Q&A with Ryan McGann: From Engineering Graduate to Entrepreneur
May 6, 2013
During his transition from engineering graduate to entrepreneur, Ryan McGann found helpful resources that helped him start his business, Solar Cool Technologies, a research and development firm that specializes in portable temperature stabilization systems. A trip to the beach inspired Ryan to create a portable solar-assisted refrigerating cooler that can also charge electronics. His creation is said to offset thousands of pounds of CO2 per year. In the span of 10 years, McGann took his knowledge gained from his studies in obtaining a mechanical engineering degree at Stony Brook University on Long Island in New York and set off on his journey to become CEO at Solar Cool Technologies, where he directs an extended team of 12 people. In an exclusive interview with IMT Career Journal, McGann explained how he got to where he is today. IMT Career Journal: So what inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Did you join any competitions as a student? McGann: I found out about the DARE Competition (Dare to Risk Entrepreneurship) at Stony Brook University, and the prize money ($20,000) helped me kick-start my business with the funding of prototypes and legal fees. My prototype was the Solar Cooler. IMT Career Journal: Now that you're an entrepreneur, how do you use your engineering skills on a daily basis? McGann: I use my engineering skills every day, from running a lean operation, and for most of the R&D work. I like doing the top-level design work and initial layout and mechanism work. I also need to communicate with other engineers. IMT Career Journal: When you were a student, what was most effective in helping you reach entrepreneurship? McGann: I had one professor who [had real-world business knowledge, and he relayed a lot of his knowledge to the class by [comparing his experiences with a textbook and sometimes disagreeing with the material. IMT Career Journal: You spoke at the recent 2013 Advanced Energy Conference, where you mentioned that colleges need a better way to bring together engineering classes and business tracks. What did you mean? McGann: I took some marketing classes, but I found that there was a tension between business schools and engineering. IMT Career Journal: What resources have helped you as an entrepreneur? McGann: The money [from the DARE competition helped, but it was the mentors that I absorbed through the competition that helped [the most. There were amazing people that came up to me afterwards, such as the Long Island Angels. I developed a post-competition network. One friend of the family was also an investor in my business. IMT Career Journal: What advice can you give to engineering students looking to follow in your footsteps as an entrepreneur? McGann: [Students shouldn't be afraid to approach entrepreneurs to ask for advice. Future entrepreneurs usually know who they are. They want to make a bigger impact, and I found that it's strategic to start a business as a college student before bills pile up. IMT Career Journal: What are your plans for your business? McGann: I'm gearing up for our soft launch and getting feedback from customers.