Hello! My name is Ryan Gex. The question everyone asks when people see my last name is, “how do you pronounce it?”, so I will answer that question first. It’s French and pronounced “J”. There is a small town outside of Geneva, Switzerland with the same name. I think that this small town with the mispronounced name has influenced my life and aspirations.

I’m from a town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called Sewickley and I attended a private school with a graduating class of 70 students. While I valued the individual attention and support of a small community, I recognized the limitations too. To achieve my goals I needed to push myself and gain exposure to high levels of competition. One of my passions is competitive sports. In high school, I played on four varsity teams starting as a freshman, which is something I may not have been able to do at a larger school. I supplemented my high school sports training with travel teams and was able to lead my high school teams to win five state championships in three different sports (golf, tennis, and soccer). I love the camaraderie and friendships developed through team sports, such as hockey and soccer, and the independence and self-confidence gained in individual sports, like tennis and golf.

Travel and service work was also important to me in high school. My service work focused on health care and infrastructure development. Through Duke’s Engineering for Global Health course I traveled to a Mayan Village in Belize to assist doctors with health education and medical assistance. I also went to Haiti after the earthquake to distribute water filtration and vitamin packets to families. Although these trips were eye-opening and beneficial, my work in Fiji fueled my interest in Engineering because it involved hands-on construction projects. We dug trenches and laid pipe so villages could access clean water, and we built sidewalks for travel. I hope to engage in similar work during college.

My interest in Duke University initiated during March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. My father attended Duke, and my mother attended Georgetown, so the tournament always sparked lively discussions. In fact, from the time I could fill out a bracket my family had contests to see whose teams would go the farthest. Aside from basketball, the list of schools in the tournament gave me my first introduction to colleges. During my college search, I focused on schools with strong Engineering programs because I was and still am interested in applying leading-edge technology to design and build products that solve complex problems. Duke was my top choice! Not only did it satisfy my education interests, but it also provided me the opportunity to fulfill my travel and service pursuits through Duke Engage and Duke Engineers for International Development. Finally, I can continue to balance my academic aspirations with participation in competitive sports. Club golf and hockey allow me to have fun, compete at a high level, and represent Duke.

One of my goals is to work in a business development role to gain an understanding of how products progress from the R&D stage to the consumer. Ultimately, I want to work at a startup company and initiate ideas by researching market opportunities and working with multi-disciplined teams throughout the entire business development process. During my internship at a construction equipment company that was launching a new product, I worked with Engineering, Marketing, and IT to develop and execute a marketing plan. The plan consisted of creating product specifications for each model of equipment, identifying target customer profiles, and forming a training video for sales reps and customer service.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program at Duke will supplement the Engineering curriculum with experiences and classes in business and strategy to help me achieve my long-term career goals. Many innovations today are driven by new technology or using existing technology in new capacities. Although the opportunities for new product development seem endless, resources are limited. I want to understand how to evaluate project ideas and successfully execute all phases of the funding, development, and production process to earn a return on the investment. Many of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program courses cover these topics.