How I Work: Bryan Karban

Climbing and Trips Coordinator for the University Outdoor Program

What do you do?

I am the Climbing and Trips Coordinator for the University Outdoor Program. The Outdoor Program is a program of University Recreation and Wellness and we offer a variety of outdoor trips and clinics, a full-service equipment rental shop, two indoor climbing gyms, a nordic ski center, and a bike rental program.

Our trips go to a variety of local, national, and international locations including Lake Calhoun, the BWCA, Utah, and even Iceland. A significant part of my work involves hiring and training student staff to lead outdoor trips and oversee the climbing facilities. In addition, I coordinate the logistics of our 60+ outdoor trips every year, oversee the risk management policies and procedures for trips and climbing, and develop new programming.

I do not get out into the field as much as I used to, but I still guide all of the rock and ice climbing trips and will be leading a trip to Peru this July to trek the Huayuash Circuit in the Andes. My work is all about providing student with healthy experiences to grow physically, emotionally, and socially. Spending time in natural environments and disconnecting from technology is an important complement to the busy lives students lead. Learning a new skill, such as how to paddle a canoe, going backpacking, and climbing a route in the climbing gym all present individuals with the opportunity to work through a challenge and take a risk. It is only through embracing challenge and taking measured risks that we develop the grit and resilience that will serve us well in our daily lives.

In addition to my work with Recreation and Wellness, I volunteer on two non-profit board of directors — the Minnesota Climbers Association and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education — as a way to increase the impact I can have on where, who, how, and why people recreate in our shared wild places. In particular, the outdoor industry is not the most diverse or inclusive industry and I am excited to be part of several initiatives working to change this. Personally, I try to embrace the value of challenge that I teach to students by pursuing climbing, skiing, or running objectives that will push my abilities. This past year I completed my first ultrathon, the Wild Duluth 50k and plan to do another this year.

What tools/gear/software/hardware/etc do you use to do your work?

I set my work day up for success by leaving enough time for some type of morning routine every day such as meditation or journaling. Habit and ritual have an impact on people’s thoughts and emotions and, I think, can be a beneficial tool for creating an intentional, productive day. Being physically active is another key element for me to be productive and I try to get some type of exercise 5-7 days a week. When the weather is decent, I usually bike commute to work, which makes it really easy to fit activity into my day. Exercise has a positive impact on the quality of my sleep and improves my focus and attention. Although morning routines and exercise may seem just like lifestyle choices, I see them as tools I use to make my work intentional and efficient and ultimately leave me with time to invest in my interests and relationships.

Once I get to my office, I start the day by creating a meaningful to-do list that focuses on prioritization. I’ll ask myself, “If I only get one thing done today, what would I want that to be?” and begin there. There is no such thing as a normal day in my office as the work I need to do is varied and often changing. As a result, it is easy to get pulled in many directions at once and find at the end of the day that I did not really accomplish the most important thing. In addition to a good to-do list, I almost never check email until after 11:00 a.m. This helps me stay focused on my agenda and have a few hours of uninterrupted, dedicated work time.

My office is located in the Outdoor Center which can cause a lot of distractions — I can overhear staff conversations, customers and staff often approach me with questions, and there is just generally a lot of noise. One of the best “tools” I purchased recently was a pair of good Bluetooth headphones. When I wear them, it’s like I’m in another world. All I can hear is my music and people do not interrupt me unless there is a critical question.

I rely heavily on the Google platform of Calendar, Docs, and Sheets in my work. Simply having the ability to share and collaborate on work with my staff and colleagues on any device and in nearly any location is advantageous. Google Docs, for example, has a task assignment function that I use with my meeting agendas and minutes to unify communication and enhance accountability. The CamScanner App is something I use on a weekly basis. It enables you to take a photo of a receipt or document with your phone and convert it to a .pdf file that can be shared. It saves me a lot of time on my financial reporting.

The Climbing Gym uses a program called Rock Gym Pro (RGP) to manage waivers, customer profiles, memberships, and certifications. RGP is custom designed for climbing gym operators and has powerful reporting capabilities that I use to collect a variety of metrics I use to make decisions. RGP has sales capabilities, but in order to unify the financial reporting for the department, we run all transactions through Class Point of Sale. The last program we use is ActiveNet for trip and clinic registration.

As I outdoor professional, I should talk a bit about my favorite gear since I do still work in the field a few times a year. I use the large blue bags from Ikea on almost every trip to make it easy to carry lots of gear from my house to my car. I also love Petzl headlamps with Reactive Lighting Technology. Essentially, the headlamp has a sensor to detect how far away you are looking and automatically adjusts the light output. My go-to tent is the Marmot Force 2 which is incredibly light, but also spacious enough for two people. My most used jacket in the winter is the Marmot Quasar Hoody. It is an incredibly light and warm down jacket. For hydration, I use Skratch Labs (they also make a delicious “performance” chocolate chip cookie mix).

What do you use that you love? What do you use that you wish worked better?

On their own, Rock Gym Pro, Class, and ActiveNet all work pretty well. The challenge I face is having to train staff on multiple systems. Someone purchasing a climbing membership, for example, requires their customer information to be updated in Rock Gym Pro and the sale is processed through Class. Since the two systems don’t communicate with each other, there is more opportunity for error.

A note from the librarian:

The weather is getting warmer and it’s a great time to get outside! When you’re planning a trip, remember that trail guides and maps are available from the Hennepin County Libraries and the University Libraries, too!

—Carolyn Bishoff, Earth Sciences Librarian

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