When I was asked to write a spotlight for Ryan, I knew I needed to write this not only for people outside of Terakeet but also for the people within these walls who don’t truly know him. Most people at Terakeet know Ryan as the really smart guy who runs the engineering team. I mean, what else is there to know, right? The guy likes to code. What most people don’t realize is that there are so many layers to Ryan’s personality, interests, and knowledge base that he’d put any onion to shame.
Something that struck me early on while working with Ryan is his seemingly innate ability to take something incredibly complicated and explain it in a way everyone in the room can understand. Whether the topic is business-centered, engineering-based, or even the physics of flight, Ryan is able to get his point across to a wide audience with ease. This is one of the many qualities that have made him such a great leader and someone I can lean on.
Ryan’s impact at Terakeet, as well as his mentorship, cannot be overstated. I took some time to sit down with Ryan so I could bring to light the most interesting man at Terakeet.
In recent years, your role has changed significantly from being the lone coding soldier to leading a large team of like-minded computer science aficionados. How has this change affected you both personally and professionally?
It’s been great to watch the team grow and be able to work with so many talented people. When the team was very small, the focus was my own contribution: build the best software I could on my own. But with a larger team, the set of skills needed to succeed are different. Now it’s about knowledge transfer and empowering other people to contribute their ideas and expertise. Leading by example is still critical but the success of a project now hinges on how well the team performs together rather than my individual contribution to the codebase. Personally, this has helped me understand the value of continued learning and patience. There’s always new skills needed to lead a team effectively. But it has been really rewarding to have access to a greater diverse set of ideas, and I feel proud when someone on the team develops something really innovative.
The engineering team at Terakeet staffs many people from different backgrounds and areas of the world. What lessons have you learned from managing people that work remotely?
When we made the decision to hire some remote employees a few years ago, there was a lot of uncertainty around how it would play out. But so far, it has been a great success, which is a credit mostly to the quality of our out-of-Syracuse engineers. The most important thing I’ve learned is how valuable it is to have an environment where people are comfortable communicating using the tools available, like Slack, Github, and Google Hangouts, to explain new ideas, listen to others, and express themselves clearly. Effective communication can make a huge difference on a team that’s spread across thousands of miles.
Not many people know that you’re a huge adrenaline junky. About six years ago, we talked about going skydiving and instead of looking into pricing and availability for that, you told me that you skipped that step and decided to take classes to become a pilot. What makes you go from sitting at a desk writing code to racing motorcycles and flying planes?
For me, it’s a combination of conquering tough challenges and an appreciation for the engineering of powerful machines. Many years ago, when I stumbled upon Hunter S. Thompson’s essay Song of the Sausage Creature, the initial draw to fast motorcycles wasn’t hard to explain, but what kept my interest was the question of “Can I really do this?” There’s something very exciting to me about being in a situation that’s initially scary and feels impossible, and through the application of time and careful practice, can eventually be accomplished subconsciously. When I get to that point, there’s always a new set of previously-impossible challenges that now may be within reach.
I’ve heard it said that librarians live more exciting lives than thrillseekers since they can pick up a book to be drawn into an intriguing adventure, instead of needing to jump out of a plane to escape the prosaic routine of a normal day. So maybe I’m not that lucky to be into such exciting hobbies, but I do like reading too!
You and your wife Lauren are expecting your first child any day now. What Terakeet core value(s) (Sustainable Value, Integrity, Invention, Entrepreneurship or Rapid Response) do you hope to instill in your son?
Definitely invention. I hope he has the curiosity to want to try new things every day, and the self-confidence to take something he made and share it with other people. I hope, as a parent, I can help teach and inspire him to develop creativity and pursue his ideas into tangible creations, but you never know! Maybe he’ll be just like me, or maybe he’ll find his own path in an entirely different direction. That’s what’s most interesting to me on the eve of my journey into parenthood – every person is different and there’s no perfect way to be a parent. So, I just hope whatever parenting style Lauren and I develop is effective and inspirational for him.