December, 2019 – What is your educational background? I spent several years after high school travelling the world and going to a junior college off and on before finally enrolling at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Geology (and a severely underutilized minor in Anthropology). I also attended graduate school at the University of Montana, where I studied Hydrogeology but spent most of my time fly fishing.
What drew you to working in the environmental sector? Having attended a small liberal arts college, I was not well-informed about how I could apply my geology degree. I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in the petroleum industry or academia, but was otherwise clueless as to what type of work I was interested in doing. I knew that I wanted to have a job that included both office and fieldwork, that was varied from day to day, and that allowed me the opportunity to interact with clients to solve problems. The environmental field checked all of those boxes and has been very rewarding.
In one word, describe yourself. Succinct.
What’s one interesting fact about you that most people don’t know? My family had a pool when I was growing up and I spent countless hours underwater trying to see how many laps I could swim before coming up for air. As a result, I can still easily hold my breath for more than two minutes and have held my breath as long as five minutes.
How do you balance your career and family? I work quite a bit, but do try to sched
ule some extended vacations with my family as often as I can. This summer, I spent four weeks travelling with my son in Mongolia, which was incredible. Also, my family has a farm on Whidbey Island, which is a wonderful place to relax and take advantage of the lack of cell coverage.
RYAN ON BUSINESS
What drew you to your company originally? My first 7 years in the environmental industry were largely spent working on Phase I environmental site assessments, with some subsurface investigations and remediation projects thrown in for good measure. Although I enjoyed the work, it wasn’t providing me with new challenges, so when a former coworker told me about his new firm (SoundEarth), I was intrigued by the increased complexity and scale of their projects. I also appreciated the higher attention given to health and safety, as well as the supportive culture that was apparent right from the start.
What are three words to describe your company? “Always do right” This is part of a larger Mark Twain quote that is incorporated into our corporate value statement and ends “This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” At SoundEarth, we try to live by this motto every day.
What has been your favorite project at your company? I managed the investigation and remediation of approximately 70 current and former gas stations for a single client over the course 10+ years. While some of the projects only involved dig-and-haul remedial strategies, others were far more complicated, and included remedial approaches such as in situ electrical resistive heating, chemical injections, and other emerging technologies. Collectively, these projects provided me with a much broader understanding of the alternatives available to solve our clients’ environmental issues.
RYAN ON THE INDUSTRY
What has your involvement been with NEBC? I started attending NEBC luncheons in about 2005 as a way to learn more about our industry and network with others in the field. After casually suggesting a couple of potential topics for future luncheons, I was asked to join the committee for the Olympic Chapter, which provided me with the opportunity to help shape the discussion and get more involved as a speaker and moderator at NEBC conferences. I was asked to join the board of directors in 2018 and have been thrilled to be a part of that group ever since.
What advice do you have for prospective candidates who want to work at your company or in the industry? Diversify your skill set and focus on writing. We have all experienced slow periods where some aspect of our workload “dries up” for a while and billable work is scarce. The surest way to survive these slow periods is by being able to contribute to a broad range of the services that your firm offers. Excellent writers are few and far between, and those employees with exceptional writing skills will find themselves in demand even during the slower times when fieldwork is unavailable.