Age 34 | Vice president/consultant, Ruan Cos.

For Rachel McLean, making her own way ended up leading her back to the family business.

The daughter of John Ruan III and Janis Ruan, McLean said she was encouraged to follow her own path in choosing her career. A bachelor’s degree, master’s and Ph.D. in communication studies from Northwestern University in Illinois led her to a strategic research analyst position at Starcom MediaVest Group Inc., a consulting company in Chicago.

McLean and her husband, Ben, decided that it was important to both of them to start their own family close to family. Still, McLean didn’t necessarily anticipate working for Ruan Cos., she says. She was looking for an academic career. In the meantime, she assisted with some special projects with the company.

“Immediately I found there was no more perfect place for me than at Ruan,” McLean said.

McLean spent a couple years as director of communications and then a couple years as vice president-communications of Ruan Transportation Management Systems Inc. before being named to her current role. She oversees charitable giving for the Ruan Family Foundation, and manages customer satisfaction initiatives.

Part of what has driven her to this point of her career is a constant desire to learn, which she says she gets from her grandfather. She has also made a point to learn from her mother.

Janis Ruan has been very involved the Des Moines community, and McLean feels strongly about doing that in her own life. She says she’s lucky to fulfill that at work, and has also been involved with the Des Moines Community Playhouse and Youth Homes of Mid-America.

Outside of that, her 21-month-old son takes up a majority of her free time.

Five reasons she’s a 40:

• She manages customer satisfaction initiatives and conducts research to understand Ruan’s performance with its top 65 customers.

• Oversaw communication processes among Ruan’s 4,500 employees.

• Has three degrees in communication studies from Northwestern University.

• “She is smart. She is nice. She is thoughtful and she is efficient and effective,” said Michael Gartner.

• “Rachel is one of those young ladies who does everything with a certain grace and style,” said Suku Radia, president and CEO of Bankers Trust Co.

Mentor: Janis Ruan

Fun fact: One of McLean’s hobbies is cooking. “I don’t think I have a signature dish, but I tend to chop a lot of garlic,” she said. Her husband isn’t exactly a huge fan of it, she said, but almost everything McLean makes has about a cup of garlic in it. “It gives it a little flair, and it’s good for you, right?” she says.

Presenting the 2013 winners:

Desmund Adams, Principal, AdamsDouglas
Lindsay Alderman, Client operations manager, LightEdge Solutions Inc.
Erica Axiotis, Director of development, Mercy Foundation
Kate Banasiak, President and CEO, Diversified Management Services Inc.
Erin Beamis, Senior vice president of logistics and operations, IronWorks
Jonathan Brendemuehl, Marketing events coordinator, Bankers Trust Co.
Curtis Brown, Economic development director, city of Ankeny
Matt Connolly, President, Generation Green Builders Co.
Lawrence Cunningham, Director of business development, Catchfire Media LLC
Angela Dethlefs-Trettin, Director of community investment and initiatives, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
Josh Fleming, Digital strategy director, Lessing-Flynn Advertising Co.
Felix Gallagher, Principal, PharmServ Solutions
Lori Gelhaar, Director of career services/ corporate relations, Kaplan University
Tina Gray Carstensen, Marketing coordinator, Shive-Hattery Inc.
Shane Greenleaf, Vice president/commercial banker, First American Bank
Danielle Haindfield, Shareholder attorney, Ahlers & Cooney P.C.
Emily Harris, Patent attorney and shareholder at Davis Brown Law Firm
Matthew Harris, Division administrator, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Angela Hilbert, Sales and marketing director, Deerfield Retirement Community
Joey Hinke, President, Miller, Fidler & Hinke Insurance Agency Inc.
Hannah Inman, Director of communications, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Keegan Kautzky, Director of national education programs, The World Food Prize Foundationn
John Lozier, Pediatric interventional cardiologist, Pediatric Cardiology P.C.
Dennis McDaniel, Police chief, Windsor Heights
Rachel McLean, Vice president/consultant, Ruan Cos
John Mickelson, Associate managing director, The PrivateBank & Trust Co.
Keith Olson, Commercial associate, NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.
Matt Ostanik, President, Submittal Exchange LLC
Benjamin Page, Director, Des Moines park and recreation
Dustin Peterson, Partner, McGladrey LLP
Nick Renkoski, Director of marketing and communications, Des Moines Metro Opera
Rachel Rowley, Partner, BrownWinick PLC
John Ruan IV, Vice president, financial institutions, Bankers Trust Co.
Jennifer Soma, Business lead, IDI Actuarial and Product Development Group, Principal Financial Group Inc.
Heather Starr, Real estate agent, RE/MAX Innovations
Aimee Staudt, Director of development, Knapp Properties Inc.
Courtney Strutt Todd, Shareholder attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm
Nikki Sylverson, Event Director, Des Moines Wine Festival Foundation
Howard Tempero, Experience design strategist, Spindustry Digital
Tony Timm, Executive director, Central Iowa Shelter & Services