Waste Connections' Sean Mason Finds a Family in the Waste Industry

Earning the 40 Under 40 title while working with Sierra Container Group is just one testament to the many successes of Sean Mason's career and the hard work it took to get him there. Now filling his dream role with Waste Connections, Mason has always put his all into his work.

Jonathan Pierron, Associate Editor & Content Producer

September 6, 2022

7 Min Read

Earning the Waste360 40 Under 40 designation while working with Sierra Container Group is just one testament to the many successes of Sean Mason's career and the hard work it took to get him there.

Now filling his dream role with Waste Connections, Mason has always put his all into his work. As western region business development manager, Mason hopes to continue striving for greatness and cherishing what matters most on his way there; the people in his life. As a father and son, he has found a family in not only his personal life but his professional one as well.

In this Q&A, Mason shares his personal and professional journey from graduation all the way up to the present and tells us what makes his place in the industry so special to him.

Waste360: Can you tell me what your current position is and what you do?

Mason: I am the western region business development manager for Waste Connections (WCN). I have been in the role for just over a month now, so I am still drinking through a fire hose, but my focus will be working to continue to grow the company through acquisitions and build on WCN’s 25 years of success.

Waste360: When you were nominated for this award you were working with Sierra Container Group. What was your position there and what was the process of getting there like?

Mason: I am very proud to say, I was on the ground level at Sierra. Mike Schwalbach formed the company in 2016 and I was one of the original four that joined and helped build Sierra. I was working for another cart manufacturer at the time and when I heard that Mike was starting his own company, I reached out, the rest, as they say, is history.  We had our first meeting at Faith Zydowsky’s kitchen table, coincidentally that is also where we had our first cocktails. During my time at Sierra, I focused on sales and spent most of my time on the road meeting with customers, earning new business and spreading the Sierra name and business model.

Waste360: What was the process like going from your position with Sierra Container Group to Waste Connections?

Mason: In my role at Sierra, I spent a lot of time with WCN. They were our largest customer and I covered several market areas. Over time, I met so many great people at all levels of the company. I was always in awe of their culture and especially how they treated their people, including their vendors. When this opportunity presented itself, while it was hard to leave my Sierra family, I knew that I was ready for a new challenge and adventure. I always try to surround myself with great people, work hard, treat people right and do the right thing; that recipe has worked out well so far.

Waste360: Can you briefly walk me through your career path?

Mason: After graduating from UCONN I went to work as an assistant for a college president in Cambridge, MA. The job paid close to nothing—lots of grilled cheese and ramen for dinner—but my dad convinced me at the time it would help me develop discipline and learn to serve. He was right.

From there I entered the management training program at UPS. I started off as an engineer and went through several rotations including driver, driver supervisor, and sales. UPS was a tough place to work, but I learned a lot. I also realized two things: one, that I really enjoyed sales, and two, that I wanted to find a place that had a great culture—which is most important.

After five years at UPS, I met Zach Martin through a recruiter. He became my first manager at Rehrig Pacific and introduced me to the industry I would fall in love with.

In 2016, Mike, Dustin DePanfilis, Rob Eck, Faith and I started Sierra Container Group. I get emotional when I think about what that team accomplished.

Then, on August 1, I started my dream job with Waste Connections. I can honestly say I would not change anything; each company, each position, and each team that I have worked with has made me better and helped to prepare me for where I am today.

Waste360: Can you tell me about some of the challenges you’ve faced?

Mason: Not to get too personal but in 2010, I was still working at UPS when my dad passed from ALS. He was my hero and it hit me hard. I reevaluated everything and everyone around me. I realized how fragile life is and I decided to make some changes. They say “when one door closes another one opens,” and the door to this industry opened for me.

I joined Rehrig Pacific and met so many incredible people that I am still very close with and always will be. I share that because even though it was a very tough time personally, my friends at Rehrig, many of which became my family at Sierra, were part of what got me through. That was certainly the biggest challenge, it really put everything into perspective for me.

I wouldn’t say there were any major professional ‘challenges’ so to speak to get to where I am now. People that know me, know that I am a strong believer that you get back what you give. If you give this incredible industry and the people in it as much as you can, you never know where you will end up.

Waste360 Staff: Besides the obvious motives of any job like success or money, what about this industry encourages you to strive further?

Mason: The people. How could you not be motivated by the work that the people in this industry do safely and efficiently every single day?  It is certainly not the most glamorous industry, but the character, work ethic, and humility of the people in our industry are second to none.  I have so many wonderful relationships with people I have met through this industry, and I see it as part of my responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation. That is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about the NWRA Future Industry Leader’s Alliance.

A little-known fact about FILA members, one in four has received the 40/40 award, which I really feel speaks to not only the talent, entrepreneurial spirit and ambition of our group at large, but also says that the industry is in good hands with our next generation of leaders.

Waste360 Staff: What is your proudest moment working at Sierra Container Group?

Mason: There were so many proud moments at Sierra. When you are part of a small team like we were and Sierra still is, every milestone is meaningful. To me it is always about the people, so my proudest moment at Sierra would be when we added Andrew Moore to our team in a sales capacity. It is one thing to personally take a leap and start a company but when others start to join and see the vision, I really think it gives you a sense of pride, like “hey we are really building something cool over here.”

Waste360 Staff: Where do you see your future taking you next?

Mason: I try not to look too far into the future…. but personally, I plan to spend some time exploring California with my wife Jessica and watching our two young sons Jackson and Jordan start to navigate elementary school.

I am so grateful to be a part of WCN and in this role. The culture of this company is truly amazing, the support and warm welcome shown to my family and me have been overwhelming.

The gentleman that had been in this role, Ed Quinnan, was here for twenty-five years. He has been very successful and is a wonderful guy. I am excited to keep learning from the people before me, working hard, building relationships, and hopefully finding some success in this new role. With the team here, I am very confident that the future is bright. And who knows, maybe in twenty-five years I will have the privilege of passing the torch to someone in the same way Ed did for me.

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Pierron

Associate Editor & Content Producer

John Pierron is the associate editor of Waste360. He graduated from Ohio University.

Stay in the Know - Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Join a network of more than 90,000 waste and recycling industry professionals. Get the latest news and insights straight to your inbox. Free.

You May Also Like