Executive-in-Residence Sharp ’67 Shares Career Story and Provides Valuable Advice

Posted on 4/27/2018 1:23:03 PM

On Thursday, April 19, 2018, the IUP Eberly College of Business and Information Technology hosted alumnus Skip Sharp ’67 for the Executive-in-Residence program. Sharp shared his story and life lessons he learned from his career in technology.

Executive in Residence Skip Sharp '67Skip Sharp graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1967 with a degree in psychology and then from the University of Southern California in 1972. While participating in ROTC at IUP, Skip learned to fly at the Jimmy Stewart Airport in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and subsequently attended the Army Flight School, serving two tours in Vietnam as both a helicopter and high-altitude pilot. It was during his time in the Army that Skip developed his passion for technology, eventually leading to his founding of Techmasters, Inc., a company that focused on network design, project and site management, and disaster recovery.

Key aspects of Sharp’s presentation were his career track and the interesting paths that it took; how the formation of Techmasters occurred; and important lessons he learned along the way. It may appear at first glance that it would be unusual for a psychology major to have such an illustrious career in the technology sector; but, after his presentation, it became abundantly clear why his life took the path that it did. Sharp explained that during his time in the Army, due to his work with aviation and aviation equipment, he was exposed to the most modern technology of the time and this exposure fostered a passion that would go on to last a life time. After his days in the Army, Skip worked in the public sector with students in grades K through 12 then moved into the private sector, working as an applications programmer and eventually forming his own company, Techmasters, Inc.

Executive in Resident Skip Sharp '67 with students, faculty, and administrationWhen forming Techmasters, Skip had to make many key decisions correctly or face the potential failure that all startups risk. These decisions included, but were not limited to, “Who would our clients be and what were their main problems?” “Who did we want to be out employees?” “What services would we offer?” and “What are we good at?” It was answering these questions, while being honest to a fault, that allowed Skip to have a successful start and overcome the financial risks. The operating principles that provided the continued success after the initial success included:  honesty to oneself and the customers to maintain integrity; paying the employees always first; and focusing on being the best at whatever was being done. Skip learned that being the best came down much more to hard work than natural intelligence, but it is always nice to have both.

In addition to his career in technology, Skip from took every opportunity to make his life as interesting as possible. He has lived all over the United States and the world; places like Germany, San Diego, Hawaii, Vietnam, Maryland, Nevada, and Los Angeles. It was in these places that Skip learned both technical lessons, such as the importance of structured code and becoming fluent in pseudo code, to life lessons, like talking to people in terms they will understand. The last one being particularly important in technology because it does no one any good to talk over someone’s head while trying to either make a sale or help out a company. Another important life lesson that Skip found to be one of the most valuable, was his exposure to “real world” deadlines. In the real world there is no procrastination, or there will be real world consequences beyond a bad grade, such as termination or major system complications. Some key tips to sustaining success that Skip found during his career included to talk less and listen more, know your customer, always continue education, maintain integrity because it is hard to get it back, be a good teammate, embrace challenges that take you out of your comfort zone, and most importantly enjoy the job.

Executive in Residence Presentation by Skip Sharp '67Students in the Eberly College appreciated the opportunity to learn from Sharp. “Mr. Skip Sharp is a very experienced and highly involved IUP alumni who began his career with the US military,” said Emma Planitzer, junior MIS major. “After several projects for the US military, Skip decided to take on Techmasters, a turnaround opportunity that provided several services, including networks, project management, site management, and technology audits. While starting Techmasters, Skip was successful off of business referral and proving honesty at all costs. Mr. Sharp reminds us that our ‘education is just beginning and learning will never stop.’ He also encouraged us to embrace the tough challenge, and get out of our comfort zones.”

Shane Lisowski, junior MIS major, appreciated Skip’s review of the decisions that he had to make. “When starting his own business he had key decisions to make. These decisions were to know who the clients could be and what were their main problems? Who did we want to be our employees? What services would we offer? What are the core operation principles? What are the costs? Good lessons to learn to sustain success in to know your customer, talk less/listen more. Your education is just beginning, it will never stop, you will always have to adapt to new technology and keep learning. Maintain your integrity, be a good teammate, embrace the tough challenge and get out of your comfort zone, learn how to interview. I also appreciated the fact that Mr. Sharp reminded all of us that it was important to enjoy what we are doing.”

“It was great to listen to Skip Sharp speak about his time at IUP and becoming an entrepreneur. He encouraged each of us to keep cyber security and big data in mind as we pursue full-time employment after graduation. I also wish Skip and his wife all the best as they pursue their dream of visiting every Major League Baseball ball park!” said David Rodkey, junior management information systems major.

The Executive-in-Residence program provides an opportunity to bring accomplished alumni and business partners to campus to spend time with our students and to see first-hand the great things that are happening in on our campus and in our classrooms, said Cyndy Strittmatter, assistant dean. “Skip presented to over 100 students during his visit as Executive-in-Residence. It was a real pleasure to have him and his wife, Vickie, back on campus. It was evident that they both put a lot of effort into preparing for the program and in providing valuable advice to benefit students as they continue their studies and prepare for the business world.”