Ryan is Joining the REI Digital Retail Team

Ryan Ricketts in front of an REI store in Columbus, Ohio

After nearly eight years, this is my last week at Whirlpool Corporation in southwest Michigan.

It feels weird writing that out. When I joined the company after college in 2007, I didn’t imagine the sheer amount of opportunities ahead of me at Whirlpool. It’s filled with an ethical, smart, dedicated group of people who strive to build great products. And I’m really going to miss everyone.

My good friend, Randy, said to me that “change is hard even when you want it.” For me, leaving Whirlpool was a tough decision that was ultimately necessary in order for me to grow. It’s time for an adventure in a new area of the country and with new professional challenges. But it won’t make it any easier to leave.

I’ll miss campfires and beach Bible study in the summer, harvest festivals and corn mazes in the fall, snow cream and dune sledding in the winter, and hammock backpacking in the spring. I’ll miss Daniel Deitrich’s worship sessions at First Church of God. I’ll miss my many housemates and living situations over the years—in the house that got smashed by a tree with “Frodo” and Brian, in the wood-paneled cabin on the sand with Adam, in a dream house next to the beach with Tim and Geiger, in a haunted house with Caleb, in the country with Matt and a biker gang, and in the recovering neighborhoods of Benton Harbor with Chris and Amanda.

I’ll miss feeling adopted by the Deitrich family and accepted by my House family.

The smell of Silver Beach Pizza, the taste of Greenbush beer, and the Sriracha spiciness of Phoenix Rising’s breakfast BLT will all hold a special place in my heart. I’ll have to trade the drinks of Journeyman Distillery for an equally hipster location in Seattle, but I’ll still wear my same red buffalo flannel.

So what’s my next adventure?

Seattle skyline during sunset

In early April, I’ll be moving to Seattle, Washington, to join the Digital Retail Team at REI as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Program Manager. The role rubs shoulders with a bright group of marketers, information architects, user experience designers, and programmers.

Someone asked me what I thought about the folks I’ve met so far at REI, and I said they seemed “intelligent, patient, and kind.” These are my favorite kind of people.

I have to admit that I’m a little scared. It’s hard not to be scared when you’re moving so far from home and starting fresh with a new group of friends. If you know anyone awesome in Seattle I would love to be introduced.

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people for already helping me—namely, to Danny Dover, Jonathon Colman, Justin Schoen, Jennifer Sable Lopez, Andy Nelson, Randy Bennett, and others. I also received prayers and counsel from friends and family all over the country (thanks everyone!).

Look for many more Tweets, posts, and pictures as I prepare for a cross-country road trip with my brother and for my new life in Seattle.

SEO as a Matter of Life and Death

This past week I gave a free search engine optimization (SEO) consultation to a non-profit that is working to address teen struggles with suicide, addiction, and self-mutiliation. It’s a dark topic but one that I know can be remedied with counseling, prayer, determination, and the right people to tend a listening ear. That is, I know it can be remedied if teens can actually find help quickly.

Normally I work on optimizing e-commerce sites in order to increase search engine rankings, visibility, and ultimately, sales. As noble as this is, my freelance work for RemedyLIVE will be much more important.

Because now it’s about real problems.

I had a panic moment while working on this project because I realized my work was a matter of life and death. To these teens struggling with suicide, typing a keyword or phrase into Google, Yahoo!, or Bing is a cry for help. Instead of “washers” and “dryers,” my task was to optimize for “cutting, help me, I’m struggling.”

More than ever before, it’ll be so important that the best sites rise to the top. These teens need to find relevant answers to their questions. Fast.

To those involved in the search engine business, be it an optimizer, marketer, developer, or admirer, think for a minute about our work. This is a new industry with many extremely talented people, great tools, and access to reams of data. Much like the design industry did, I propose a similar awakening.

No pressure, but what if we decided—as a community—to donate some services to non-profit companies that really need help. Are there examples of folks already doing this?

And to everyone else, let me know if there’s an especially good cause that is in dire need of some help.

Because what we need now is to realize our gifts and find ways to use them for good.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @RyanRicketts.