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Sean Ducharme’s internship, love of computers solidified his dream of working in IT

By Hilary Reeves

Sean smiles in an office, wearing a Foss vest.Sean Ducharme has his grandmother to thank for his first gig at Foss Maritime.

“She lived across the street from and was great friends with the Accounts Payable Manager Kayte Teeple. When I was a senior in high school, (Teeple) needed someone to come in for six hours a week in the afternoons to stamp, file, and stuff envelopes. I was the only 17-year-old I knew with his own office phone extension,” he laughed. “It turned into a more full-time summer job that year involving stamping, filing, and stuffing for many other departments.”

Ducharme, now a System Administrator at Foss, is a fourth-generation Seattleite – the fourth generation born and raised in what was once the maritime enclave of Ballard.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a bridge tender, preferably on the Ballard Bridge,” he said. “I feel very rooted in Seattle, specifically the Ballard area. My greatest influences growing up were my parents and grandparents, who all helped me learn what to take seriously, and what to laugh about.”

Ducharme graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1999, and then attended Washington State University across the mountains in Pullman. After four years away studying computer science, he returned to the city.

“(Teeple) asked me to return (to Foss) to help prepare audit materials for the original Sakhalin project, and I was hired as a permanent employee in Finance shortly thereafter. In 2005, only a couple of months after officially joining the company, a rare opening came up in IT.”

Ducharme had spent much of his life focusing on computers, but an IT position at Foss was a long way from the cheesy, text-based games in QBasic that he wrote and played as a kid.Sean stands next to a wall of wires and hardware, smiling for the camera.

“I’ve always been interested in computers, ever since my dad got our first, an Atari 520 ST, when I was about six,” he said. “Getting exposure at such a young age helped me understand computers in the same way that a young child learning a second language can come to know it like a native speaker.”

Ducharme said he’s discovered how few people outside the industry really understand how crucial tugboats are to the constant cycle of goods being moved from place to place.

“Generally people don’t hear much about such things unless something goes wrong,” he said. “I think it’s important to occasionally step back and recognize how important Foss and every other piece of the transportation machine is to the economy and infrastructure of our society.”

By the same token, he said IT is a crucial part of that machine as well, and also rarely thought of unless something goes wrong. He said daily life in IT can generally be boiled down to fixing things, building things, monitoring things, or planning to build things.

“Our help desks fix things reported by users, and monitoring programs and devices. Our infrastructure teams do that, and also build things. Our project managers plan to build things –virtual things, of course. We’re all busy keeping our own parts of the machine running, but I’d like to think that every now and then our fellow co-workers – while turning on their computer, Sean leans against a wall in front of shelves of wires and hardware.checking their e-mail, opening a spreadsheet, crunching financial numbers, picking up their desk phone, checking their electronic charts, or connecting to their boat’s wifi – might pause and think about how amazing the technology behind it all must be – unless something goes wrong, in which case you should call the Help Desk,” he joked.

Meanwhile, Foss’s cyber-attack prevention measures are in full force. Ducharme said he and others in the department do what they can to keep Foss systems inaccessible from public internet, leaving open only what they must to allow employees in from the outside, and locking down those points of entry.

“At the same time, we protect our employees’ computers from internal attacks using anti-virus and anti-malware programs, as well as limiting Sean plays an acoustic guitar on a wood bench.employee access to company resources to the minimum required without restricting their ability to do their jobs,” he explained, “as most of the viruses and other nasty things that could be introduced from the inside of our network would be run using the access afforded to the employee who inadvertently downloaded and ran the malicious program. It’s a constant balancing act between protection and accessibility.”

In 2012, Ducharme married a woman he met while working at Foss. He’s the proud father of a 12-year-old stepson and a daughter who recently celebrated her fourth birthday.

“The family and I go camping quite a bit during the warmer months, he said. “I also enjoy playing the guitar and singing at times, and I’m currently working on learning the piano, which is somehow both easier and harder than the guitar at the same time. I’m very proud of my kids.  I’m proud to be at Foss, a company known throughout the industry as one of the greats. I’m proud to be in the IT Department, specifically. As an intern here a long time ago, this is exactly what I wanted to do for my career, and here I am.”