At the cusp of three major trends, Big Data, Cloud Computing, and Healthcare IT, Terry Ryan is building a very interesting company from Chicago. The company is profitable, already of substantial scale, and at a very exciting juncture.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journeys. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background? Give us some back story.
Terry Ryan: I was born and raised in the Midwest in the suburbs of Chicago. I spent most of my time in the Midwest, but I’ve also lived around the world including Europe. I’ve done business across most of the continents, but Chicago is home.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for college? What’s your educational background?
Terry Ryan: I went to Illinois State University right here in Illinois where I was born and raised. I went to school to become an accountant. According to what all the tests said, that should be what I be doing. I did fine in accounting and found it interesting and got good grades. In my junior year of my studies, I actually took an elective. I like to tell my kids and other people to take an elective. It’s one of those things they do to stretch your mind and make you think about how to apply that differently in the area of your study. It was an elective called Intro to Computers.
Sramana Mitra: What year was this?
Terry Ryan: This was around 1986.
Sramana Mitra: It was quite a while back. Intro to Computers looked different than it looks in more recent years.
Terry Ryan: Absolutely. I took that class and came out saying, “I like this much more.” I switched my concentration and graduated with a Computer Science degree.
Sramana Mitra: What happened after that? What was the next choice?
Terry Ryan: Like lots of my friends say, unlike many people out there, I applied my degree. I went to work and did a couple of internships to attain that degree. That was part of the curriculum. You had to do at least one internship. I did two. I started out of school coding and developing software with different companies. Pretty quickly, I moved to the management consulting realm where I was building bigger and more global systems than I could ever imagine early in my career.
Sramana Mitra: How did that continue? Chronologically, where are we in the cycle?
Terry Ryan: I’m about 25 years old. I probably worked for other companies for about six to seven years getting the right kind of experience. Then, I started my own set of companies. I was in my mid 20s when I set out for the first time and incubated my own company.
Sramana Mitra: What year was that?
Terry Ryan: That was in 1994.
Sramana Mitra: So the Internet has started happening when you started your company.
Terry Ryan: Barely. They’re talking about this search thing out there.
Sramana Mitra: I started my first company in 1994 as well while I was a graduate student at MIT. I know the time frame we’re talking about.
Terry Ryan: Laptops back then were called luggables.