Ryley Reynolds '15
Employer: Harvard Student Agencies
If you go to Harvard, you have probably heard of Harvard Student Agencies, more commonly known as HSA. From operating the Harvard Shop, running a laundry service, publishing the Let’s Go travel guide, and everything in between, HSA is a huge presence on campus. Employing more than 500 undergraduates, HSA is the largest student-run company in the world. Ryley Reynolds, the former President and current Historian of HSA, is one of the many Harvard students who work for the company.
Ryley, a senior, has been involved with HSA since her freshman fall. In fact, HSA was a part of the reason she decided to attend Harvard rather than the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. During Visitas, Ryley met a woman at HSA Cleaners who encouraged her not to “go to Wharton and learn about business,” but rather to “come to Harvard and run a business.” This had quite an impact on Ryley. “I really liked that. I was sold on that.” Upon coming to Harvard, HSA was one of the first groups on campus that Ryley joined.
Ryley’s love for HSA is obvious when she talks about her time there. “I really passionately believe in this,” she says of HSA’s mission to gainfully employ Harvard undergraduates. Giving undergraduate students a way to learn real applicable business skills and earn money is the purpose of HSA and something that Ryley very much supports. Her first act during her term as president was to raise HSA’s minimum wage to $12 per hour. “That meant a lot to me,” she says. Aside from being able to help undergraduates make an income, Ryley particularly enjoyed mentoring other students in her role as president. “One of my favorite things was being able to work with students and see them and help them grow. Building those relationships and being able to have that capacity where I could mentor was really unique.”
Being president of HSA is one of the most demanding jobs on campus, but Ryley says that she loved every minute of her term. She often found herself wanting to spend more than twenty hours per week working with HSA. “I got so much out of being here I chose to spend extra time here just because I loved it so much.” Running HSA was definitely time consuming, but Ryley says that it is all about priorities. “I really decided that I wanted to engage with the depth of HSA versus the breadth of all clubs...I think that I de-prioritized other clubs and groups and then just had schoolwork and HSA be my focuses. I think that it was just that I really wanted to be dedicated to those two things, so that made it much easier to time manage.”
After graduation, Ryley will be working with Insight Venture Partners, a tech venture capital company in New York. She credits HSA for her interest in this career path. “One of the reasons I wanted to go into tech venture capital was because I got to see so many new business ideas here at HSA and work with so many students on their ideas.” The business skills Ryley learned through working with HSA were impressive to potential employers. “I really learned everything through working at HSA.” In addition to customer service, personnel management, and operations experience, HSA has also given Ryley a huge network of professional connections. “HSA has such a great network. It definitely opened so many doors.”
Overall, Ryley says that her entire time working with Harvard Student Agencies was a great experience. “I loved it,” she says. Coming to Harvard knowing she was interested in working with HSA, Ryley says she expected to get a lot out of the experience, but could not have imagined how important it would be to her. “I knew it was going to be a big part of my life but maybe I didn’t know how big of a part.” Ultimately, the skills Ryley has learned working with HSA and the experiences she has had working here have prepared her for the working world as well as enriched her college experience. HSA is something that she cares deeply about and believes is an excellent opportunity for all Harvard undergraduates. “It’s all students running this really because they care about providing these opportunities for other students, which is very unique.”