Faculty of Computer Science blog

Skill stacking helped Sean Falconer build a successful career in tech

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Jun 8, 2023

Category: Alumni Spotlight

When Sean Falconer (BCS’03, MCS’05) was growing up in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, he leaned into computers and the internet just as they were exploding onto the mainstream. He would take apart PCs and fix hardware issues, and get up at 5 in the morning before school to learn simple coding and build websites. As teachers in his high school struggled to adapt to new technology, Sean helped set up computer labs and de-bugged issues with their new systems – for which they gave him academic credit. It was a given that he’d go into computer science.

Sean says he chose UNB because of the co-op program. “I knew it would set me up for so many things. It could help me pay for my education, but it also would give me experience and a resumé so I could be hired quickly when I graduated. Now, looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made: not only did it give me those things, it helped me begin to build a network in the industry and gave me confidence in my skills.”

Now a successful tech and marketing executive in San Francisco who has founded a startup and worked for Google, Sean confirms that stacking his skills has helped get him where he is today.

“When I was at UNB I leaned heavily into math in the classroom while getting practical on-the-job experience from my co-op placements. Then in the master’s program I focused on machine learning. My PhD was more focused on human-computer interaction. And as a founder of a startup, I learned marketing skills. This skill stacking – combining theory and experience – makes you a bit of a unicorn. It’s unique and gives you an advantage. For me it all began from foundations made during my co-op education at UNB.”

Sean did three co-op terms in between his studies on campus. “I jumped right in and worked seven days I week – I just loved it so much. The people I worked with eventually hired me for other companies later as well. It built my confidence and my network. I soaked up so much knowledge.”

He confirms he’s always been curious and thrown himself into what interests him. That thirst for knowledge led him to a PhD program at the University of Victoria and a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University. “It was an incredible chance to collaborate with some of the best professors and scientists in the world. From there, I joined with two other Stanford students and we founded a startup to help modernize hiring tools for blue collar workers and employers. It was the first company at the time to support end-end job applications on mobile devices. We grew pretty quickly and were featured by Apple and Google, and eventually sold the business.”

Sean was then scooped up by Google to be head of developer relations in a new product area. “It was a fun experience and almost like I was a founder again inside of a mega corporation. It was a good fit because it was cross-functional with both engineering and the marketing skills I had picked up as an entrepreneur, along with a bit on the educational side as well.”

In 2022, Sean left Google to move to Skyflow, where he’s now head of marketing. The company is a data privacy vault that helps businesses protect and secure their core asset: sensitive customer data. Sean says he jumped at the unique opportunity to help grow the business and he travels around the globe as part of his mandate.

“I still throw myself into my work because I still love it. I’m continuing to skill stack and gain different perspectives with each opportunity. It’s been an amazing journey so far.”