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Stories from Soundings: Alumni Turn Van Loan School Experiences into Successful Businesses

Ryan Heidorn working with his business partner
One co-founded a cybersecurity company. The other is on a mission to help fellow artists. Both are living out their dreams thanks to a master’s degree from the Van Loan School at Endicott College.
1/10/2019

One co-founded a cybersecurity company. The other is on a mission to help fellow artists. Both are living out their dreams thanks to a master’s degree from the Van Loan School at Endicott College.

Ryan Heidorn M’12

A Master of Science in Information Technology from the Van Loan School at Endicott College can provide endless opportunities. Just ask alumnus Ryan Heidorn M’12. Heidorn, who previously worked in Endicott’s academic technology department, met his future business partner, Scott Freedson M’12, while earning his master’s degree at the Van Loan School. Together, they turned their shared interests in security and small business into an exciting new startup: Steel Root, a cybersecurity company in Salem, Mass.

“As more jobs are lost to outsourcing and automation, I think that the broad and creative approach to technology an Endicott graduate degree offers will foster skills that can never be outsourced.”

Ryan Heidorn posed

“The master’s program gave us a high-level understanding of IT strategy along with methods of aligning IT objectives with business objectives,” says Heidorn. “It took the technical interests and skills we had already honed and allowed us to think more broadly about how those could be applied to a business perspective.”

Heidorn originally went to college to pursue a career in politics and law, but an internship helped him realize that wasn’t the right path. Instead, he pursued a career in IT, which led to a master’s degree and the skills needed to co-found Steel Root in October 2015. 

His company helps small businesses with software, hardware, and services, allowing them to focus on their core business goals without the costly overhead of in-house IT infra-structure.

With more than 350,000 jobs unfilled cybersecurity jobs nationally, there’s a significant need for qualified profes-sionals, which is one of the reasons why Heidorn believes the Van Loan School program is so successful.  

“It helps you differentiate yourself from people who come out of school with a very specialized degree,” says Heidorn. “As more jobs are lost to outsourcing and automation, I think that the broad and creative approach to technology an Endicott graduate degree offers will foster skills that can never be outsourced.”

While cybersecurity wasn’t a specific offering at the Van Loan School while Heidorn was there, it now is one of two specializations available for homeland security. There’s also a separate certificate program.

Lucas Spivey M’14

Lucas Spivey posedWhen Lucas Spivey first discovered his 1957 Shasta camper in The Dalles, Ore., it was full of beehives and littered with bullet holes. But, it wasn’t the flaws that Spivey focused on, it was the potential.

The former Van Loan School at Endicott College graduate student utilized his years of creative experience and his Master of Business Administration in Finance (M’14) to create the Mobile Incubator. The original intent was for it to be a mobile office, but what it turned into is so much more than that.

“I realized that it really should be a work of public art, because it made everyone so happy,” says Spivey. “People wanted to take selfies, and people wanted to know how it was made. So, I decided it should tour as a work of public art, and I would open the door as a public art piece, and people could come in and get business advice.”

As Spivey demonstrates, there are endless possibilities with an MBA, and the Endicott program was the perfect complement to his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington.

After doing freelance work with artists and galleries, he made the switch to higher education and was the gallery manager at Montserrat College of Art. 

He then opened his own art gallery in Beverly, Mass., which was an important step in his decision to pursue an MBA.

“I started working in galleries because I wanted artists to have more opportunities, and that’s why I started my own gallery,” says Spivey. “I just wanted to help artists. What I realized is that the exhibitions were really great for them, but often what was most helpful for them was sitting down and talking about their goals and what they wanted to accomplish in their career. They were able to figure out the gallery system eventually, but they really had a hard time putting together a plan for themselves professionally.

“A lot of the MBA programs that I looked at were very conceptual and theory-based. I didn’t want that. I wanted things that I could put into practice immediately.”

That’s exactly why he turned his full-time professional focus to his consulting business, Services Invisible, and went back to school at Endicott.

“The MBA program was so good,” says Spivey. “I recommend it to everyone I talk to, and I especially recommend it to artists. And the reason I do that is a lot of the MBA programs that I looked at were very conceptual and theory-based. I didn’t want that. I wanted things that I could put into practice immediately.”

This article is featured in the Winter 2019 edition of Soundings, the Endicott College magazine that highlights happenings in our community such as academic program enhancements, alumni spotlights, student successes, campus news, sports highlights, faculty accolades, and community successes.

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