Recent Alumni Spotlight: Fitz Ryland
October 25, 2012
Fitz Ryland grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. Having left the South for the more cozy environs of the Pacific Northwest, he graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2010. Fitz majored in studio art with an emphasis in drawing. He is currently the Main Community Organizer at Collective Agency, a democratically organized and community focused office and event space in downtown Portland. Previously, Fitz worked as a freelance web designer and still does some web work when he can. He currently has his fingers crossed while doing the snow dance in support of his two favorite hobbies: snowboarding and dancing.
3CE: Tell us about how you connected with Collective Agency. How did your time at Lewis & Clark prepare you for this opportunity?
Fitz Ryland: Lewis & Clark taught me to be inquisitive, adaptive, and hardworking. Collective Agency is a democratically organized shared office and event space. I first got involved in Collective Agency having been asked to hang a piece of art in the space. The organizational positions and policies are democratically decided by membership. So, when the year-long term of the Main Community Organizer expired I ran for the position and was elected. In about a year I went from hanging art here to running the place. My term will expire this coming June, and I will return to web design with a host of new connections and skills across many industries.
3CE: What does a typical work day look like for you?
FR: My work at Collective Agency is pretty much 9-5, but every day is different. It was incredibly powerful day when I saw Nike shoe designers here for an off-site meeting drawing the next season’s shoe line sitting next to a member drawing up plans for a low cost kite kit for open source mapping of environmental accidents. A variety of perspectives from fortune 500 companies to small nonprofits enrich my day to day work life.
3CE: What skills and competencies did you emphasize during the hiring process that resonated with the members of Collective Agency?
FR: I had a very unique hiring experience; I was elected to my position in a private enterprise. I made myself appear to be a good candidate much in the way a politician would. I showed that I could reliably produce results and had a passion for it. Maybe most importantly I was able to communicate my ideas and abilities. The conversations I have with members and prospective members remind me of fiery class discussions. The difficult and rigorous discussions that I had in Lewis & Clark classrooms required me to quickly make cogent and convincing arguments. Conversational agility has gone a long way in getting me where I am now.
3CE: What did you do your freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year to prepare yourself for an opportunity like this?
FR: Freshman year was an important social learning experiment for me. Living in the dorms in close contact to so many people with such a rich variety of perspectives taught me the importance of being around a variety of passionate people. As a studio art major with an emphasis in drawing, hard work and an unwillingness to settle were paramount especially by my senior year. Drawing taught me to fail with great frequency, speed, and pride.
3CE: What has surprised you most about life after college?
FR: It’s a lot harder than college. Though Lewis & Clark did a great job of preparing me, college really is just that: preparation. I don’t get grades anymore. My performance is measured in the opportunities I open or close for myself. Having been self-employed for the entirety of my experience after college my grades in themselves have never mattered. Only the lessons I learn and the work I do matter.
3CE: What advice would you give graduating seniors getting ready to enter the workforce?
FR: Start failing right away. I snowboard a lot, and if I am not falling, if I am not completely covered in snow I am not pushing myself hard enough to learn new things. If you aren’t failing you probably aren’t learning.