My name is Shawn Vest. I’m the founder and owner of Vest Technical Solutions (VTS), an information technology consulting company based in Southeastern Massachusetts. VTS is a small firm that provides information technology services to large corporations, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. We are a dedicated team that focuses on solving our clients’ information technology problems.
Being the owner of an information technology consulting business may sound kind of lofty, but when I take a moment to reflect on Vest Technical Solutions--the services we provide, the clients we help, and the work we do--it truly amazes me how someone with my background got here. Please allow me to share my story.
(On a side note, if Zanesville, Ohio, sounds somewhat familiar, yes, it is the place they mention in the Netflix Tiger King documentary where all the exotic animals escaped.)
My beginnings were humble. As a kid from Zanesville, Ohio, who really knew nothing much beyond all things Ohio, the odds of creating and managing an information technology company were worse than winning the lottery. Most of my family had never graduated high school, much less attended college, and they relied on manual labor jobs to make a living. Knowing I wanted more in my life, but unsure of what direction to take, I chose the military. Thirty days after I graduated from high school I left for Boot Camp.
My Time In The Navy
In retrospect, my decision was extraordinary since I had no ties to the Navy and nobody I knew had ever served. It turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding thing I had ever done. (Until I became a dad, that is!)
Over four years, I got to travel the world through two major deployments and multiple operations. What I had no way of knowing at the time was that my decision also landed me in a significant piece of U.S. Naval history.
While aboard the USS Albuquerque in 1999, and as part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt battlegroup, my boat participated in Operation NOBLE ANVIL/ALLIED FORCE, where we fired 10 Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Serb-controlled Yugoslavia. This set a new record for the number of Tomahawk missiles fired from a Flight-I 688 class submarine and a record for the shortest length of time from tasking to firing on a target, and earned the USS Albuquerque the nickname, “Sure Shooter.” I not only got to witness history up close, I got to help write it.
While in the Navy, I also got to track Russian submarines and was part of drug operations off the coast of Columbia. We tracked drug runners and communicated their location to the Coast Guard to catch them more easily. I am proud of my time in the military and am glad that I made that life-changing decision to join. My four years in the Navy gave me confidence and allowed me to discover what I have to offer. I felt that if I could make it through those four years, I could do most anything I put my mind to.
With my new-found confidence courtesy of the Navy, I set my sights on college and earning a bachelor’s degree, so I made the move back to Ohio to attend The Ohio State University. OSU had been a dream of mine, and something that seemed unattainable as a high school student. With my future wife's amazing support, I was accepted and completed a double major in Criminology and Sociology.
My Post-Navy Life and Path To Information Technology
While attending college, I worked nearly full-time as a security guard at Battelle Memorial Institute. After graduation, Battelle offered me a job working with the Government Security Department on Department of Defense classified contracts and documents. A few years later, I was approached by my supervisors to learn information systems security.
I had always loved computers and technology but coming from my background I had thought would be unattainable. How wrong I was. This became the start of my technology career.
It was also during this period that I started working with a Microsoft technology called SharePoint. I saw the power in SharePoint and knew that it could solve a lot of different business problems. I put all my extra time into learning it. I also noticed that not many companies fully understood SharePoint or were using it effectively.
Many companies had the technology but only used a small portion of the available features. This created an opportunity for me. I ended up moving into the IT department as a Sharepoint/NET Developer. I developed and implemented solutions utilizing more advanced features in SharePoint and effectively developed a niche as an expert in the technology.
Transition To The East Coast
In 2013, I made a very personal decision. My East Coast-at-heart wife was offered a job
opportunity in Massachusetts, where she really wanted to be. While it was a tough decision for me to leave my friends and all my family in Ohio, it seemed like the right thing to do, so we packed up all our things and made the move.
Once we arrived, I was amazed by the number of companies in the Boston area looking for someone with Sharepoint experience. I accepted a job offer in the business intelligence department at Beacon Health Solutions. While there, I branched out into other technologies and learned the server administration piece of SharePoint. Once again, I was the sole person in the company uniquely qualified in the intricacies of SharePoint. In my role at Beacon Health, I grew experienced in business intelligence--including the ETL process and development--report writing, and SQL Server.
While I enjoyed the work and these new areas I was learning, the commute from my home to my office in Boston was killing me. I was able to find a new job, one with a much shorter travel distance, as Manager of Enterprise Applications in a company called Cramer. Working at Cramer allowed me to learn something completely new, something unrelated to software, something about business.
All of my past jobs had been with large companies of thousands of employees located in multiple offices worldwide. Cramer, by comparison, was small, with one single office and a staff of 150. From what I could see, the biggest difference between working in a large company vs. a smaller one is that in large companies, roles and responsibilities are more clearly and narrowly defined. You have one particular job which carries with it a specific set of responsibilities and that’s it.
In a small company with a small IT team, you have to be a jack of all trades. At Cramer, I implemented many systems, even ones I had to become an expert on with short notice. It was here I realized that I was able to learn any application from the backend to the frontend, and relatively quickly. And this is what prepared me to found and manage Vest Technical Solutions.
The Beginning Of Vest Technical Solutions
While it may seem like a long path to becoming the founder and owner of a successful start-up information technology consulting firm, every step on my journey has helped me develop the skills needed to build this business. And taking a nontraditional path and the long road, with all its twists and turns, has proven to be invaluable, especially when serving Vest Technical Solution’s clients.
Vest Technical Solutions is where it all comes together for me.
My upbringing back in Ohio gave me my strong work ethic. The Navy gave me structure, discipline, and confidence. I credit my formal education in sociology with developing the ability to see patterns and similarities in most anything. Information technology is no different.
All technology works the same way. The only difference is learning the interface. It’s the same with development. Programming, too. It’s the same for all the different frameworks out there. The thing you need to learn is the syntax and terminology of a new programming language.
Each element in my background is a building block that has given me new perspectives to succeed in the technology industry. I rely on my experiences throughout my career to develop the values that VTS upholds. The pieces from each path I have taken have led me not only where Vest Technical Solutions is today, but they are also guiding principles and values for VTS.
My Staff, My Clients
At Vest Technical Solutions, our staff and clients are equally important to our success. We are painstakingly honest, even when we know something may not be what a client necessarily wants to hear. Honesty and transparency are among our core principles at VTS. That’s what makes a partnership work. That’s what I instill in my staff by being just as honest and transparent with them. I treat them with respect as equals, and ensure that they know they are appreciated. That’s how I have built a strong and successful team.
I love working directly with clients and am involved in every project. I bring corporate-level expertise with the ability to make projects accessible, affordable, and efficient for organizations of all sizes.
The Vest Technical Solutions team is also incredibly proud of our work with small businesses and non-profit organizations. We realize that these sectors are at a competitive disadvantage relative to large corporations and often feel left out of the technology pond because of some consultants' price points. We work with each client to come to a fair and reasonable business solution for both parties. Again, these are our core values.
Like a fingerprint, we realize that every project is different for each client. Working with us, can rely on the intelligence, knowledge, confidence, and aspirations that are the bedrock of Vest Technical Solutions.