80/20 Spotlight: Ryan Burgoon

Posted by Kyle Young

Meet Ryan Burgoon

Ryan is a product manager at Verizon Digital Media Services. However, five years ago when he joined the company he was in a different role entirely. He is one of the many individuals who went through our 80/20 program and transitioned to a new role. We would like to share Ryan’s story and how his career development led him to DMS, to apply for our 80/20 program, and ultimately to a role as a product manager.

The Road to EdgeCast

Ryan began working with computers in high school, using his spare time to manage the school’s website. This early hobby influenced Ryan’s choice for a major. He considered studying computer science, but decided he did not want to code all day. His interest in computers has always been multifaceted not only in software, but with the engineering and design components as well. Therefore, after some thought, he landed on graphic design, as it provided just the right mix of his interests.

After college, his career was mainly spent in technology operations roles. He worked in the military as the manager of a network operations center, a role where he learned a great deal about managing others. Ultimately, this provided an experience he would build upon his whole career. After the military he left management and worked in systems and software support for the defense industry. After a decade of similar work, Ryan felt ready to take the next step with his career. It was at this time that he was approached by EdgeCast (who would eventually become VDMS) for a role as a Systems Administrator. Although he liked the idea of working at EdgeCast, he preferred a position where he could manage people again. So he looked for other openings on the EdgeCast website, where a Manager of Systems Operations (SysOps) position caught his eye. Ryan applied, got the job, and joined the team in 2012.

Our SysOps division is responsible for provisioning the servers in all of our data centers world-wide. It is a busy and productive team Ryan loved working with. He would spend the next three years managing the team’s personnel and day to day operations. During Ryan’s time as manager, the team assisted in deploying sixty new data centers, and provisioned 20,000 servers around the world. Well done Operations!

The Road to an 80/20

While managing SysOps, Ryan reported to SysOps Director Ilya Kravchenko. The two of them would have monthly one-on-one check-ins where they discussed the department, current challenges, and Ryan’s professional development. When Ryan’s assistant manager had been trained sufficiently to take over the team, Ryan’s career progression became more of a focus. He had a growing affinity for business and considered going back to school for a masters in business administration. When asked what sparked this new interest, Ryan described wanting to be involved with decisions that made or saved the company money. Ryan brought this to Ilya and they worked out the next steps together. Ilya thought a role in product management would fit both Ryan’s experience and interests in business and design. In our organization, Product Managers help communicate between the departments of engineering, marketing and sales, something Ryan had done before. Therefore they met with Ted Middleton in the Product department about the possibility of Ryan switching over. As it turned out, the product team was looking to grow so they welcomed the idea. The next step was for Ryan to interview for an 80/20 position on the team.

He interviewed with two of the engineering product managers to kick off the process. They knew Ryan would not know much of the terminology, but wanted to screen Ryan to find any potential issues. How and could he solve problems he was new to? Was he a good culture fit? The interview went well, Ryan was given the green-light to start his 80/20, and was assigned a mentor to begin his education.

Ryan’s 80/20

The 80/20 program is custom designed to each individual that goes through it.Therefore, the amount of time it takes to complete the process may vary from person to person. For Ryan, it was about six months from start to finish. Was that a long or short time for an 80/20? Depends on who you ask. For Ryan, he said he appreciated the pace because it gave him ample time to develop the new skills he would need for the job. The first four months of his 80/20 were spent entirely on education. While continuing to manage SysOps he worked one day a week in the product department, which he would spend learning the skills and software tools he would need to know as a product manager. These included: how to write a user story, how to wire frame, and how to scope out product requirements.

Due to Ryan’s familiarity with the company’s internal tools, he quickly became essential to the product team. As the manager of the SysOps team, Ryan spent a large amount of his day working with and on systems critical to the CDN. This made Ryan a logical choice for the portals team, working on the interface and design of tools used both internally and by our customers. One of the primary stakeholders of a core internal system, Ryan, became the product manager of the team designing those system. This matchup has paid off: one of the teams Ryan works on has hit every one of their objectives. Ryan attributes this success to having the correct pairing between product owner and software engineers.

Ryan is a great case study for the many benefits of the 80/20 program. When you put systems in place that reward good work by providing new opportunities, it opens new possibilities. In this instance, Ryan was able to flex his design muscles from his college education by doing an 80/20 with Product Management. In turn this helped the company better redesign one of its core internal tools. And, all of this happened naturally, as a part of the way we do things at DMS. This cultural element of the 80/20, that it acceptable for people move into new roles at DMS, is possibly its biggest benefit. It has created a new air around the office, so that when people move into new roles, its a cause for celebration. When Ryan decided to do an 80/20 with Product Management it was just that. He was the right guy to take over the product ownership of our portals team, and we look forward to what the future holds.