November 2011 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Ryan Gellert: Climbing High 

Tags: Education & Careers

Ryan Gellert

Ryan Gellert is vice president, supply chain management at Black Diamond Equipment, a mountain sports products company. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Black Diamond operates manufacturing and distribution facilities there and in Southeast China; a sewing plant in Calexico, Calif.; a marketing office in Yokohama, Japan; and a sales, marketing, and distribution operation near Basel, Switzerland.

Responsibilities: Global demand planning, sales and operations planning, global procurement, logistics, and in-house customer service.

Experience: Managing director, Black Diamond Equipment Asia; senior director supply chain management, Black Diamond Equipment.

Education: Univ. of N.C., BSBA, finance, 1994; Florida Inst. of Technology, MBA, contract management, 1996; S.J. Quinney College of Law, Univ. of Utah, JD, 2005.

 

While finishing work on my MBA in 1995, I moved west for the snowboarding, and soon got into rock climbing as well. I applied for an operations job at Black Diamond (BD) because I wanted to work in an industry that was connected with one of my passions.

When BD offered me a job in the warehouse, I figured they must have been looking at the wrong application. But they told me that even if I started out packing boxes, I'd get a chance to network my way into bigger opportunities. And that was absolutely true. Within two months, I was working on a project with the vice president of operations, who is still my boss today.

After four years in various positions at Black Diamond, I decided to leave in 2002 to attend law school. I got interested while doing some law-related volunteering with the homeless population and prisoners. I also wanted a chance to step away and figure out my next career move. I spent three years at school, including one summer in Europe and one in China.

Based on that experience, I decided I'd like to work in China for a few years. So when the CEO of BD offered me a chance to come back and do just that, he got my attention. After finishing law school in 2005, I moved to China full time to launch Black Diamond Asia.

Helping BD put that business in place is my proudest career accomplishment. I started out alone: I had a hotel room, a laptop computer, a company credit card, and a three-quarters-baked business plan.

By January 2006, we had a business license, a site location, and a small staff. By April, we were starting to assemble product. For a company our size, what we accomplished was ambitious, and it gives us a strong competitive advantage.

I returned to Salt Lake City in 2010 to take on my current role overseeing the global supply chain. Now that I'm no longer in Asia, staying plugged into that operation is the trickiest part of my job. It literally keeps me up at night because of conference calls and other communications across 15 time zones. The challenge doesn't so much involve making the calls or sending the e-mails as it does staying aware of what's going on in the Asia operation.

BD went public in May 2010, and we set some ambitious goals that we're fueling through organic growth in existing product categories and new ones, plus acquisitions. Currently, our biggest project is branching out from technical hard goods into technical apparel.

That means working with new suppliers for components, branded materials, and cut-and-sew. They work differently than our suppliers on the hard goods side. It also means moving into a new geographic region and developing new systems for managing the workflow.

One factor that sets Black Diamond apart from our competitors is the breadth of product we offer, combined with our singular focus. Many competitors either offer a more narrow range of outdoor equipment or divide their focus between equipment for sports and industrial applications. We're proud to say that we focus entirely on sports.

 

The Big Questions

Who were your early influences?

Growing up as a surfer and skateboarder in a Florida beach town, I got to know people who built their careers around doing things they loved. One of my first bosses, a skateboard manufacturer, was a lifelong skateboarder and surfer. People like that had a strong impact on my decision to work at Black Diamond.

Scariest career decision?

Leaving Black Diamond in 2002 to attend law school. It gave me a chance to re-evaluate my career. It also helped me develop some skills that serve me well now, such as the ability to take a lot of diverse information, boil it down to its essence, and communicate it clearly.

How do you recharge your batteries when you're not working?

I spend as much time as I can with my family and friends. I go rock climbing, cycling, and snowboarding. I also try to make one or two international climbing trips each year, such as my recent trips to Jordan and Mongolia.

Near-term travel plans?

Iceland is high on the list of countries I'd like to see with my wife and son, and I'd like to go climbing in Mali and Croatia soon.