Member profile: Sean McBeath, VP of hardware at Harbor

Having run his own consulting agency for a decade, Sean McBeath is a cross-functional management expert. When he started freelancing with informal, he was placed on a project with Harbor, a baby-monitoring system. After working with the team, it was clear that Sean was a great fit and he was brought on full-time as Harbor’s VP of hardware. 

Outside of his work at Harbor, you may find Sean organizing a variety of social-networking events, from music festivals to putt-putt tournaments.

What drew you to freelancing?

Being able to offer the highest-value part of my input to a small company is so rewarding, which is something that’s only really possible as a freelancer. I really enjoy discovery calls with new clients, where it often seems that just highlighting the biggest challenges to tackle can help meaningfully reframe the problem and improve their ability to noodle on their own solutions. Then they’re empowered long-term to make better technical compromises for their business, even if we never work together.


How did you go from being an informal member working with Harbor, to becoming a full-time member of their team?

I came to informal having founded and run my own consulting agency for about a decade. I was looking for a way to transition into an in-house role where I’d be committed to one project long-term.

I started working with Harbor as a hardware advisor in the early days of the company, helping vet mass-production partners and outline the development plan. The co-founders and I flew to Asia a few months into our work to visit the candidate manufacturing sites, and after helping manage those tours and conversations, it was clear there was a good fit for me to stay long-term and transition from a contractor role into my role as VP of hardware.

How has your career shifted since you joined the Harbor team internally?

Now I’m a client of informal! But in seriousness, it’s been great to have clarity around all my various interdisciplinary functions and know that there’s one business goal behind it all. Some days working as a consultant/freelancer, I’d be managing 3–5 projects at different stages, so the multidisciplinary work would also be in the context of five different market-verticals and five different types of schedule/budget/quality challenges.


What challenges do you find when working in hardware? 

Logistics drag is real! Anyone working on the manufacturing side knows how important logistics and operational timing is — but in the modern distributed workforce, the time loss from shipping hardware to various offices and paying for overnight shipping has a real impact on project schedules. Including time to fly the team in for in-person reviews and planning on shipping delays are wise steps if you have hard deadlines to meet.


For clients who are new to hardware, what are some things that they should do before starting their project?

Find your closest competitive devices, and do your best to understand how they’re built — and why. I often recommend a new founder think about what the most difficult or expensive part of their manufacturing chain is going to be. A lot of new ventures are built at exciting intersections of new tech — soft goods and sensors are a great examples — and if no one else is yet performing the manufacturing steps well enough to suit your needs, that’s an area of big risk that’s often overlooked during the early phases of design, where you can meaningfully improve your ability to clear these late-stage (but pre-launch!) hurdles.

We’re always looking for engineers, designers, brand strategists, and writers to join our team. If you’ve got a skill that you think we need, let us know! We’d love to chat. And of course, if you’ve got a hardware product or product idea you want to bring to market, we have just the experts to help! Fill out this quick form and we’ll be in touch!.

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Tara Furey

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