenging periods of unemployment along the way have contributed to Sean’s grit and determination throughout the years. Sean has remained a loyal Oregon Tech alumnus, coming back to attend Career Fairs and looking for ways to mentor students and encourage alumni. He is also an advocate for networking, which has helped him immensely throughout his career. 

Sean and his wife have three children, two daughters in college and a son in middle school. The family resides in San Jose, California. The Gates family enjoys traveling, and Sean has visited 49 of the 50 states! Sean is also an avid Portland Timbers soccer fan, a passion he shares with his extended family.

The demand for people skilled in the technology degrees offered at Oregon Tech is only getting stronger. For internship and employment opportunities at Rivian, visit rivian.com/careers.

 

~Becky Burkeen, Alumni Relations Manager

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