10 Nov 2021

Profiles of Service: Ryan Solís (MBA/MPP 2022)


by Shona Simkin

Photo courtesy Ryan Solís

Ryan Solís describes his journey to the Marine Corps as one inspired by his father’s immigrant roots and the events of 9/11. The story of his father’s emigration from Mexico to the suburbs of Los Angeles, and his work as a ranch hand while attending high school, made an indelible impression on a young Solis. He was 12 when 9/11 happened, and he recalls it as a wake-up call that cemented his sense of obligation and desire to give back through military service. No one in his family had served in the military, so his parents were confused but supportive, he says with a laugh, and he enrolled in the Marine Corps upon graduating from Harvard College.

Now, as a joint degree candidate at HBS and the Harvard Kennedy School, Solís aims to discover new ways to serve his country and community through the intersection of business and policy—specifically defense technology, national security, and emerging tech.

“There's so much innovation happening in the US with technologies that can be applied to national security and promise to make the US safer,” said Solís. “But there seems to be a gap between the policy makers and purchasers on the defense side, and the entrepreneurs on the business side. I'm hoping to gain expertise in both of those areas and bring them together.”

Photo courtesy Ryan Solís

As an intelligence officer, Solís served in Japan and Washington, DC, most recently in the terrorism response unit, where he worked on the team that would deploy as first responders in the event of a major terrorist attack on US soil. That role’s focus on emerging threats via nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons inspired him to delve deeper, as he saw that rapidly evolving innovations in technology were happening outside of the government, presenting both promise and difficulty to those working in the field.

“There are commercial technologies that would have enabled us to do our jobs so much better, but because of bureaucratic policies it made getting and applying them more difficult,” said Solís. “I saw that as a sign that we can do a better job for our service members if we're able to leverage the innovative capacity of the United States.”

Solís finds time to pursue his love of the outdoors, from hiking and biking throughout the Boston suburbs to venturing up to New Hampshire and Maine for surfing—a favorite pastime despite the extra layers required for frigid East Coast waters. He also serves on the Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization, which works to support veterans across all Harvard schools, and has been busy encouraging their attendance at the HBS Armed Forces Alumni Association Veterans Day Celebration.

“There's something so important about these events—it feels a bit like pomp and circumstance, and it is, but that's a huge part of the military experience,” said Solís. “Veterans can feel like they’ve lost a huge part of who they are when they leave the service, and events like this give them an opportunity to connect and acknowledge that it's still an important part of who they are. For many, this is their first Veterans Day where they're actually veterans. Taking on that identity means a lot of different things to different people, and it's nice to be able to be with other people who are going through it too.”

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