You might say that authenticity has come to define a great deal of Ryan Stevens’ professional life.
He serves as Head of Operations for Clutch, a company that provides in-depth reviews of IT, marketing, and business service providers. In overseeing a team that helps its clients get the best outcomes from Clutch’s data, Stevens focuses on delivering solutions that are grounded in the reality of vetted and unbiased testimonials; the market research allows companies to look past the type of paid results that blur fact from fiction about potential B2B partners, guiding them to make better buying decisions for their organizations.
He’s been at it with Washington D.C.-based Clutch for more than seven years now, but insists that in his current role, which he’s had for just over three of those years, no day ever looks the same. He enjoys the fresh challenges that come with that stretch across many different areas of business.
“I get to weave in and out, building strategies for revenue, operations, product go-to-market, and marketing,” Stevens says.
But having held a variety of positions within Clutch, he’s had a wealth of experiences that have shaped his career and his outlook about effective collaboration and leadership.
“While I’ve been with the same company for the better part of my career, it has evolved and changed as we’ve grown,” Stevens says. “It often feels that I’ve worked at seven different companies. Each year, there are more new people, with new business challenges to solve. Because I started on the ground floor with Clutch, I believe I have a deeper level of empathy for the teammates within my organization because I understand and was once responsible for the same work that they’re doing today. Growing within the company has helped teach me the importance of maintaining a strong level of empathy for teammates at all levels.”
Preserving connections with those he works with—those who may be executing on the same sets of responsibilities he was tasked with—requires an integrity and honesty with himself, his past, and his commitment to Clutch’s future.
True Selves, High Ideals
Stevens’ authenticity, a stance shared by his organization culturally and supported by its mission to promote unbiased reviews shared through its platform, underscores the growing idea that bringing our real selves to work brings benefits both to us and our employers. For him, staying true to himself has positively impacted his career and professional relationships.
“I value a culture of openness and personal connection. I believe personal connections lead to connections with the business and help create an environment where constructive conflict is acceptable and ultimately drives a team or organization to a better deliverable,” he says.
But he realizes that achieving that level of openness requires effort across the board. “I’d like to acknowledge that as a society we have a lot of work to do to ensure all people are able and supported in showing up as their authentic selves in the workplace,” Stevens says. “I feel very fortunate that my founder and CEO have laid the foundation for a safe workplace for all and opened the door for me to expand that safe space.”
Continuing on that theme, Stevens says another challenge he often tackles as Head of Operations derives from the fact that the firm’s clients represent a wide range of backgrounds from across the planet.
“Clutch provides services to customers all over the world, and our team is regularly faced with learning and navigating how to communicate across cultures,” he explains.
His secret power? McIntire, of course.
“My time at the Comm School fostered knowledge of a vast array of cultures, an understanding of the global economy, and helped give me a global outlook on business and how it is so intertwined across cultures and borders.”
A Committed Alumnus
Stevens said that while a good number of his UVA memories that made the greatest impression on him took place within Rouss & Robertson Halls, many also occurred far beyond it as well.
“I love the global immersion experiences offered during January terms. I had the opportunities to experience Southeast Asia with Professor Trey Maxham and Bangladesh with Professor Brad Brown,” he recalls, explaining that the faculty members’ passions for those respective regions fostered his interest in global commerce. “It factors heavily in my current work. And the January term in Southeast Asia actually led to an internship in Vietnam after my third year,” says Stevens.
“My finance degree laid the foundation for my understanding of an area of business that is more complex than most. It also reinforced that my passion doesn’t lay in finance, nor am I all that good at it,” he reveals, noting how he spent his first few years in the professional world as an Analyst with Capital One. That experience offered some clarity about where he saw his career going. “Working at a large corporation helped reinforce my desire to work for a startup/growth stage company.”
He also credits the broad range of the subject matter within the Comm School’s Integrated Core with some of his ability to adapt quickly as he moved between roles. “It has allowed me to weave in and out so many aspects of business because it forces you to be a smart generalist. I believe the intentionality of ICE to expose students to multiple disciplines has been crucial to my success in operations.”
Stevens has kept in close contact with the School, serving as a McIntire Advisory Board Member and engaging with students as an Alumni Mentor. While he says he’s still in his early days as a board member, it has quickly proven to be a worthwhile commitment. “I have already made so many meaningful relationships with people who are just as passionate about their McIntire experience as I am and excited to improve it. I’m looking forward to deepening these relationships and exploring ways to improve McIntire for future students,” he says.
Having acted as a mentor for two years, Stevens says it has been “incredibly rewarding,” as he is currently advising two minority, first-generation students. “I identify as both of those as well, so it has been a very focused way for me to give back. We’re currently in the midst of locking in their internship and full-time job offers,” he says proudly.
When asked about his most cherished moments at the Comm School, he can’t help but offer an honest memory: “I know the faculty will hate to hear this, but one memory that sticks out is before a particularly difficult test: chair racing through the basement floor of Rouss & Robertson in somewhat of a delirium in the early hours of the morning.”
It’s the type of unique bonding moment that happens spontaneously among students desperate to let off steam as they strive to excel under the rigors of a McIntire education. And it’s the kind of ephemeral moment that defines friendships and solidifies connections, making those Comm School connections lifelong ones. You couldn’t hold that type of truth against Stevens then or now, but nor would most think to, knowing how much he cares about McIntire.