Our guest is Ryan Drake Lee, a Senior Principal at Keystone Strategy. He is an experienced leader and problem solver focusing on Technology Strategy, Digital Transformation, and Operational Excellence.
A native San Franciscan, Ryan was influenced early on by his father towards business and economics and was exposed to a diverse student body and international experiences and cultures. Some of those experiences shaped his youth and outlook on the world.
In this episode, Ryan shares what it was like going to one of the most prestigious historically Black colleges, why he pursued an MBA, and his extensive professional career.
Ryan also talks about his passion for environmental sustainability, climate change, and social justice and how those areas of interest have come into play with what he is currently doing at Keystone Strategy.
On the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the lives of Black Americans
"I think HBCU has played a pivotal role in the landscape of academic institutions and what they provide to different populations of people, that intense focus on the Black American experience, and refining their academic and campus life, programs, and how they create opportunities and make partnerships with businesses for employment and others institutions for cross-disciplinary learning, and how they're trying to create different channels and pipelines to getting access to diverse talent, specifically black Americans. So, I think the role that HBCUs play is immensely important and I’m happy and privileged to have been a part of it."
On pursuing an MBA even when he already had a successful professional career
"What I observed as a young professional joining McKinsey was pretty much almost a formula. And the formula was, do a few years as an analyst, go to a prestigious graduate program, right? Probably an MBA, maybe a public policy degree program or a law degree, and essentially, come back to McKinsey, and in a few years, you'll be a partner and you'll essentially be rich and be able to ride off into the sunset. I know now that life is not that simple and lots of things have changed, but quite frankly, I was convinced that was the formula and the path to success or at least part of what I aspire to have in terms of a career. The way people would look up to partners and admire their ideas and the power that they had and how people would automatically be quiet as soon as they spoke - that looked attractive to me. I also knew that as I was leaving my analyst time after two years at McKinsey, I felt like I would have been in the ivory tower. I'm pushing paper, I'm making slides and Excel. And it was like, let me go see what it's like, you know, get your hands dirty at the ground level. Which is what drew me to be a volunteer consultant at TechnoServe and go work at the ground level, literally, in developing countries. I really enjoyed that but then also, let's be honest. I wanted to have a good living and make a good living and earn some money. So, it was clear that I wanted to go get an MBA."
Thoughts on climate change
"From an economic standpoint, I feel like climate change is really a resource allocation challenge, right? We're not allocating the right resources to the right technologies. We have solutions to lots of the polluting challenges that we have. They're just not economic enough to deploy at scale. So, it's an economic challenge to solve many of the challenges and problems we face."
On managing his professional career and tying it with the things he is passionate about
"What comes to mind for me is, I continue to think of the double and triple bottom lines. I learned about that at Haas. First bottom line being your business bottom line, right? What's your dollar profit? Your second bottom line being your kind of social impact, right? What is the impact of the business that you do in the communities where you do it? And then your third bottom line is around the environment, right? What is the impact to the environment? I often think about how can we try to aspire to more of this circular loop economy where we don't have this linear economy where you kind of extract natural resources out of the ground, turn them into something consumable, that is then consumed and then sits in a landfill forever. How do we make this more of a circular loop so that things are sustainable perpetually?"