Paul Ryan is a director with WP Engine in Limerick and also a community leader within Limerick. Here he talks about space exploration, ancient stone circles and the transformation of the city he loves. 

What’s your role?

I’m the director of technical support at WP Engine’s office in Limerick. As a leader within WP Engine, my role far exceeds the boundaries of the title. True to one of our core values, I aspire to lead and am committed to giving back, as such I’m an ambassador for WP Engine in Limerick and for Limerick on a local and global scale. Equally, as a startup location, it’s not unusual to see me cleaning up the coffee station or with some power tools to do the needful in setting up the new office. We all play our part.

“I cannot get over the energy and sense of unified forward movement we are seeing emerge in Limerick.”

What are you most interested in?

I’m a technologist who is passionate about people. I love driving continuous change, never remaining stagnant, always looking for a new angle, seeking technology and service improvements for our customers.

On a more personal level, my absolute passion is in human space exploration. For the past number of years through various events, I’ve brought the astronaut experiences to over 1,000 school kids in Limerick city and county. I volunteer at Lough Gur, home to Ireland’s largest stone circle and a Science Foundation Ireland accredited site, through their Science Group projects where we blend multiple STEM disciplines which make up the 6,000-year story of human development at the site. We are currently closing out a two-year study of light pollution at Lough Gur to attain much coveted ‘Dark Sky’ status.

“Like many I meandered through my 20s and early 30s, amassing skills but not knowing how to apply them.”

What are your ambitions?

That has to be the toughest questions to answer. I have a set of skills, and I simply want to put them to work for me and the community around me.

Privately, between you, me and the readers, I’d love to help inspire and drive Ireland’s place in space exploration. We have a national heritage of successfully taking on challenges which are far greater than the sum of our parts, why sit back and watch the rest of the world do it?

What drives you?

Building a better future. Like many I meandered through my 20s and early 30s, amassing skills but not knowing how to apply them. In 2010 following the birth of our second child, I had a personal setback, and while staring at the ceiling in intensive care, I distinctly recall asking myself, “What difference am I making?”

Now with three children, my drive and passion for Limerick are about building a future for them. I can’t fix substantial global issues, but I can have a positive impact on how Limerick develops as a city and region.

“In the past five years, Limerick has transformed itself. Many would naively sit back and say, “job done” but Limerick continues to transform.”

Who do you admire in business?

I would look to be a lesser known US businessman, Jack Bader. Jack is a St. Louis businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor, fellow space-geek, and friend. 

Jack follows his passions, which coincidently are very similar to my own – startups, space exploration, giving back, philanthropic efforts and family. He continuously strives to take small steps (and some quite large) to improve his community in St. Louis and beyond. He’s the founder of NetEffect, Chairman of 1904labs and member of the XPrize board of directors.

What are people doing well in Limerick?

In the past five years, Limerick has transformed itself. Many would naively sit back and say, “job done” but Limerick continues to transform and build a unified offering for families, communities, and businesses. What was once a grey, harbour town at the mouth of the Shannon is now a colourful and inclusive city. I cannot get over the energy and sense of unified forward movement we are seeing emerge in Limerick. The Limerick City and County Council, flanked by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, locked together with community and businesses is a force to rival Munster Ruby’s front row.

“Where else can you be leading a company delivery amazing digital experiences in the 21st century and fifteen minutes later sit in the tranquillity of a stone circle build in Ireland before the Egyptians build the pyramids of Giza.”

What way could the city improve?

Back to one of my early career lessons, in short, we must build a city that the people want. It cannot be just a location or collection of buildings it has to be a lifestyle where I can live, do business, have fun and don’t have to compromise on my quality of life. Limerick has to continue to promote and deliver on that vision. As a county Limerick man, I’d love to see infrastructure and public services extend beyond the boundaries of Castletroy, Raheen, Dooradoyle, and Caherdavin. But equally, right now as a city and indeed country, we’re not at a scale to realistically achieve that. As we continue to compete in a global 24×7 market, we have to realise that we cannot adhere to traditional 9-to-5 thinking in what people want and what we each must offer.

What makes Limerick unique?

For over 800 years Limerick has been a stronghold as a city, it’s a city where worlds blend. Where else can you be leading a company delivery amazing digital experiences in the 21st century and fifteen minutes later sit in the tranquillity of a stone circle build in Ireland before the Egyptians build the pyramids of Giza. Or visit a bar the likes of Nancy Blakes where Irish traditions and music, meets and blends with the youthful world of upbeat music and energy. The richness of our culture and ability to be adaptable to new cultures can be seen in our restaurants, shops, and people.

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