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Ryan Szymanski - Paying Forward

Ryan Szymanski has always had a passion for real estate.  To be a successful real estate developer, he says one has to use and continually enhance a wide range of skills.  Szymanski has done just that.

As president of Edwards Communities Development Company in Columbus, Ohio, Szymanski has combined technical, business and leadership skills to manage all aspects of the real estate development process for the company’s student housing and multi-family developments.  He has a strong belief in promoting urban development and revitalization through the creation of vibrant mixed use developments that combine an array of amenities.  More important, as a business executive, he is an empathetic leader who feels a responsibility to give back – or as Coach Woody Hayes would say, pay forward.

Szymanski earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering Summa Cum Laude at The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Fisher College of Business, where he spent several years mentoring students who he still has connections with today. He is quick to share his experience and offer guidance to younger associates in hopes of making a positive impact. 

“You can never pay back, so you should always try to pay forward.”

– Coach Woody Hayes

Before earning his MBA, Szymanski was an officer in the United States Navy, Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, where he instructed students on the fundamentals of heat transfer and fluid flow and completed a train-up process on the principles of naval nuclear propulsion. 

Szymanski recently joined the Board of Directors of Cancer Support Community Central Ohio, is a member of the Urban Land Institute Advisory Board and is a 2012 recipient of a Columbus Business First Forty Under 40 Award, celebrating up-and-coming professionals and community leaders. 

As part of the Buckeye family of nearly 540,000 alumni around the world, Szymanski is on an upward trajectory to create positive change in Columbus and the university community.  We sat down with him to learn more:

Q: Edwards Companies and Campus Partners, Ohio State’s development arm, are partnering on a proposed mixed use complex on High Street as part of the university’s district revitalization.  How will this project impact the University District?

This will be a once in a generation type of project and the end result will be a truly transformative gateway to campus.  Our new project will bring exciting retail and housing opportunities, but I am most excited about the public square that will bring new energy to an area that has been forgotten for so many years.  It will be a hub for Ohio State students, faculty, alumni and neighbors to gather and interact throughout the year.   And, it will be a great connection between the university and the neighborhood east of High.

Q:  MAE has revamped its curriculum to include courses outside the traditional engineering major to broaden career opportunities for students.  As a model for this approach, how have you leveraged engineering and real estate development skills to achieve career success?

I am a very vocal proponent of how my engineering background has helped me get where I am today, even though I may not use my technical knowledge on a daily basis.  For example, the critical thinking and problem solving skills I gained at Ohio State help me immensely.  Real estate is no different than many other industries in that being able to quickly solve problems is essential to success.  Employers are looking for employees who can quickly learn new concepts, use logical analysis to solve problems and be willing to challenge conventional thinking.  These are all of the things my engineering background taught me.

Q:  It has been said that leadership is an art.  As president of a major real estate company  and an engineer, how would you describe your leadership style? 

I describe my leadership style as people centric.  I strongly believe that by developing people who are loyal and motivated and ensuring that they feel appreciated, the results will follow.  Employees must feel that they can make an impact and are an integral part of the company.  The other part of this is my open door policy.  I want to encourage communication every day and want employees to be free to speak up and know the avenue to present a new idea.

Q:  One of your favorite things to do for fun is travel.  What is your most memorable travel experience and why?

A few years back, my wife and I spent the week around Christmas in London.  Both of us absolutely love visiting London, but had never been there during the winter.  While we had done most of the traditional sightseeing on previous trips, we ice skated in Hyde Park, did our Christmas shopping at Harrods and enjoyed many new restaurants and watering holes.  This was also one of our last trips before we had kids.  Traveling has definitely changed since then!

Q: What does paying forward mean to you as a Buckeye -- and in life?

I have not been able to reach my achievements on my own.  Besides my parents, I have also had many great teachers, mentors and friends who have helped me achieve my goals.  I feel a strong obligation to help others in the same way.  While part of that is through monetary donations, a large part is also through giving of my time.  Whether it be through volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters, or in meeting with students interested in real estate, the personal interaction is extremely important.  Just like I remember all those who have helped me, I hope I can make that same impact on others.