For our February Expert Spotlight, I’d like to introduce you to Ryan McCauley. We first met back in December, and almost immediately I could sense a special zen about him; he was very easy to talk to. Based out of Phoenix, AZ, Ryan is a manager at a mid-size cable operator for an internal IT department, specializing in databases and BI/reporting development. When we talked, he had just finished attending a four-day conference on leadership put on by his employer, Cable ONE. The insights he gained there greatly informed our discussion on how his team troubleshoots problems and finds solutions.
Ryan’s Professional Journey
Whenever I meet a developer or admin who has become a manager, I am curious to find out how they made their way into a leadership position. After talking with Ryan, I could immediately point out the qualities that make him an asset to those on his team, as he is very much in touch with inspirational leadership principles.
Ryan got started with QBasic in the late 1980s and VB3/4 in the early 1990s. He loved being able to clearly see the results of the commands he told his computer to execute. After graduating college, he spent a few years being a .NET developer, before jumping onboard with Cable ONE as a Programmer/Analyst. That was ten years ago. After five years in that role, he was promoted to Lead Developer where he spent the next two and a half years building up additional technical and leadership skills.
When the time came to divide the development team up into programming, a dedicated database, and a reporting team, he transitioned into a more formal managerial role. Under his guidance, his new team focused on database management, report development, and managing the BI stack. During this transition, he still spent time in the Senior Developer role. He liked getting his hands dirty, and even today he admits that he still does a little coding on the side (primarily on open source projects for fun).
In his current role, he’s more focused on people, and he loves it. The best part, he says, is encouraging people to try things on their own and then step back to watch them flourish when they succeed. His philosophy is simple: he’d rather have someone on the team who isn’t afraid to fail than someone who is so petrified at the thought of failing that they don’t see failures as an opportunity to learn. He sees it as a great opportunity for leadership, and he enjoys helping others find success.
At the end of the day, he works hard to make the best environment he can for his team. He knows that he is only in control of himself; if the team is not working well together, he asks himself “Why aren’t they at their best, and what can I do differently to help get them there?” We talked about how people look to their leaders for inspiration and mentoring, and the importance of understanding the purpose in everything we do. Good leaders, most of all, help people connect to that purpose and allow them the autonomy and support to thrive.
Finding the Story Within Data
Ryan has a passion for data – he likes taking “piles and piles of data and knitting it together into a story”. While looking at that pile, he enjoys identifying trends and patterns in the information that’s coming from a pool of the company’s approximately 700,000 customers. “Collecting piles of data doesn’t provide any value by itself – the value is in the improved decisions you can make when you understand what the data means.” Finding the story the data tells helps him stay focused. Charts, pivot tables, and other tools help to make the trend easier to understand, and he loves when data that was previously a meaningless pile can be pulled together to tell a meaningful story.
Ryan enjoys networking with other database developers and managers. He often attends local user groups and meetups. He also attends SQL Saturday, an annual local gathering of SQL professionals, and has even had the opportunity to speak at the event for the past three years. He got quite excited just talking about sharing ideas and questions with others, and I could sense his passion throughout our conversation.
Ryan’s Experts Exchange Story
Ryan joined Experts Exchange in 2009, but he wasn’t really active on the site until 2011. After answering a few questions and earning a free premium membership, he was hooked. Currently, he has earned over one million points for his contributions on the site. He loves the questions because they encompass more than just addressing one error message or solving a specific issue; instead, it’s about helping people work though the underlying problem so they can better understand what to do in the future.
Raising ‘Appropriately Geeky’ Kids
Married with three kids, Ryan loves spending time with his family, and considers himself to be very lucky. Each year he saves his vacation time to spend the winter holidays with his family. He loves hiking and building Legos with his daughter, and is always encouraging her curiosity for engineering and science. He also has two younger boys who are obsessed with outer space and Star Wars, so they also spend a lot of time gazing up at the stars and imagining what might be out there. Though he wears a binary watch to be true to his roots, he is trying to raise his kids to be “appropriately geeky”- passionate about what they love and not afraid to explore whatever makes them curious.
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