Balancing Work, Life, and a Not-So-Typical MBA

Ryan Ross MBA'20 and his family

As any parent will tell you, the birth of a child is a life-changing event. Suddenly, your perspective changes. All that you knew, or thought you knew, is different.

That’s how it was for Ryan Ross MBA’20. When his son, Benjamin, was born in 2016, right before Ross began his studies at Babson, he was struck by a new urgent need. “I want to leave the world in a better place,” he thought, “for the next generation.”

That need to make a difference informs Ross’ life, whether he’s working at his day job at Raytheon BBN Technologies, or whether he’s taking classes at Babson, where Ross served as president of the Babson Sustainability and Energy Club this past school year.

Of course, going to school and leading a student organization, while also holding down a full-time job and being a parent, makes for a full, busy life. But pursuing an MBA fulfills Ross and makes him better at his work.

“It’s refreshing to go to school at night,” he says. “The people you’re going to school with—you love working with them. They keep you inspired and engaged.”

Tip of the Spear

Ross is a program manager in the networking and cyber technology business unit at Raytheon BBN Technologies. Founded some 70 years ago, BBN Technologies has a long history of innovation. The company invented email and was a pioneer of internet technology. “That’s BBN’s claim to fame,” says Ross. “A lot of technological brilliance comes out of here.”

When asked about the projects he oversees, Ross can’t give many details. That’s because BBN is a contractor for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research and development arm of the Department of Defense. What BBN develops has an impact on soldiers in the field, though that technology can find its way to civilian life as well.

“I really am enthused and passionate about what I do here,” says Ross. “We are developing technology that sits at the tip of the spear.” Ross often thinks of the soldiers his work could help, such as his cousin, who is currently at West Point. “When he graduates and goes into active duty, I want to put technology in his hands that will help him make it home safe.”

Not a Typical MBA

When deciding where to go for his MBA, Ross wanted a college that could give him real-world skills, as well as instill in him the entrepreneurial mindset. “I didn’t want to go back for a typical MBA,” Ross says.

Ross found what he was looking for at Babson. Now at BBN, when Ross deals with complex projects that can take five to 10 years before they are ready for market, he thinks like an entrepreneur. “Every project that comes up, I treat as a startup,” he says.

One of the biggest lessons he has learned came from Jay Rao, a professor who teaches courses on innovation and strategy. Too often, says Rao, people don’t truly understand the problem they’re trying to solve with their work or business idea. They don’t talk to potential customers or they become too wrapped up in technology.

In short, advises Rao, “You need to fall in love with the problem.” At BBN, Ross treats Rao’s advice as a personal mantra. “I breathe and sleep that in my current job right now,” says Ross.

Take It to Heart

Beyond the classroom, Ross wanted to learn more about sustainability. That led to his involvement in the Babson Sustainability and Energy Club, which organizes a popular forum every year. The club also advocates for sustainability issues and volunteers at local nonprofit organizations. “I believe every company should take sustainability to heart,” Ross says.

To juggle his many responsibilities, Ross relies on the support of his employer, his professors, his family, and his wife, Brittany. He believes all the work is worth it. “The sacrifices you make will pay off in the future,” he says.

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