As he approached his senior year in high school, Sean Christopher '99 wasn't sure he even wanted to go to college, not to mention what his major would be.
"My dad asked me what I wanted to do after high school, and I said, 'How about an electrician like grandpa?' If it was good enough for him it was good enough for me," said Sean. "My dad suggested I go to college and study electrical engineering, so that's what I did."
Sean wanted to go to a school that took him away from his small town in upstate New York, had a good engineering program, and had Co-ops. Drexel fit the bill.
"When I got to Drexel it was really tough because I didn't have any of the advanced placement courses that my classmates had," he said. "I had to work really hard just to be as average as I was." In the end, Sean was more than average, he graduated with honors.
As a student, Sean wanted to get the most out of his three Co-ops. "I wanted to sample as much as possible before I picked a real job," he said.
Sean's various Co-ops for General Electric, the City of Philadelphia, and a cable equipment company called RDL, Inc., taught him what he didn't want to do for a living.
"And that was totally okay," he said. "If your Co-ops weed out what you don't want to do, then that helps you focus on going in another direction immediately."
After a year of graduate school at University of Delaware, Sean took a job with Sunoco in Philadelphia where he participated in the Associates Program, rotating through three different business units in the company.
"It was like a Co-op experience all over again which was great," said Sean. "I got to sample different parts of the company."
Sean's third and final rotation with Sunoco was in the Marketing Department, doing construction engineering.
"Basically, I helped to build gas stations," he said.
Sean really enjoyed the hands-on work that came with construction. It may have taken several years and a handful of different Co-ops and jobs, but Sean had finally found something that he truly enjoyed.
After about two years, Sean volunteered to travel to South Carolina to work on a new project remodeling Sunoco gas stations.
"Then they needed someone to manage a program in the Washington DC, Northern Virginia area and I volunteered for that," he said.
"Basically anytime they needed someone to go work on a new project, I said I'd do it. I always wanted to try something new and see as much of the country as possible. And throughout all my travels I learned that construction is basically all about managing relationships."
For the last four years, Sean has been the Senior Manager of Construction for Gap, Inc.
He oversees construction projects for all stores in the Gap fleet (including Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta and the Outlets) in his geographic region which spans from Pennsylvania to South Carolina.
"In addition to my territory, I manage other high profile jobs throughout North America to make sure they run smoothly," said Sean. "If my team is doing a good job, I don't have to visit. But if you see me on a site, something must not be going well in order to necessitate my visit."
Sean finds that he thrives on the pressure of fixing problems that others are unable to solve.
"There is something about that pressure that harkens back to my days at Drexel," he said. "In college it became a way of life. I felt like I was playing catch-up from day one at Drexel and I responded well to the pressure of trying to keep up."
Sean says that in a perfect world all projects would go smoothly but in construction that almost never happens. In the 12 years he's been in the industry only one project was completed without an issue.
"Things just don't go smoothly – otherwise I wouldn't have a job!" he said.
While Sean doesn't use much of his electrical engineering degree, he says that every day he uses things that he learned as a student.
"At Drexel everyone was helpful and there was a sense of camaraderie among the students. I remember getting a really good grade on a test where I broke the curve and one of the kids said, 'Who did it? Who screwed up the curve for everyone else?' When he found out that it was me, he walked over and shook my hand and told me that I did a great job."
In addition to his classmates, Sean said that the professors really encouraged a teamwork mentality as well. Sean said that was one of the best things he experienced at Drexel – people who were engaging and encouraging and willing to help each other out.
"I carry that over into work to try to help motivate my team," said Sean. "I'll encourage people to finish a project furthest ahead of schedule, or most under budget. It's a kind of friendly competition. The way my friends and I motivated each other at Drexel is the same way I motivate the people who work for me."
Despite his busy work and travel schedule, Sean stays connected with Drexel by serving as Treasurer on the College of Engineering Alumni Association. He is also an alumni advisor for the Drexel Smart House where he helps the students with various construction-related logistics.