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Keeping an Open Mind Leads to Career Fit

By Linda Barrett

April 5, 2024

Ryan Thielen standing on an outdoor balcony with his dog, Toby

Some students begin the RMI MBA program knowing the kind of position they are seeking upon graduation. Alumnus Ryan Thielen (MBA ’19) was one such student, and keeping an open mind helped to refine his interest further.

Spending several years on a team at EPIC Systems after his undergraduate degree, Ryan worked with various organizations to implement different software solutions. He managed a product design team that flourished by moving paper and manual processes to software automations. Yearning to have a deeper understanding of strategy, leadership, and the underlying reasons behind why leaders make the decisions they do, he decided to pursue a risk and insurance MBA program.

From the start of his graduate education, Ryan knew he wanted to be a consultant, such as with a large consulting company like Deloitte or PricewaterhouseCoopers. He obtained a summer consulting internship at Cactus Healthcare Resources to begin to put consulting theory to practice. Then, keeping an open mind, Ryan had a conversation with a colleague from one of the organizations he collaborated with at EPIC. The colleague told Ryan of an internal consulting position that was opening. As an internal consultant, Ryan shared that he “would be able to see projects and plans from concept to completion, and not move from company to company or client to client. For those reasons, I came to understand that an internal consulting role was much more attractive to me than an external role.” The position at Kaiser Permanente (KP) seemed ideal and he accepted their offer.

Starting as a Business Process Consultant at KP, Ryan managed a team of junior consultants who focused on health plan enrollment eligibility solutions. It was a fitting first step for him, and in two years he assumed a Senior Manager position. This broader role allowed him to further expand his accountability and gain exposure to other areas of the organization including rating, premium billing, and claims management.

Ryan excelled, and a short while later, he was promoted to Director, Managerial Consulting. Now he spends time with executives on the leadership team in strategic conversations. The team works to understand challenges, ensuring processes and solutions meet the intended needs. He especially enjoys solving problems. Ryan indicated, “Defining the problem, identifying the steps to solving the problem, and using theory and approaches learned in my Business Strategy course guide my process.” While reaching the five-year mark at Kaiser Permanente, Ryan much appreciates the company and its focus on developing its employees.

Ryan attributes keeping himself open to new ideas as the main driver behind his direction to be an internal consultant and his overall approach to work and life. It is no surprise that when asked about his advice to students, he said, “There is a lot to be learned from those who are studying different specialties. Keep yourself open to different people and ways of thinking. Some of the main takeaways I had during my MBA were from the discussions I had with people who thought differently than I did.” Thank you, Ryan, for sharing that piece of wisdom with students—and with the rest of us, too.