A Career in Problem Solving: Ryan Shriver’s Consulting Evolution

April 28, 2020

In our last edition, you heard from Vida Williams and why she chose to join SingleStone. This week, we’re continuing our series on how SingleStone is redefining the consulting industry with Ryan Shriver, our Chief Technology Officer. Ryan shares his perspective on what makes SingleStone different and how his career path evolved.

Get to know Ryan Shriver, Chief Technology Officer

You’re SingleStone’s CTO and an active consultant, how do you manage your day to day?

It’s busy; a constant balance of delivering on projects today, while building a future for the company. I can be in delivery mode working on projects, then the next minute switching gears to focus on more strategic topics. All the while trying to keep up with the rapid pace of technology. Even though I dedicate some cycles to running the firm, I most enjoy working on projects and staying engaged with our clients. If I didn’t do that, I’d feel disconnected. 

Ryan Shriver, Chief Technology Officer at SingleStone

You’ve been with SingleStone for quite a while, how has your career path evolved?

I’ve always been a problem-solver, drawn to technology and what’s possible with software. In 1994 I discovered the Mosaic browser and this wonderful new thing called the “worldwide web.” I just dove in. Then, during one of my early big projects at SingleStone building a banking product, I realized I was interested in more than just the technology side of things. I wanted to understand the entire software development process from end-to-end. For me, I saw a career that was beyond coding to becoming an expert in all aspects designing, building, and operating software products and services. I especially enjoyed building the cross-functional teams needed to do all this work. I played sports all my life so this part came sort of natural.

In parallel, I pursued two goals: driving results for clients and becoming a subject matter expert. I used conferences as a benchmark for expertise and pushed myself to give talks. More importantly, conferences introduced me to new ideas and people who were at the forefront of software. Locally I was running the Richmond Java User Group in the early 2000s and this connected me to not just smart folks in RVA but also prominent thinkers we’d invite in.

What steps did you take to accomplish SME level?

At that point in my career, I had built a solid foundation of tech skills, so I started going up-stream. I dove into various flavors of Agile, learned Lean and Kanban principles too, then started spending more time with client teams and helping them work together and less time in the code. After a few years of this, I missed the technology and by that time this thing we now call DevOps and especially the Cloud were changing things. So I created SingleStone’s DevOps/Cloud solution and have primarily focused on that ever since – helping clients design, build, and operate software in the cloud using modern practices.

Along the way, I’ve met people who are at the forefront of how we design and build products. I partnered with Gabrielle Benefield and we created Mobius together, an open framework for focusing on outcomes over outputs. From here I stumbled into design thinking and found an immediate connection to problem-solving and something missing from my engineering mindset. This lead me to today where I teach Problem Solving for Designers in VCU’s School of the Arts. I help graphic designers learn how to holistically approach solving complex problems, like those facing our local non-profit community.

My career has been a continual evolution, and I am at the point where I have a pretty deep understanding of the entire gamut, but there is always more to learn every day.

You interact with seemingly everyone, how do you build your team to ensure you’re always evolving?

Our firm wants problem solvers. Tools and technologies come and go, some last a year or two, some last a decade. Really, I want us to recruit and hire and train problem-solvers because it’s a much more versatile skill. I want us to find and look for people who fall in love with the problem, not the solution. What are the real customer needs? What outcomes are they trying to achieve? What options do we have? What’s the best solution and why? How can we start quickly and learn along the way?

Secondly, everything we do is in teams, so how well do you work with people. Not just our team but our clients too? We have no place for prima donnas here, so step one in building good teams is hiring the right people.

Who is your dream client for SingleStone?

Spotify definitely comes to mind. I love music and I use their software every day, especially lately. While they’re well-known for their progressive culture and cool technology, you really get a sense of their creative spirit too, which is something I want us to embody here. IDEO would certainly be on the list too.

You interact with a lot of organizations and teams. What is SingleStone doing that keeps you invested?

The inclusive decision-making process. I’ll continue to be at SingleStone because people have a say in what goes on. At one point in my career, I was with a company where I felt like I had some ideas on how to do things better, and the general message was, “no, you just stay out there billing, we’ll run the company, we know what’s best.” That pissed me off. I wanted to work for a company where I had a say.

Here at SingleStone, your voice can help shape the company. You can speak up and do something and show action. And that’s a good thing to have vs. only management figuring it all out and telling everyone what to do.

We don’t always get it perfect and we have our problems like every other organization. But I think we’ve always been open, and you can speak up if you don’t like something. We all want to build the company that we want to work for, right? And so that’s the best part…everybody has a part to play.

Are you building a career in a technical field and taking a similar approach? Can you be a catalyst for change at your organization? How has your career path evolved since you first entered the industry? We’d love to hear the similarities and differences you’ve experienced. Send us a message or drop a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Ryan Shriver

Chief Technology Officer
Ryan Shriver, our Chief Technology Officer, specializes in solving complex technical problems and is a trusted partner to some of our biggest clients. Ryan is passionate about teaching and mentoring: in addition to leading our Cloud and DevOps team, Ryan teaches Problem Solving for Designers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Arts.