Core Careers: Volcom's Ryan Immegart
In our next installment of Core Careers, SES speaks with Ryan Immegart, EVP of Marketing at Volcom. From pro snowboarder to musician to high-profile marketing executive, we learn how Ryan navigated his unique career path, what drives this industry veteran, and his tips for success.
How did you get started in the industry/what has been your career path?
Ryan Immegart: I grew up in Big Bear Lake, CA, and was fortunate to be a part of the snowboard boom in the early 90’s. When I was 14 I met Richard Woolcott who put me on flow at Quiksilver. Shortly after that he left and started Volcom with Tucker Hall and I was quick to follow! I became the first official snowboard team rider for Volcom when I was 15 and spent the next 3 years pursuing a professional riding career.
Simultaneously I was writing songs and playing a lot of guitar and eventually ended up starting a band called ‘theLINE.’ Fast forward from there: Volcom owed me photo incentive money for some editorial I got in an old snowboard mag called Plow. I proposed to Richard that we put it towards recording some songs, and before we knew it we had plans to start a record label. Our first self-titled record came out in 1995 and with that Volcom Entertainment was born and my next chapter began (have a listen here: https://bandcamp.com/tag/theline).
We ended up putting out four records and we got to tour all over the world with some amazing artists of that time like Sublime, Guttermouth and Pennywise. We also did the Warped Tour for a couple years playing and managing the Volcom Stage. Over that time I signed other bands to the label (CKY, Pepper, Riverboat Gamblers, etc.) and helped spearhead two label deals for Volcom Entertainment, the first one was with MCA records and the second with Warner Music Group.
During that time I was helping to manage the record label while also touring heavily until around 2002 when I took over as the Director of Volcom Entertainment full-time. From there I put all my energy into ingraining music into everything Volcom did. I worked closely with all the sports, events and a majority of the Volcom Film projects. We expanded into making Volcom Entertainment branded apparel and accessories, as well as band merchandise. We worked with a wide range of brands from local garage bands to internationally acclaimed artists like Pearl Jam, which was a great learning experience for me.
In 2010 I was promoted to VP of Marketing for Volcom, succeeding Troy Eckert as he transitioned into a new role at the company. Troy is an awesome person and an incredibly talented marketer who I still continue to take inspiration from today. In 2014 we globalized our marketing organization, which landed me in my current position, EVP of Global Marketing. It’s been a wild ride to say the least and I’m sincerely grateful for the opportunities this industry has provided for my family and me.
Why do you think you have succeeded in building a successful career?
Ryan Immegart: So many things to take into consideration, but at the end of the day it’s really my passion and determination that has driven me forward.
What are three key lessons you have learned during your career?
Ryan Immegart: One, always be humble in everything you do and never compromise your integrity for short-term gains. I’ll never forget Richard Woolcott telling me that during one of my reviews.
Second, you can’t be an expert in everything, you have to trust and empower your team.
Third, you have to love what you do; when the passion is gone there is no point in doing it.
Who influenced you early in your career and why?
Ryan Immegart: My first major influence would have to be my mom. As a single parent she raised my sister and me while working at the ski resort in Big Bear for over 20 years straight. She taught me the true value of family and hard work.
Next would for sure be Richard Woolcott. I’ve spent my whole career working closely with him, and his business savvy and brand building expertise has always inspired me.
Lastly, would be my kids. I have five total and my oldest is almost 19. I had her when I was 20 years old and although it was tough at times they really were (and still are) a major driving force in my career.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Ryan Immegart: Don’t ever try to advance by being the loud obnoxious guy in the front row. If that’s what you have to do to get attention, you got the wrong message.
And secondly, which is so timeless…learn to focus on the fundamentals and get really good at execution.
Turning the tables, what is your advice for others looking to build a career in the industry?
Ryan Immegart: Identify an area you are passionate about and then find your real point of difference. It’s what this industry needs more of.
Can you name a mistake you’ve made in the past and what you have learned from it?
Ryan Immegart: Not saying ‘no’ enough. It’s so simple in theory but one of the toughest things to actually do. Over the years I’ve realized that I’m never going to be able to please everyone and when I over commit, I under deliver.
Is there an accomplishment in your career of which you are most proud?
Ryan Immegart: Most recently I would say the successful creation and implementation of the new brand platform for Volcom. Shifting our brand positioning from what we were against – Youth Against Establishment – to what we are for – True To This. That was a massive global effort and something that I’m really proud of.
What are your thoughts on how the industry has evolved throughout the years?
Ryan Immegart: It’s easy to point out all the things wrong with the industry and complain about this or that, but when you take a step back the evolution has really been incredible. I can’t wait to see where we go from here, as technology and innovation evolves.
Where can we find you when you are not working?
Ryan Immegart: Spending time with my wife and kids is priority number one when I’m not working. After that, you’ll find me in the water. If I’m not surfing consistently, I’m just eggy.
Lastly would be playing guitar, I don’t get to do it as much anymore, but music will always be an important part of my life.