Connect with Daniel Ritchie on LinkedIn
Job: Distinguished Engineer, Broadridge Financial Solutions
Location: Denver, Colorado
Daniel and I were connected through my old camp friend and former interviewee on The YoPro Know, Ethan Lockshin. The two met through a coding competition in Denver and although both are considered young professionals, they are closer to different ends of the spectrum in a mentor-mentee-like relationship. Not only will you leave this article feeling inspired, but you will also just feel ready to take on the day because this guy is a speaker all around the world.
Give us a brief background of yourself.
I grew up with my family on a farm in rural Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh. I moved out to Colorado to study business at the University of Denver and decided I never wanted to leave. I currently work as a technologist for a global FinTech leader and we do a lot of interesting things behind the scenes within the financial services industry. Our work is best summarized by a 2013 Forbes article titled “The Broad Reach Of Broadridge, The Most Important Financial Firm You've Never Heard Of.”
What was your first career move after school? What has been your career path since then?
My first move was coaching a snowboarding team, and initially, my goal was to do that for the winter. Shortly after graduating, a friend told me about an entry-level tech job that was expected to end before the winter. It was a three-month contract, but I ended up staying in that position for three and a half years. In that role, I had some great mentorship, and I learned a lot about test automation and writing code. I was able to understand the power of technology and how it can be leveraged to do a lot of really cool stuff. I took test automation into designing approaches for automated testing and validating systems. After that, it spun off into automated test pipelines, which today we call continuous integration, and that eventually turned into CD or continuous delivery. Since then I've been focused on that space and DevOps in particular. Our company recently won an award for DevOps automation excellence. I just got back from a related talk in Portugal, and in October I was in Japan giving a talk with Koshuke Kawaguchi, the creator of Jenkins.
What do you wish you knew when you started off as a young professional?
I wish I knew how to be more confident. Everyone who has ever accomplished something had to start somewhere. When you're beginning your career, you don't really have any idea how good you are. Imposter syndrome is something that I think a lot of people have experienced, and for myself, it took me maybe a decade or more before I gained confidence in what I did, to really sink in. If I had really believed in myself right out of college, I probably could have accelerated my career. I didn't get in any trouble with that path, but I probably burned some time and wasted cycles questioning if I was the right guy for the job, or if I really had something to offer in my role.
What are some hardships that you've experienced?
While I certainly have experienced some real challenges, it is difficult to say I’ve dealt with any significant hardships. Professionally speaking I have never been one of these people who always knew what they wanted to do with their career. My road to becoming established was long and varied. It took me a solid decade of working towards an unclear goal before I really felt like things began to fall into place. It's easy to see now that I was laying an intentional foundation for professional success and personal satisfaction, but at the moment it can be easy to doubt oneself and wonder if those efforts are contributing towards a meaningful goal. Although I wouldn't change anything about the track I've taken or the places I've worked, I really like the idea of these emerging public benefit corporations that also aim to serve a greater purpose. I think businesses that focus on the triple bottom line will attract people who are interested in fulfilling their own ideals while also being able to pay the bills.
Tell me about something that motivates you.
Lately, it's exploring ideas that I have thoughts or opinions about as an individual, but we don't always get to exercise professionally. A more concrete example of that would be when I'm speaking with leadership at my company, or even outside of my company, I'm having conversations about the human aspect of technical interactions. I appreciate finding ways we can do better in our jobs and bring out the best in other people. I am motivated to figure out how to integrate those ways of thinking with a corporation. We all get paid to do our jobs, but we don't get paid to be good to each other even though it benefits our work. I think we all kind of know if you're good to another person or if you're working well with another person, because they’re happier to come into work with you, and they're more open to working with you. Finding ways to incorporate that type of thinking into a professional atmosphere is interesting and exciting.
What has been your experience working with the younger side of young professionals (early-to-mid 20s)?
I can't say that I've worked with enough younger people to be able to make any kind of general statement, but I will say the limited amount of exposure I've had tells me they don't really have a lot of tolerance for things that don’t make sense. With any generation, the world is made up of things we don’t like. The younger folks seem to call this out very pragmatically asking “Why would you live that way? Why would you have a company that was this major force in the world that didn't consider their impact on the environment, or didn't consider their impact on other humans?” They just don't get it. And they have very little tolerance for these types of things which really doesn’t make sense, and I hope that they never lose that. I hope that intolerance becomes a defining aspect of their generation, and I mean that in an extremely positive way. I hope they're known for drawing hard lines and saying, “We're not going to put up with short-sighted decisions which may be destructive, because it is not a good way to live, and does not create a good world to live in.”
Can you talk about your mentoring experience?
Throughout my life, I have been successful due to the investments that other people have made for me. Over the years, I can think of so many people who I now treasure for their input. I wanted to be open, and willing to share and help others in the same way. The YoPro Know previously interviewed Ethan Lockshin whom I feel like was the first person I professionally mentored. I met Ethan through Go Code Colorado, a competition that made me realize I do have things that are valuable enough to be offered to others. When I met Ethan I could see someone who was in a similar place as I was when I was his age, and that was something I could relate to. His excitement was infectious, he’s a very energetic person who wants to do good, and contributes as much as he can. I wanted to give back to him because he gave me a lot of energy and inspired me.
Do you have any last-minute word of advice or stories that you want to share?
I always hear people saying “Say yes.” Over the last year, I have said yes to a lot of things that I could have never envisioned myself doing. Traveling and speaking internationally has been a big part of what I’ve done recently, and I have had these opportunities because I’ve repeatedly said yes. Always keep your doors open. When we were talking earlier, I couldn't help but think of Alan Watts. He was this “hippie” professor from the 60s who talked about some really big ideas. One big question he would ask was, “What would you do if money didn't matter?” I think that's so important because money is a burden that we have to deal with. We have to pay our bills, we have to have money. It's just a fact that money is an important part of modern life, but if we're making decisions based solely on how much money we can make, then there are all of these other aspects of life that we've missed out on. Alan basically talks about becoming an outlier, becoming an expert in your field. If you put in enough time to something that you love, then eventually you will get good at it. And if you get good enough at it, people will start giving you money because they appreciate your expertise. It’s this idea that you can turn a passion into a career or future. Say yes to things that could take you in the right direction of where you want to be headed. It will lead to future doors being opened up and if you continue to do that you will move incrementally closer to where you want to be.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
-Strive to find ways to be more confident in your career
-Find a foundation of motivation to create professional success and personal satisfaction
-Say yes to opportunities, and always keep your doors open