Get to know: Ryan Huffman, Senior Project Manager with Project Services, Infrastructure Development

Ryan Huffman with his new bike on the North Shore


What do you do for the university?

I’ve been with UBC for 6.5 years and for most of my time here I’ve managed capital infrastructure projects ranging from upgrading building mechanical and electrical systems, labs, offices, and classroom renovations, to major upgrades at the Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility (BRDF), and lots and lots of chiller and boiler systems. For the first four years of my career as a Project Manager at UBC, I was heavily involved with the Academic District Energy System’s steam to hot water conversion project, and the Henry Angus Tower seismic upgrade. Walking around the campus always refreshes my memory on numerous projects I’ve worked on over the years. In my current role, my time is now split between managing a team of project managers and the expansion of the BRDF. I love the leadership role, and the amazing people on my team — they inspire me!

What makes you laugh?

I love tongue-in-cheek kind-of humour. Recently, my friends and I were playing around with the iPhone camera filters, and in particular the baby-face one — this got us all howling. The best part was doing it while we were all out and then sharing it the next day through our group chat.

Who inspires you, and why?

My mom. In the truest sense, my mom was a humanitarian, she taught my brother, sister, and I empathy and how to be a good person — respect and kindness for all, regardless of your background. My mom passed away a few years ago, so I feel that it’s my duty to carry that on.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Relationships and communication. Throughout my life, and especially here at UBC, building and maintaining relationships have been instrumental to my career development. Communications is equal to that, especially when working with numerous people across the campus. Ensuring there are proper communications across multiple groups, and being clear and informative are extremely important.

What is your favourite song or book?

I’m living in the Spotify — a digital media service — era, so my favourite songs change monthly, but I love all sorts of genres. As for books, the most recent book that I really enjoyed was written by this Harvard Psychologist, Shawn Achor called the Happiness Advantage, which describes the journey of positive psychology — it’s fascinating and extremely informative.

What’s your favourite or ideal vacation spot?

Somewhere in the mountains without any cell coverage. I love being in the back-country with my bike or skis, hanging out with friends at a cabin, cooking good food, chopping wood, and building camp-fires. It’s part of my DNA, and it all started at a young age growing up in Northern BC.

How do you like to recharge?

Riding my bike on the North Shore, or some other forest where the trails are steep and gnarly, fast and flowy, and super technical. I love mountain biking — bathing in the forest, with little to no thought interrupting my flow — this truly is my fuel for life. I got into mountain biking when I was a kid, back when the technology and bikes were OK, and then about nine years ago, I was fortunate enough to afford to get back into it, and I love it. Hanging out with good buddies, enjoying the spirit of the sport and encouraging each other to push beyond our limits, while meditating (actively) in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The energy I gain from this can be shared amongst my colleagues and friends, and it is awesome.

What is your vision for your department?

I have recently taken on a leadership role at Project Services, and our unit is undergoing some organizational restructuring which includes a lot of change. It can be tough to adapt and see the positive aspect of what these changes bring, however, I am excited to be part of that goal, to inspire the people that are taking it on this change, and to help our team see the success that this change will bring.

What quality do you most admire in a leader?

Courage — a leader that is willing to take risks, to see what’s coming, and to be forward-thinking. Honesty — being open, forthright, and transparent — not leaving you guessing. Intelligence — I admire smart people, and I often look at my leaders to teach me new things and how to do my job better.

For you, what makes UBC different?

This beautiful campus, and the hundreds of people I get to connect with through the projects I or my team of project managers get to work on. There are so many amazing people here, and people that are doing really amazing things — where else do you get that.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. I love to travel, I’ve been to 50 countries (and counting), but I don’t like airports, packing my necessities, catching my flight on time, and remembering all the little thing you need. This could all be eliminated, and save so much time If I could just teleport there.

What would you like to be remembered for?

My positive energy. It’s not the easiest thing to achieve at times, especially with a demanding job that brings on a lot of stress. But finding balance and working on oneself will help me aspire to be a lot more like my mother — who was probably the most positive person I have ever met.

What is the question we should have asked you?

What initially attracted me to UBC? This is a funny story, I left this amazing job at a tissue mill because capital expenditures were put on hold for a few years, and I get bored easily, so I switched careers and moved into consulting. After a few months, I realized it was not the right fit for me, so I quit after toughing it out for a few more months. Within two weeks I saw the posting for a Project Manager at UBC, so I applied and got an interview. I was inspired by the Academic District Energy steam to hot water conversion project.