Ryan Toohil '00
Class of '00
Chief Technology Officer at Aura
I graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering. Now, I'm the chief technology officer of Aura, a company focused on protecting how families live online. Aura is an application that provides antivirus, a password manager, and VPN services all in one. I lead the development team that builds the product and the security group that protects the product. Protecting our children and elders online is a challenging vital problem to solve, and I'm excited to fight that battle every day.
My wife and I, and our twin boys, are located just outside Boston, so I can be close to the Boston Celtics — I've had season tickets for the last 15 seasons. In 2022, I was lucky enough to run the Boston Marathon (poorly, but I finished!).
What is a guiding principle for your work?
Aura was created right around the time my boys were born. I've been lucky enough to be online since I was a kid. Once I had my kids, even though they were too young to be impacted by online threats, a switch in my brain flipped, and all of a sudden every YouTube ad was frightening! Building a tool to help families cope with the complexities of having kids online so early in life is something I think about all the time. I can really make a difference in giving parents peace of mind.
How did the college equip you for the ‘real world’?
To succeed at Virginia Tech, I had to understand how to manage my time and plan ahead. Coming out of high school, I just didn't have the discipline to get to class or plan my projects without being distracted by playing basketball, video games, or whatever was shiny out my window. Virginia Tech required me to develop that discipline, which has served me well, as my job today includes juggling a large number of people, projects, and concepts at one time.
Why is giving back (time, talent, or treasure) to Virginia Tech important to you?
My journey to Virginia Tech got me out of my safety zone, helped shape who I am, and created lifelong memories. Finding ways to give back so that other people who aren't sure of where they are destined can make a vision for the future while attending Virginia Tech feels like the smallest possible gesture I could make.
Being a Virginia Tech alumnus means…
Knowing that nearly anywhere I go in the world, there's someone who'll be there to offer the shirt off their back, no questions asked. The Hokie community is one of the most welcoming groups I've ever found myself lucky enough to be a member of.
My fondest memory from my time in college is...
1999 was an amazing year for Hokie sports. The women's basketball team had an amazing run to the Sweet 16 (topped only by this year's squad!) and the football team made a run to the National Championship. I can still remember the screams of joy on campus when Michael Vick made his run down the sideline against West Virginia.
What advice would you share with your college self?
I wish I had known how great my time during college was going to end up so that I would have found a better balance between work and play. There's so much to explore on campus, and in the surrounding area, that I didn't get to experience when I was in school! I've made up for it with trips back to Lane Stadium, and to explore more of southwestern Virginia, but I would have loved to enjoy it while I was younger.
B.S., Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2000