Tell us a little about yourself: where did you go to college, what was your first job out of college, what do you do now?
I grew up in Albany’s South End, and after graduating from Albany High School, I attended Union College in Schenectady to pursue dual degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics. My first job after Union was as the Program Director at the local non-profit 15-LOVE. They provide tennis and educational programming for inner-city kids throughout the Capital Region. I really enjoyed working with kids and helping the program grow (I'm now on their board).
Eventually, I decided to go to law school and moved to Cleveland, Ohio to attend the Case Western University School of Law. I’ve been specializing in intellectual property law (i.e. patent and trademark law) ever since.
Do you remember how you felt when you learned you were accepted into Sponsor-A-Scholar?
I was part of the very first class of Scholars, so my first reaction was “What is it?”. Once I found out, I remember feeling very honored, and very excited about the scholarship.
What was the most important aspect of Sponsor-A-Scholar for you?
The most important aspect of Sponsor-A-Scholar for me was the personalized advice and guidance that I received from teachers and tutors in the program. Specifically, they really helped me identify what my goals were after high school, and what I needed to do at that time to reach my goals. I remember when it was time to prepare for the SAT, and having no idea how to do it. They helped me get access to SAT prep software (which at the time was very new and very expensive), and this really helped me improve my scores. Another good decision that I can attribute to Sponsor-A-Scholar was my decision to attend Union College. I promised one of the teachers I would visit, after being sure that I did not want to stay in the Capital Region for college. Ultimately, I knew that Union was the right choice for me and had a great experience there.
How have your dreams or goals for yourself changed since you were in high school?
In high school, my goals were primarily career focused and based around my education. Now, I’m done with school, I’m settled into a career, but I’m also married with a young son and another child on the way. So in addition to professional goals, I now have a lot of dreams and goals that are family oriented. Since my professional growth is related to opportunities I can provide for my family, they go hand in hand.
Do you think your high school self would be surprised or impressed by your current occupation?
Yes, because I’d never heard the term “intellectual property” until I was close to graduating from college! I was also very quiet in high school, so the thought that I would soon be advising clients around the world on patent and trademark issues would have been a surprise.
How did your mentor help you in high school and/or college?
Herb Shultz has been a great mentor and friend of mine for 20+ years at this point. He’s always provided great advice throughout the years. At one important crossroad, his words of encouragement were very helpful in the decision I made to attend law school. It was great to have Herb and his wife, Cynthia, at my wedding a few years ago, and we still meet up a few times a year.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome to earn your degree(s)?
Staying motivated is tough, especially when you’re pursuing a career that requires those extra years of graduate school. The hardest part about staying motivated is staying motivated once you hit setbacks (a bad grade, personal or family issues...etc.).
I think it’s important to realize that setbacks in college and graduate school are completely normal, and are in fact integral to any path to success. Any goal that’s worth reaching is not attainable by traveling an easy path. Once you realize that setbacks are integral to big accomplishments, it can help you to stay motivated and continue to charge forward.
How did having a mentor change the way you approached other relationships since high school or college?
Realizing how valuable that mentor-mentee relationship was for me, I’ve mentored many kids from my community. One day, after I retire, I would like to dedicate a significant amount of time mentoring kids from the communities where I grew up.
Did you seek out mentors in college or as you’ve built your career? How have you done this?
I’ve been lucky to have access to some great mentors in the legal profession. I think it’s important especially early on to take job opportunities that match you with great teachers. It’s also important early on to diversify your experience, so that you can learn from mentors who have different perspectives.
One way I did this was clerking one summer during law school at the U.S. District Court in Albany for Judge Kahn. This was the best of both worlds because Judge Kahn was a great mentor, and at the same time I was able to learn about law from the perspective of the judiciary, which ultimately helped me become a better attorney.
If you could talk with your 18-year-old self about where you are now, what would you tell him?
Besides giving stock tips, I would say go with your gut. It’s easy to second-guess big decisions, but sometimes you have to go with your gut and go after what you really want. No risk, no reward!
What does Sponsor-A-Scholar mean to you now that you have several degrees?
I was able to reconnect with the program recently and speak to students at the graduation dinner. I’m happy to see that the program has grown so much since I graduated in 2001. For me, Sponsor-A-Scholar is special because it steered me early-on towards where I am today. I hope that sharing my experience with younger students can help them get to where they want to be.
If you could say one thing to your Sponsor, what would it be?
Thank you! Sometimes it’s hard to know when your help actually makes a difference. In the case of Sponsor-A-Scholar, I can tell you personally, it does!
Thank You, Ryan! What a wonderful story!