Profile of MARA Alumnus Ryan Wadleigh
Published: March 26, 2015 by Darren Ilett
MARA alumnus Ryan Wadleigh now works as a Records Management Specialist for King County, a local government in Washington State and the 14th largest county in the US by population.
Ryan’s position requires a variety of functions and duties with the goal of implementing a culture of records management best practice and compliance throughout the county. He assists in managing, overseeing, and guiding the records management behaviors and functions of over 12,000 county employees.
Some of Ryan’s duties as Records management Specialist include:
- developing and publishing countywide records management policies
- conducting legal research
- developing records retention schedules and file plans
- conducting interviews about and inventories of county records
- auditing and updating data in the county’s Electronic Records Management System (ERMS)
- testing in the county’s ERMS
- reviewing and providing advice on language to include in contracts and legal agreements
- assisting in public records request responses
- responding to records-related questions from county employees
- facilitating the process and documentation of disposition of records past their retention period
- providing/teaching records management training to county staff
- developing training materials
- developing indexing standards and classification systems
- developing and conducting outreach activities
- developing and maintaining website
What Ryan finds most rewarding about his work is being able to help people. The help he provides can range from answering a simple question to streamlining a process that results in increased efficiency for an employee or an entire office. Records management is something that typically goes on behind the scenes and that most people do not think about or acknowledge. Ryan feels that seeing tangible results and receiving appreciation can make everything else worthwhile. The most challenging aspect of his job is getting through to people who do not want to engage with his office. In general, records management is not interesting or important to many people. Many employees also see records management as just another task that they do not have time for. It thus requires a creative approach to work with different people and find different ways of getting someone to understand why they should change their existing records management behaviors. Ryan was inspired to turn to the field of archives as a career option by a personal interest in history and genealogy. As an undergrad, he pursued a history program internship at a local archival repository. After graduating from college, he was hired permanently at the same repository. Ryan’s subsequent experience working for an archives and his education in the MARA program drew him to the related field of records management. The factor that most appealed to Ryan about SJSU’s MARA program was its flexibility and all-online format. At the time, he was working full time and did not live near any universities that offered similar programs. Because of that, pursuing a traditional in-person educational program was not an option for him. The biggest challenge for Ryan as a MARA student was learning to manage his time effectively. Due to the online nature of the program, he had to learn how to keep on top of assignments, due dates, and schedules without having a professor in front of him to serve as a reminder. His advice, then, would be for students to keep in mind that the MARA program might require them to think differently about their approach to education, if they have not previously taken online courses. He suggests setting up a school calendar, keeping track of all due dates and school-related events, making at least some time every day for MARA, and engaging with other students about how they are working through the same challenges. More generally, Ryan advises not to give up! The MARA program can be intensive and challenging, but completing the program is achievable, rewarding, and, honestly, goes by quickly.