Combining warmth with military-style precision

Shelli Ryan is board chairwoman for Dress for Success Southern Nevada, CEO of technology consultancy Ad Hoc Communication Resources and board chairwoman for the Stride Center.

Shelli Ryan is a busy woman in the business and philanthropic worlds. As CEO of Ad Hoc Communication Resources, an international consulting company she founded in 1996, she manages campaigns and teams all over the world. And away from the office, she works tirelessly as chairwoman for the Stride Center and Dress for Success Southern Nevada, nonprofit organizations that empower disadvantaged people to work toward fulfilling careers.

What do you hope to accomplish as board chairwoman for the Stride Center?

My passion is fighting poverty by helping low-income adults with barriers to employment achieve financial self-sufficiency. The Stride Center is one of California’s most effective workforce development organizations in training and placing the disadvantaged in vibrant, well-paying, upwardly mobile careers in the technology field.

As chairwoman, I hope to lead the social enterprise and its 34 staffers to accomplish three things:

1) To continue to deliver high-impact programs to low-income men, women and families.

2) To play an essential role to close the projected 1 million-worker gap in the information technology sector between now and 2020.

3) To empower those who come in contact with the Stride Center to know: Not all is beyond your control.

As the second woman to chair the board since the company’s inception in 1999, what are your goals for diversifying the company?

I broke into the technology field at 19 by writing software programming manuals for an engineering company, and I’ve been representing major multinational companies in the field ever since. Through most of my career, I’ve observed that women need to work harder, smarter and faster to be seen as equals to their male counterparts and to be recognized by upper management.

Perhaps the brightest hope is that, because of the visibility I bring as a female chair and by sharing my story, my example in some small way plays a role in empowering women not only to get into the technology field and get in the game but to play to win.

You also are board chairwoman for Dress for Success Southern Nevada. Tell us about the organization.

A neighbor of mine had been an executive director for Dress for Success in New Jersey and served on the worldwide board of directors. I had just relocated to Las Vegas from the Midwest and wanted to make a difference. She connected me to the founder of Dress for Success Southern Nevada, Paige Candee, and I joined her as a founding board member.

When Paige stepped down as acting chair and founder in 2012, I was nominated and unanimously approved by the board of directors as the new chairwoman. To date, we have served over 1,600 women in the valley with interview attire, a network of support and a variety of job-readiness programs.

But what I’m most proud of is our new career center, which provides our ladies with much-needed technology services, hardware and software, and experts who teach and advise them on how to conduct their best interview. Some of our clients don’t own a computer or know how to use the Internet, so this was a very big accomplishment for us. Complementing the career center is our new mentoring program that matches clients with volunteer mentors.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Hearing the phrase, “We can’t do it that way, because this is how we’ve always done it.”

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

About 80 percent of our business at Ad Hoc comes through referrals by clients or former clients. Our company helps chief sales officers of multinational companies get the most out of their marketing departments by nesting our outsourced chief marketing officers inside their team and providing them marketing services they may not have internally.

The most rewarding part of my job has been following our executives from company to company as they climb the corporate ladder and take us with them. Some executives have been with the Ad Hoc family for decades.

What are you reading right now?

I usually read biographies of businesspeople and try to reverse engineer their success. Lately, I have enjoyed fun, fast-reading books from Omaha author Rainbow Rowell. I just finished “Landline.” I am now ready to turn the pages of “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed.

Blackberry, iPhone or Android?

I’m very much a Blackberry girl but was forced to go to the Android several years ago after my ISP quit supporting the Blackberry network. It was a sad day.

Describe your management style.

I try to adjust my style of management to each situation, since part of my job is to assess the best way to complete a project efficiently and the style of leadership that works best with staff dynamics. However, I have been known for a style that combines warmth with military-style precision to empower teams.

What is your dream job?

Ice cream tester.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I played the accordion for nearly 10 years growing up.

Anything else you want to tell us?

I love Las Vegas, both for my business and life. Wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Tags: The Sunday