A photo headshot of Sean McMillin

Sean McMillin

Systems Engineering Manager & Contour Pillar Lead

6 years at Ridgeline

How would you describe the work that you do?

I’ve worn many hats at Ridgeline. I was hired to be part of the NOC (network operations center), but ended up taking on a role as a systems administrator. Today, I’m more of a functional leader, so mentoring is a big part of my day-to-day. This means mentoring the team, providing guidance and direction, but also process improvements and thinking long term for efficiencies in our work. How can we do things better? How can we get more streamlined? How can we be more efficient?

One of the things I feel I do frequently in my role today is getting deep in the weeds on the technical side and then taking a step back and translating that to a business leader or someone that’s over in Contracts or Finance, or to a customer. I’m able to provide the training that’s needed or to distill the info down to the level that’s appropriate for that setting.

How would you describe your team?

I think the biggest thing that stands out for me personally about my team is that I’ve had very few boundaries put up for me at Ridgeline. We have a lot of trust here. We all know that everyone is smart, they’re capable, and we don’t micromanage. We’re not always going to be right, and we’re going to miss things, but we’re given the latitude to explore and to share our expertise in the way we need to to do your job.

We’re also open to feedback and collaboration to do things a different way. From someone in the NOC, all the way up to our CIO, everyone is encouraged to find efficiencies, or propose creative solutions. It’s never shot down outright. We may say no eventually, but it’s taken under consideration. Someone will read it, someone will look at it. We’ll talk about it.

Ultimately, on my team, it’s trusting, it’s open, it’s collaborative. We’re a large team with multiple skill levels and we all work on the same things together toward a common goal.

What has your experience at Ridgeline been like so far?

I’ve worked for all manner of companies. I’ve worked for the government and for large organizations. Actually, Ridgeline is probably the smallest place that I’ve ever worked at. But at a big company, I was just a number, just a cog in the machine and the experience was not very personal at all. I joined Ridgeline when there were about 90 people here and it was very easy to forge personal relationships. I talk daily with my boss’s boss just about whatever, whether it’s work, whether it’s home things. I feel I can approach anyone and there will be a listening ear for whatever I’m talking about. I’ve also learned more here than I have in my entire career put together. There’re a couple reasons for that. Number one is that we all wear many hats. You’ve got to learn your role, but you’re also trusted to make that role yours, right? And you learn something new every day. On the technical side, everyone is more than willing to take time out of their day to teach you something. And then the last piece is upward mobility. I think that’s pretty unique. The trust that our leadership has to promote folks from within, letting people learn new ways of doing things and interacting in a different way. Those are my big takeaways from my time at Ridgeline so far – the investment and the desire to learn and be better and not only to take ourselves to the next level, but also the products and capabilities we offer.

What about Ridgeline’s mission do you connect with?

When I first came on board, I was having Signal calls with folks OCONUS every singe day. They were either Ridgeline employees or direct customers and I was helping them solve problems. It was a tactical mindset and we were serving the mission very directly. Today, I’m zooming out a bit, attending customer meetings and listening to what their challenges are so I can help bring them a solution. I’ve taken a step back from the tactical, but still get to assist our customers. At the end of the day, everything we do is supporting the missions of our customers and I connect strongly with that.

What resources have you taken advantage of in your time at Ridgeline?

I think the most important one is mentoring. I get mentoring from everyone. I have a recurring, one-hour session with one of our most senior engineers and he teaches me cool tech things that I would never have done on my own. Same thing with our performance coach – amazing resource that I’ve never seen anywhere else and it’s one of my favorites. I start a session telling him one issue I have, we talk it through, and end up talking about the things I didn’t even know I needed to talk about. He’s almost like a work therapist. I get a lot out of it.

Beyond that, I appreciate the hobby allowance. I use that not just for hobbies, but to gain three or four technical certs – Cisco, Linux, and a few other certifications. Each year I’ll go to a boot camp or get some online learning. I’m looking forward to using our new LinkedIn Learning portal too.

How have you grown professionally in your time at Ridgeline?

I was never a manger of people before I came here. I’ve been a functional leader, I’ve been a product leader, I’ve been a project leader, but I’ve never been a manager on timesheets, PTO, performance reviews, and I’ve grown a lot there. In my other roles, I’ve worked with proprietary software and was put in a box where you do one thing. Whereas here, everyone is matrixed. Everyone is doing so many different things that you get a big blanket of experience and knowledge that you typically don’t get other places.

Do you have any fun Ridgeline stories to share?

Oh man, the Ridgeline birthday party a few years ago stands out. We had an All Hands meeting and when Erik (our CEO) wrapped up, he said – by the way, everyone go outside. There were three buses out there to take us all to Punchbowl Social. No one knew it was happening and it was completely unexpected. There was food, there were drinks, games, et cetera. It was fun! It was a way for us to kind of just hang out and do something outside of work. Very cool.

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