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Pride Month Profiles: Ryan Walsh

April 25, 2022

Human Resources Coordinator Ryan Walsh joined Noodle after more than a decade in the food and beverage industry. While working full time in customer service, Ryan had achieved his goal of becoming the first person in his family to graduate with a degree in higher education after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in World Languages and Cultures from Salem State University. His passion for the unknown, combined with his sense of adventure, led him to work in the People’s Republic of China for two years as Program Manager and educator for an English Language Arts School. He is currently a Coordinator on the Human Resources Team and is swiftly becoming an expert in project management.

Meet Human Resources Coordinator Ryan Walsh

“It’s always a two-way street between leader and team member.“

What does it mean for you to identify as LGBTQ+?

It’s the exact experience of who I am. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania in a place where being openly gay is a traumatic experience. I was taught from a young age that people like me had no place in this world; that somehow I was broken. 

Being openly gay means celebrating my uniqueness as a human. Identifying as LGBTQ+ is embracing those who share similar experiences to mine, but do not mirror myself. Every person, regardless of personal identity, has their own wants and needs, undergoes their own ups and downs, faces their own trauma and happiness.

I recently read that tolerance is giving to another human every right that you claim for yourself and that stuck with me. I am part of a community that recognizes, validates, and appreciates one another. The love that has been gifted to me by this group of amazing humans has allowed me to understand that I am, in fact, not broken.

Why did you choose to work in education? How have your educational experiences shaped your career?

I didn’t think I would end up working in education until I saw firsthand how it changes lives so drastically. Early in my career I managed an English Language arts school in Shanghai, China, for almost two years. I saw the impact of the program on the lives of its students and was incredibly inspired by that. Now, here at Noodle, one of my responsibilities is to develop, launch and run the Noodle internship program, which very much reminds me of my work in Shanghai because I know this program has the power to change lives. 

We accept undergraduate, graduate and post graduate interns into the program for 10 weeks during the summer. Our interns learn valuable skill sets and make meaningful contributions that impact our work on a day-to-day basis. It’s an immersive, 360-degree approach to the business world. And for me, it’s similarly fulfilling.

What traits does a great leader exhibit? 

Two of the most important traits necessary to great leadership are empathy and trust. Empathy is needed because you’re working with another person, and to understand and share their feelings is, in itself, human. A simple check-in at work can go a long way in establishing a meaningful relationship. This, in turn, builds trust which is a strong foundation for building a powerful team.

It’s always a two-way street between leader and team member. Great leaders place the needs of others before their own, they ask for feedback and they genuinely care for people before they care for numbers. I have a way to go before I am the leader I aspire to be, but I try my best to act like him in every role throughout my career.

What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle?

I worked in and out of food and beverage since the age of fourteen, which I feel prepared me for just about any job in the future. I started as a dishwasher and worked almost every Front of House role possible throughout high school and college. Before Noodle, I was bartending full time in Boston’s South End. The need to curate an experience for guests, serve with charisma, and control a room full of people can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences. As a result, I have the utmost respect for people in the service industry. The job is full of stress and always with unpredictable outcomes. 

To survive, you learn quickly that guests are human, you’re not managing a life and death experience, and nothing will always go according to plan. Remembering those facts helps prepare you for a plethora of jobs in your future. The food & beverage industry teaches you to take control of what you can, and try not to let the rest upset you too much. Working in restaurants is a combination of sales, customer service and provision 101. It’s storytelling and listening, too. 

Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences. Please provide a specific example.

From an early age in rural Pennsylvania, I had a sense of adventure, and, more importantly, a desire to mend something in me that I thought was broken. While still in high school, I was accepted as a Rotary International Youth Exchange Student, and lived and studied in Naples, Italy, for ten months. This, I thought, was my way out; the surgery I needed to fix myself. When I arrived, I couldn’t speak a word of Italian. I had no idea what I was in for.

The best advice they gave us before we left was to cry in the shower, not to let anyone see us upset from loneliness and being homesick. The experience ripped my world apart and threw it back at me in a way I never could have imagined. Then after I returned, I moved around the country to different states like North Carolina and Massachusetts, did some travel for pleasure, then ended up in Shanghai for work. Boston kept calling my name, so I happily landed here to my chosen home.

The exposure to so many different people, places, and experiences in a relatively short period of time has taught me a few important things:

  1. Traveling with purpose is very different from running away. 
  2. Listening with intent is key to survival, especially when you don’t speak the language so well and you need to find the nearest bathroom.
  3. Humility is powerful and perspective is priceless.

I learned interpersonal communication, empathy, and to always be attentive, even when it seems impossible. I think about my past experiences and then reflect on the world of people operations and HR–it’s one of those aha moments.

What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?

Taking time to hold conversations outside of work objectives is one of my most effective tools. I find that asking personal questions has a huge impact on the other individual’s attitude in the workplace. I enjoy taking the time to check-in, ask about life details like family and weekend plans, and then get down to business. The quality of a person’s work increases exponentially when they’re treated as a human first and a colleague second. I think this is something we at Noodle do extremely well and I’m happy to be part of a community of professionals that recognizes the value in this.

Please provide an example of how you introduced an innovative idea or practice at Noodle.

Because of my experience in food and beverage, when the pandemic hit, I created the Noodle Bar as a socializing tool and a way to build teams even though we were all working remotely. It was a dark time and it wasn’t easy to put it together, but it worked. We still use it to kick off events and celebrations, like Pride 2021! We’ve done it a number of times, and a lot of people still look forward to it.

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