Ryan Ackerman: Castleton Alum who Excelled in the Classroom and at Puma

Ryan Ackerman graduated from then Castleton State College in 2014.

Seven years later, he is the senior manager of business intelligence for North America at Puma. 

“It’s the sexist title in the world,” he said with a chuckle before explaining what he does these days.

“Ultimately what it comes down to is using our data to be smarter,” Ackerman said. “Using our data analyzing data, looking at trends trying to identify opportunities. 

Ackerman pauses, then smiles and says “To me, it’s cool stuff.” 

 Asked about his favorite part of working for Puma, he took a second to think.

“Definitely the people, but everybody says that,” he said with a chuckle before continuing on. 

He told how he climbed the ladder fast at Puma and took his department above and beyond. He said he won multiple awards through Puma, such as the Puma president’s award which allowed him to travel and get a glimpse of the differences between his production versus others. He said it was eye-opening.

He started as an entry-level e-commerce analyst, and through hard work and luck, he said he was able to jump from analyst to business intelligence analyst then to his current position, senior manager of a business intelligence analyst.

“In terms of what I like most, I think it’s the opportunity because anywhere else I go I wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said with a smile.

“It’s very unique and I have a lot of freedom and opportunity and it really impacts the business,” he said.

It’s a long way from Castleton and the classes, although his professors aren’t surprised at his success. 

“He impressed everyone from his fellow students all the way to the top. So I’m not at all surprised with his success, though I guess I am with the speed at which it happened,” said Robert Gershon, a former professor at Castleton 

“Sitting in Leavenworth, I would have never told you I’d be in business intelligence at Puma,” he said. “It’s funny how things work out that way, I gave up on the thought of, hey my life is going to be linear.” 

He said he initially went to school to be a designer in Boston, at Wentworth. 

“And I was like wow, this is actually terrible,” Ackerman said with big eyes and continued to laugh.

He told himself for years he would be a designer. 

He had a creative background and it just made perfect sense to him. After realizing design school wasn’t his thing Ackerman took a couple of years off and became a dog trainer, but eventually, he came to the conclusion he should go back to school. 

After all, he was only making around $10 an hour.

 “I am not afraid to work and give whatever it takes, I am not afraid to make mistakes, you need some bravery to do these things,” Ackerman said from the heart

“I always want to learn more, that applied at Castleton and that applies at my work today,” he said.

Ryan has won multiple awards through Puma, which allowed him to travel and get a glimpse of the differences of his production versus others, he said it was eye-opening. 

The typical day in the life for Ackerman isn’t so typical, he said 

“That’s the fun part… every day is different,” he said. “My job is very diverse, one day I can be working on a job for a retail store the next day, the next day it could be our warehouses and how do we get packages to customers faster. I work with our Global team of Law and other regions,” Ackerman exclaimed.

Ackerman is going into his newly renovated office in Somerville, Massachusetts three days a week and the other two days are remote. 

When he’s not working at Puma, he might be playing one of his guitars

“Ah… 16 years…” he said with hesitation, about how long he’s been playing.

 “God I’m old,” he followed with a chuckle

“We have a PUMA house band, we are called the Riffcats, we do small work events.

He has begun to learn how to play the piano as well. 

Going into hobbies Ackerman hesitantly says “I’m a serious, crazy, lawn person.” “Something happened to me in the last four years where I was like I love this, I love taking care of this and making it look good. I love mowing,” Ackerman said with a big laugh. 

He also talked about how he loved making things and grew up building things in the house with his dad.

 “My dad had a scroll saw, and that thing was probably 30 years old,” he said.

When Ackerman tried it he said “I was hooked immediately” 

  “I never considered selling things, I never considered making things, I’ve always done the house stuff,” he said. 

But about three years ago he made an Instagram page and he started making simple things out of wood and showing them, and people liked them. Now he is making quite elaborate pieces from signs to bottle openers and selling them through his Instagram which is @wood.r.ack.

When Ackerman discussed his volunteer experiences, he voiced his strong opinion of  how he can use his talents to take his volunteering to the next level.

Early this year Ackerman volunteered for the Humane Society in Nashua and he made dog magnets with his scroll saw and he sold them for $20 dollars each. Within 48 hours he had raised $1,000 for the Humane Society. 

“To me, that was super cool, and that’s the stuff I like to do,” he said.

Ackerman went to Castleton for his bachelor’s degree and to Southern New Hampshire University for his master’s in business. At both schools, Ackerman achieved a 4.0. 

“The thing I appreciated the most about Ryan was, despite his keen intelligence, he always came to every situation with the attitude that he had something to learn,” Stephine Wilson a professor in the media and communication department at Castleton.

“He was one of those guys who you can always count on… always prepared, always smiling…You need at least a couple of Ryans in your class,” said David Blow, also a communications professor here at Castleton. 

Asked he how achieved his 4.0-grade average and how he applies it to his job, he says he put in his application to Castleton that he was committed to achieving dean’s list but clearly he went above and beyond that

“A 4.0 is really difficult to do,” Ackerman says but then exclaims “There were some close calls” 

Ackerman said at that point in his life he was mentally ready for success and the goals drove him.

“The flip side is that I missed out on more of the fun stuff,” he said, adding that he was ok with that.  “Some of the best lessons I got were not in a textbook or on a quiz, it’s how do you deal with working with groups of people,” Ackerman said encouragingly. 

At the end of the interview, Ackerman gave some advice.

 “Don’t be afraid to ask for things,” he said as he told a story of how if he did not ask Castleton President Johnathan Spiro if he could take a 20-credit course semester he would have been set back another year. 

“I am super proud to say I went to school at Castleton,” Ackerman said as the interview ended. 

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