A town of ‘no traffic lights’? is the way Ian Ybarra describes Altamont, KS, which I mistakenly called a city. Ian is a special case from that small city where he ventured out to MIT and now works with master of relationships Keith Ferrazzi. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Ian’s hectic schedule to learn more about him and his exciting first job out of college.
Keith Ferrazzi and Ian Ybarra at a Never Eat Alone book signing in Los Angeles.
It was cool to hear that where Ian grew up (pop: 1,000) people had to drive ten miles to the big town of Parsons (pop. 12,000) to shop at Wal-Mart or eat at McDonald’s. Ian was an all-star 3 sport athlete: quarterback in football, 2x all-state in wrestling, and 4-year starting catcher in baseball. Either the rest of the 1,000 sucked or he was just that goodâ˜º But I think being all-state in wrestling has to mean something.
Out of a town where hardly anyone leaves (only a handful went to college outside the four-state region where Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri meet) Ian landed at MIT. I asked Ian what helped him go to MIT and his middle brother go to Stanford. He said that besides having top-notch grades, test scores, athletic achievements, and community service contributions, two other things didn’t hurt. 1.) He’s from Kansas, where not too many people apply to top schools, and 2.) He’s second-generation Mexican-American and top schools are always hurting for qualified minority students. Plus he is friggin awesome!
At MIT he kicked major butt doing work as a freshman with Gemini Consulting, teaching an entrepreneurship class for high school students, and interning at General Electric Aircraft Engines and an early-stage venture capital firm. Through most of college Ian thought he’d go into consulting after graduation, but by his senior year he decided against that. He said he had seen so many smart, motivated people spend years in consulting simply because they didn’t know what they really wanted to do, or, if they did have a particular passion, they just weren’t going after it. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of doing something that I wasn’t really in to.”
Ian decided he wanted to work for Inc. or Fast Company magazines because he was addicted to reading them. “I figured that readers get to see five ideas in the magazine every month and the people who make the magazines see thousands of things each month and get to pick the five that readers see. So I decided I wanted to be a writer instead of just a reader. Then I’d get more toys to play with.” Ian got that chance after meeting a former Inc. editor led to his securing an internship to work on the 2004 Inc. 500 special issue, which profiles the fastest-growing private companies in the country. He as able to focus his own personal development in business.
That same former Inc. editor introduced Ian to former Inc. writer Tahl Raz, who mentored him and worked with him on his writing. Raz, who was collaborating with Keith Ferrazzi on Never Eat Alone, also introduced Ian to Ferrazzi. When Ferrazzi asked Ian for his opinion on the manuscript of Never Eat Alone, instead of sending a polite paragraph Ian spent a weekend writing 5-6 pages of edits/revisions for the book. Keith was so impressed that he hired Ian to work with him on editing the book (find out how to get a book deal with the world’s largest publisher) and other projects.
Aside from his work with Ferrazzi, Ian is co-authoring a book to teach employers how to recruit today’s top college graduates. He also writes and speaks to help people find and pursue the work they love. Check out his blog IanYbarra.com.
Some of Ian’s Favorite Books:
Never Eat Alone: Keith Ferrazzi
Seth Godin’s books.
Tom Peters: The Pursuit of Wow and The Brand You 50
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Dave Eggers
Great Expectations: Charles Dickens
Moneyball: Michael Lewis
You can find my list of eighteen books that changed my life here on Okdork.