#WeAreArity Wednesday: Ryan Walton

Meet Ryan Walton from our Engineering team.

What is something interesting we would not know about you just by looking?

I’m a certified drone pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). I’m able to legally fly drones for commercial purposes.

Years ago – I would say probably a good ten years ago, maybe – I was building drones just for a hobby. It was just something that I was interested in. At the time, they didn’t have the word “drone” associated with them. They were more like radio-controlled helicopters that were autonomous. And so, eventually the FAA started talking more about how drones might impact commercial industries — we heard about Amazon, we heard about Walmart, we heard about some of the other ones that might be doing delivery or something with these drones.

And what was interesting to me was a way that these could be used for responses to emergencies, particularly situations where it would be advantageous to send a robot – like a drowning or a gas leak. It might be dangerous to have a person go try to retrieve someone.

I was very intrigued by that side of it. And so, I started learning more about what the FAA requirements were and took a course at an airport. It was, I think, a four-week course.

Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?

That would be great. I would love to learn Mandarin.

I actually know Japanese. I lived in Japan when I was young. In eighth grade, we had the guidance counselors come over from the high school to talk about picking your classes and getting ready for college.

They talked about how foreign languages are one of the things that colleges like to see on a transcript. My high school was lucky enough to have five languages, and so the guidance counselors briefly talked about Latin, German, French, Spanish, and then just mentioned Japanese at the end. Basically, they said that we have a Japanese program and then moved on. And so, I raised my hand and asked about it.

The guidance counselor seemed like they didn’t really know too much about the Japanese program at the high school and kind of said it ends up being too difficult for most students. That was enough for me to take the challenge.

I had an amazing teacher. He was a gentleman from Idaho, and he had lived in Japan teaching English for, I think, eight years at the time. He really helped instill the culture, the knowledge, and how amazing the people were. And I was hooked.

I did what I could to get on the Rotary International Foreign Exchange Program. So, I went through a big, long process with Rotary and was selected by them. It was a pretty prestigious thing at the time, and they sponsored me to be a foreign exchange student my junior year of high school in Japan.

I was there for a full year my junior year. It was like a full immersion, so there were no English speakers. There were a few foreigners in the town I was in, but not very many. And so, from day one, it was Japanese culture and language all day, every day. As you might imagine, it was pretty challenging in the beginning, especially at my age, too. But it got better once I started getting the hang of the language, and it ended up making an impact on me.

Every day of my life I talk about it. You’ll probably even hear it in my voice. I start to perk up when I talk about Japan. It’s just an absolutely amazing country. I can’t say enough good things about it. So, that’s kind of where my Japanese language started.

Nowadays, if I could have one language to learn just instantaneously, I would love to learn Mandarin. I started to learn a little bit of Mandarin a few years ago, working with a gentleman here at Arity just because he was an Android developer and I’m an iOS developer. He was from China, and he knew I had a background in Japanese. So, we started with some of the written language because there are some similarities there. Then I tried to pick up a little bit of Mandarin from him along the way.

What is an item on your bucket list that you haven’t done yet?

I would love to take my children camping. In this day and age, we don’t get out as much as we used to – at least as much as I did when I was a kid. We used to stay out riding bikes or playing with friends until the streetlights came on. But the kids nowadays — it’s almost a rarity to have them outside for an extended period of time.

Everybody likes to hang out inside. So, I would like to check that off my bucket list and take the kids either camping and maybe go see a waterfall while we’re at it.

What was the worst job you ever had?

It was maybe fifth or sixth grade, and I did the newspaper delivery.

In the neighborhood, there was a neighborhood girl who always had the delivery route, along with her mom. It was over summer break, and they were going on vacation, so they asked me if I would do the newspaper delivery for a couple days.

This is in the Midwest, so I was waking up at 4:30 a.m. as a young kid in the morning – it’s super hot, and you have to do this even in the rain. They had one of those little red wagons that you pull.

As a fifth or sixth grader, I felt embarrassed even though nobody was up. But I’m carrying around this little red wagon with newspapers in it. It was one of those things that, even today I’m like, man, that was really just a bummer of a job. If it rained, it was the worst. You would have to put the newspapers in these little plastic bags, too.

How would you describe your job to a five-year-old?

I’ve done this many times, and the best way is, “I make apps for the iPhone.” And it clicks almost every time — they know.

What piece of advice would you share with your younger self?

Something along the lines of slowing down, taking time, and enjoying the passage of time.

What is an easy way to do something nice for someone?

I have to say, it’s about connecting. When you speak with someone, speak respectfully, speak cordially, speak articulately, and then relate to them.

I have an example. Just the other day, I go into The Home Depot to return something, and I see the lady at the desk is having a rough day. You can just tell by the mannerisms, the emotions. She says, “Oh, how are you?” I said, “Oh, I’m doing well. How are you?” And instantly, she perks up and there starts to be some light there.

Then I said, “How’s your day and everything?” She said, “Oh, today—,” and she wanted to complain a little bit. So, she complains about her day. I said, “That’s terrible. Hopefully, you’ll have a better day after this.” Gave her some positivity and some support.

I saw it happen. It really did brighten her day. And this is an easy thing that people can do. Make that connection with people, relate to people, and remember that we’re all in this together.

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Arity is a mobility data and analytics company. We provide data-driven solutions to companies invested in transportation, enabling them to deliver mobility services that are smarter, safer, and more economical.