What I’ve Learned: Ryan DeVos ’13
July 23, 2021
By Rob Humphreys ’16MBA
A Rollins education prepared this alum to follow in his family’s Magic footsteps, then chart a new path for Orlando’s NBA franchise.
With a grandfather (Richard DeVos) who co-founded Amway and owned the Orlando Magic, a father (Dick DeVos) who was Magic president and CEO, and a mother (Betsy DeVos) who served as U.S. secretary of education, Ryan DeVos ’13 absorbed a lifetime of lessons around the dinner table.
But this next-generation DeVos has plenty of wisdom to share from his own professional journey, leveraging his Rollins international business degree to successfully carve out a fascinating niche in the family business.
For the past four years, DeVos has been pioneering an emerging intersection of sports entertainment and pop culture known as the NBA 2K League. As director of Magic Gaming, he oversaw the franchise’s official team of professional video-game players—and when the quarantine shuttered the NBA in spring 2020, viewership doubled thanks to live-streams on ESPN 2, the ESPN app, and ESPN.com.
DeVos was recently promoted to the Magic’s vice president of shareholder engagement, where he will help the third generation of family ownership—a “cousin consortium,” as he calls it—“make sure we’re doing right by the organization and the community.”
Speaking of the community, you can find DeVos serving his alma mater on the Department of Business Advisory Council, as a mentor in the Career Champions mentorship program, and working with the new Rollins esports team.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with DeVos to talk about the lessons he’s learned at home, at Rollins, and on the (virtual) hardwood.
My family taught me to plan out next steps and guide things accordingly. It’s a lot easier to form a strategic plan and understand the steps to get there if you’re looking a mile down the road.
Being entrepreneurial definitely runs in my DNA. Both sides of my family have always believed in the power of creating and building. Take risks, keep on trying, and don’t be afraid of failure—and learn from those failures.
At Rollins, the things that really stood out to me were having small class sizes and a personal relationship with faculty. Some people can get away with being a number in a big classroom of 200 or 1,000, but for my learning style, it was crucial to have access to faculty and learn off the cuff from them.
The international business program was really well done, and they’ve expanded on it a lot since I graduated. You develop fundamental business skills you’re going to use regardless of what field you’re going into, whether it’s accounting or economics or leadership. Just having a feel for the economy of the world, how things happen, how geopolitical decisions can shift the overall outlook—that bigger-picture approach set me up for thinking more holistically.
Rollins will teach you the power of teamwork and diverse thinking. There’s a lot we did as small teams in the international business program, and having people from different walks of life with different input and ways of thinking was crucial. That carries through with me today.
Magic Gaming was like a startup through and through. It required broad-stroke entrepreneurial thinking and execution of ideas—from laying out initial marketing plans to hiring, building your team, and going from there with a go-to-market strategy—regardless of being in the larger Orlando Magic ecosystem.
The pandemic really gave us an opportunity to do remote play with Magic Gaming. That’s kind of what’s next for the NBA 2K League as a whole: How do we engage our fan base through remote gameplay? And how do we grow our allegiance for Magic Gaming but even more so for our players?
Just being in Orlando and being an asset to Rollins is crucial. It’s a real opportunity to affect the lives and careers of young and promising students, and it’s just the right thing to do. It’s good to be helpful. And I learn a lot from it too. I get connected with younger folks who open up my eyes to new ways of thinking.
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