FBI special agent talks organized crime with Wilkes-Barre students

Special Agent Sean Quinn, a 19-year FBI veteran, has served on assignments in Newark, New Jersey; Washington, DC; Baghdad, Iraq; and currently Scranton, Pennsylvania. Quinn has worked numerous investigations including public corruption, violent crime, crimes against children, civil rights, complex financial crime, among others.

Quinn is a retired 23-year veteran of the US Army, US Army Reserve, and Pennsylvania National Guard. He earned a bachelor of science in accounting at Penn State, class of 1992. He is currently a graduate student at Penn State pursuing a masters of professional studies in the psychology of leadership.

How has your degree from Penn State impacted your career?
My degree was extremely important. At the time there were four programs that the FBI was using to hire people and one of those four was the accounting program. The idea was to recruit agents to work complex white-collar crime. It is because of that degree that I was able to get hired. At the point in time in 1997, that was a very important degree to have to get hired. I’ve worked a lot of complex corruption cases, but the degree was really the gateway more than anything else.

What do you find most satisfying about your career?
I can answer this question a thousand ways. I think I would tell you that it's not a job to me. I’m not sure that’s a very fluent way to say it but you’ve heard people in your life I’m sure, especially in grade school, where people talked about vocations or callings. It's one thing to hear the calling, but its another thing to fulfill the calling. I feel like I’ve been able to not only hear it, but fulfill it, so I look at it that way. It’s very satisfying. I wasn’t kidding when I said I really did perceive food tasting better and jokes were funnier. It’s because you realize you obtained something you know you worked very hard for and that you really wanted.

What was the motivation behind deciding on Penn State for a master’s program?
Very simple, the masters of professional studies in the psychology of leadership is a brand new degree. Nobody has even graduated from it yet. Not just with the FBI, but with a lot of corporate America, leadership is important. First of all, I am a leader in the bureau, I’m not a street agent anymore. To move on in the leadership field, this Penn State degree is cutting edge. There’s a few universities out there that are offering something similar, I researched every one of them, and this Penn State degree in my opinion has a laser focus on leading people. It's not a study of historical leadership; it's practical skills on leading people in an organization, and no one else does it better. Even if I was not a Penn State alumni, this degree would still have been calling me because I did a lot of research before joining the program.

How has or how will your degree impact you as a leader?
I’m already using the information without even having the degree conferred on me, yet. Right now I’m in a class called leadership ethics. I’ve been in this business a long time. With the FBI, ethics are in the forefront, so it’s not like I’m new to ethics, obviously, but it’s a very unique presentation that Penn State has. You learn stuff even though you already have experience in them, like ethics. In the end with this degree, the sky is the limit for me with my background and experience. After the Bureau, I could work another ten years in corporate America. The experiences I’ve had with the degrees from Penn State, I could do whatever I want because the world is a big wide open place.

What advice would you give to students at Penn State Wilkes-Barre on how to be successful in the workforce?
The first step is knowing what you want. The second step is finding out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Then, the most important step is making decisions every day on how to achieve that goal that you set for yourself. It doesn’t just happen. You have to make decisions and set goals towards what you want. Those three things are really important.

How do you see the law enforcement field changing in the future?
The biggest way it is going to change in cyber crime. Cyber crime is something that is growing exponentially and to combat cyber crime, law enforcement has to adapt -- both with technology and with a different new workforce. There are people like me who don’t know enough about the genesis of technology to combat the cyber attack, so we have to understand the crime problem better and we have to hire people that understand the nexus of technology and crime. That is going to be a big change. It is already happening, but it's going to continue I’d say for a long time. There is no foreseeable end to the continuance and enhancement of cyber crime problem. It is going to get worse as technology improves, because the criminals get more intricate.

Where can students find more information about working for the FBI?
FBIJobs.gov is the clearing house for all hiring information. It tells you not only all the jobs that are open, but how to apply for them and if you’re qualified for it.

Last Updated April 19, 2016