studio (un)scripted: 5 questions with ryan eakin.

RYAN EAKIN, HR Manager, New York Times (and social media savant)

The studio is my happy place. Where is yours? 

This is a two-prong answer. My absolute, and I mean, when I am at my most at peace and so happy that it’s almost other-worldly, I am in Big Sur, California. It sounds cliche, but I don’t care. Everyone goes to Big Sur to surf, hike, or find themselves, but there is a reason for that. It’s just majestic and a testament to the significance of nature and the preservation of space to be at peace with yourself.

When I can’t get out to California, I LOVE riding my Citibike as fast as I can for like an hour through the streets of Manhattan, Mexico City, or wherever else I am living at that time. I blast, and I mean the volume is at a roar level, Swedish house or Berlin trance music, and just pedal until I am mentally empty and physically drained. There is something about the beats and the rhythms combined with the dodging and weaving of traffic in a city of millions that clears my head and allows for some of my best and deepest thinking.

You manage HR for the New York Times. What are some of the key traits you look for in the hiring process? 

This is easy. Integrity and curiosity. You can easily tell if someone is flubbing their resume or trying to poof up their experience. So many people think they are sly in their language, but the best hires are the ones that are direct about both their accomplishments and gaps. I’ve been in HR for over 10 years, and I’ve spoken to thousands of candidates during that time. You learn to read people (and their resumes) very fast. 

If someone is being dishonest or fluffing, that’s a signal to me that they aren’t comfortable saying, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t have an answer right now,” and that isn’t someone I want to work with. Nobody wants to hire someone that pretends to know everything. It’s not human. Curiosity is what gets someone far for me too. Asking questions, but also asking the right questions that demonstrate an ability to think with vision and strategy with a lens for empathy and optimizations. Integrity and curiosity are the two key traits I search for, and of course, direct experience related to the role lol.

As an avid world traveler, what kinds of things do different countries teach you about communications, marketing, career planning, etc.? 

You love asking me easy questions! Design. I cannot overstate how significant design is to communication and understanding when you experience new cultures with different languages, religions, and belief systems. If I can look at an image or signage at an airport, customs, a hotel, or a bike rack and easily understand, they did a helluva job thinking through marketing and communications. 

Being polite, curious, humble, and open is necessary to integrate into whichever country you’re in. Demonstrate a curiosity for the country and its people and be genuine, and it will take you far in life, travel, and communication overall. In terms of career planning, you realize the United States really is quite bizarre. In the past decade, I’ve spent years off and on in South and Central America and other countries, and whenever I get back to the States, I am so jarred at how life is structured around work. When you’re on the beaches of Uruguay with a laptop, nobody asks you what you do for work or if you’ve been to that resort in the Atlas Mountains. They ask about your favorite foods. It’s only in the States I’m asked what I do and for what company. It’s quite ludicrous how much the States brainwashes you to believe you are your job. And I say that having a job I love at a company I adore. When I die, my body isn’t going to know if I was a surfer/bartender or a Managing Director at a hedge fund; I’m just dead.

You do an incredible job of maintaining friendships all over the country and the world. How do you balance career, travel, family, and keeping in touch with your network? 

I have never been a person who sees work, family, travel, and friends as separate spaces in your life. It’s all life, and you just weave it together. Sometimes one area has to take more attention (usually work), but the beauty of life is that you can design it yourself. 

I also just love people. Personally, I have a hard time understanding how people consider other people work. I am that annoying person who boards an airplane and ends up talking to the person next to them for the entire flight. I’ve met the most amazing people on flights, and they, in turn, have introduced me to amazing people, and it goes and goes. Yes, it does take “work” in that when I see something that reminds me of someone, I text them a picture or a quick “I am thinking of you” note, and sometimes you do have to schedule calls. Still, to me, that’s the best part of life: picking up the phone and spontaneously reaching out to a friend from Australia whom I met 10 years ago during a grueling 40-hour bus ride in Peru to check in on his new baby. That’s real life. 

If you could ask me one thing, what would it be? 

Have you ever seen the movie Aladdin? 

To “travel the world” with Ryan, follow him on IG here.

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