Howdy, folks! Please welcome Sean, our first male Science Cheerleader from the Baltimore Ravens; one of the only procheerleading teams which has a co-ed stunt team. Sean is working in the information technology side of the Department of Defense. He’s pictured here lifting another Science Cheerleader, Rachel! Let’s hear what he has to say!
So, why engineering?
Sean: I had always been interested in science when I was growing up. When I started high school, I wanted to be a doctor so I took a lot of biology/science-related classes. However, that decision completely changed when I took an honors-level physics course during my junior year. The most fundamental metaphor I could use to explain my reaction to the class is an illuminating light bulb. I was hooked from that moment with the logical and analytical thinking associated with physics.
You have a degree in computer science. Where did you get your degree, and what got you interested in that particular field?
Sean: As a kid I was a video game fanatic. I received my first video game system when I was six and my first computer when I was twelve. I spent a good portion of my childhood playing and beating numerous games. It only made sense to pursue my interest in computers upon my high school graduation. So when I applied to James Madison University (JMU), I fell in love with their computer science program.
You’re a software test engineer with the Department of Defense. Without giving away any secrets, could you explain what you’re doing and how (if applicable) a battlefield environment affects software development?
Sean: My job involves testing software that is used for the documentation of patient medical care in deployed areas, providing medical logistics ordering and inventory management, and enabling local and medical command and control reporting capabilities to commanders and their staff. All testing and reporting is performed in a lab (simulated theater) while the battlefield (in theater) environment is reserved solely for observation. The in theater observation has a huge impact on the development of the software because the testers learn how the user interacts with the software in stressful situations. This allows the testers to perform more accurate tests in the simulated theater for future software builds.
Tell us about the team you cheer for, how long you’ve cheered for them, and why you tried out to be a professional cheerleader.
Sean: I cheered collegiately for three years in purple and gold [James Madison University], while I have cheered for the Baltimore Ravens Cheer (BRC) for almost six years. I originally tried out for the BRC for the experience, because not many people can say they have cheered for an NFL football team. This is especially true for guys since there is only one stunt team currently in the NFL.
Best part of your day job?
Sean: I would have to say the best part of my job is the consistent uncertainty and challenges associated with the testing. New software builds generate new errors and results, so I’ll always be learning. And I always enjoy applying the knowledge I’ve learned to solve a future problem.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Sean: I think my cheerleading experience has actually helped my professional career. My employees told me they were blown away when they saw “NFL cheerleader” listed on my resume. I work with a team of engineers who have never really interacted with a NFL cheerleader. They respect how my cheerleader background brings a completely different atmosphere to the team despite the fact that I’m a male.
How do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in engineering?
Sean: Most of my teammates and administrative staff approach me for technical advice. So one could assume they have accepted my nerdy/geek interest positively.
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Sean: You should always follow the path that will ensure the security of your future. Professional cheerleading has been a life changing experience, but it clearly won’t pay the bills. If you have the choice of starting or advancing your career you should never think twice. I consider myself lucky to be able to do both, but if I had a choice I would definitely choose my career over cheerleading.
Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Sean: I would tell myself to continue pursuing my interest in computers since it is what I truly enjoy. But I might even suggest convincing my parents to enroll me in a gymnastic program. J
What are your plans for the future?
Sean: Career-wise I plan to further my education and raise my income. Part time-wise I plan to cheer as long as I am physically able to make the team or as long as I can successfully balance it with my career.
Best cheerleading experience?
Sean: One of my most memorable experiences was witnessing my director’s tears after one of our best/flawless end zone routines during a rainstorm.
Best engineering-related experience?
Sean: One of my most notable experiences was helping put the final touches on a new software build. After spending hours upon hours of work, there’s a great deal of satisfaction following the completion of a huge project.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Sean: To this day most people find it surprising that I am an engineer. When they see my physique they immediately assume I am a personal trainer. It slightly catches them off guard when I say I’m a computer nerd.
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
Sean: I could go either way with this question. I enjoy being a computer nerd too much to want to change my degree. But I would have probably been a personal trainer if I went the other direction. And considering well over 60% of America is overweight, I would have great job security for the rest of my life.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Sean: I choose to be a science cheerleader because I enjoy both aspects that the profession has to offer. I enjoy the mental aspect where I’m challenging my mind to use scientific logic and pursuing my interest in computers. And I like the physical aspect where I’m challenging my body under intense athletic situations. This way I feel I am truly experiencing a full body workout.