7 Questions with Associate Vice President of Engineering, Ryan McLean

Providing DevSecOps solutions to U.Group’s federal government customers takes more than just people, process, and tools. We also incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve, integrate, and innovate customers’ systems. This approach calls for a team with a diverse set of skills—and we’re proud to have them on board. 

Meet Ryan McLean, an engineering leader for our federal DevSecOps portfolio and the head of our Indianapolis location. An Air Force veteran and current part-time Air Force Reservist, Ryan brings extensive engineering experience and a passion for all things technology to his role as associate vice president of engineering at U.Group. Read on to learn more about him.  

Describe what you do at U.Group in 3 words or less.  

RM: Engineering Leader 

How did you discover your passion for engineering 

RM: I’ve always loved to create and build—whether it’s LEGOs, programming, art, or music. My parents always created opportunities for me to learn more about tech in new ways. I remember my dad encouraging me to take an AP computer science course my junior year of high school. Of course, the reputations for both the course and the teacher were pretty rough.  

As things went, I became fascinated with Java and programming in general. My mom still remembers how I would come home from high school and say something nerdy like, “I have to code!” before I tossed my backpack down and went to work on the 13” LCD monitor with Windows XP and a free integrated development environment (IDE) I got through my class textbook.  

That’s where software engineering started for me, and it hasn’t really stopped. I’m a bit less technical in my everyday work today, but the passion for hard problems, good code, and delighting the user is still what drives me. 

Do your engineering skills/preferences trickle into other aspects of your life, besides work?  

RM: Yes! I’d love to claim that I’m a true woodworker, but I really only have some basic carpentry skills. Nonetheless, I’m always planning my next home building project. My son and I are all about LEGOs, too. We just built a new spaceship “I” received for “my” birthday. Of course, the model is already in pieces and being rebuilt into something new. I also like to tinker in Android app development and AWS tools, and I’m currently working through a slate of books on DevOps. Sharpening the sword, as they might say. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen or read lately?  

RM: I’ve always been a fan of the outdoors—especially the Rocky Mountains. When we were in Colorado in 2016, the 100th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park, we picked up a book on the National Parks. I hadn’t actually read it cover-to-cover until recently—and I am hooked! I’m now planning an overly ambitious 15-year series of family treks through all the National Parks. Ask me again in 2035 how it went, but as an optimist, I’m excited to get going! 

Before working at U.Group, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?  

RM: I spent six years on Active Duty in the Air Force. Most of that time was in Research and Development. My main focus was working with special operations to transition various technologies to front-line use. That job took me to Afghanistan for six months where, in a totally unique experience for an engineer, I was actually a mission commander for a reconnaissance drone. Talk about culture shock! Here I was, a totally inexperienced young officer (and nerd), embedded with an Army infantry battalion. The lingo, the pace, the mission, and even the sights and smells—everything was completely new for me. That deployment was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the skills, knowledge, endurance, and leadership I learned have proven invaluable. 

What is something few people know about you?  

RM: I live in Indianapolis, IN, but I’m actually a St. Louis, MO, native! Naturally, I’m a die-hard Cardinals fan. In St. Louis, I grew up watching Air National Guard jets fly over the house every day, and I went to MANY Cardinals games—even in the less-than-great years of the 1990s. So, between airplanes and the Cardinals, you could say my two “favorite things” come from my St. Louis roots. 

Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?  

RM: That’s hard to say! I’m going to break the rules and say I have three. First one is home with my family. I just love to be in the midst of my two young children, and my wife somehow keeps us all in line. Second one is any Air Force base. Jets thundering low overhead—”the sound of freedom”—never fails to get my blood pumping. Third, the summit of any mountain. I love the feeling of accomplishment and the natural beauty you can see from the top of a mountain. There’s just no other view like it, and every summit has a different story. 

Our team includes some of the brightest minds in digital transformation, and we’re glad to call them our teammates. Let us know who else you’d like to see featured in a future 7 Questions article on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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