Ryan Noelle can juggle taking orders, brewing coffee and serving food with mechanical efficiency. Noelle is also an avid drummer and proficient computer programmer — something that many of the regulars at the Pub, for whom Noelle is a familiar face and consistent part of their days, may not know. Since joining the Pub’s staff in 2014, Noelle has worked to bring smiles to countless customers’ faces.
“First and foremost, I enjoy just seeing my customers happy,” he said. “Seeing them happy is really what drives me to do a better job … everyday.”
Born in El Paso, Noelle, now 24, moved to Fort Worth at the age of 2 so his father could complete a master’s degree in music theory. During kindergarten, his family moved to Gonzales, a small town near San Antonio where he spent most of his childhood.
Noelle noted the challenge of moving around frequently and leaving behind formative friendships, but said he also appreciated living in different places because of the different people and cultures he experienced.
“There was always one big thing stuck in my mind — that I was in a small town thinking there’s these people and this is all there is to the world,” he said. “But really, the world is giant and there are so many (different) people.”
When Noelle was 10, his family returned to El Paso to care for his ailing great-grandmother. For him, the return to his birthplace was unexpectedly jarring.
“El Paso has a predominant Hispanic culture, which was something I had never experienced before. It was a big culture shock for me. … People spoke Spanish and I had no idea what they were saying,” he said. “It was like a foreign country to me.”
While attending high school in El Paso, Noelle was a member of his school’s drumline and began to develop a serious interest in music — specifically, drumming. Nurtured by his father, the school’s band director, Noelle joined a local band and performed at bars, his church, house concerts and with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. Noelle continues to play in his free time and said he hopes to join UTD’s music program to further develop his passion.
“I’ve been playing the drums for 20 years now,” he said. “Music has been a big thing in my life. It was nice having my dad there to bring that along. He really allowed me to explore that as a passion.”
Noelle took a year off after high school graduation to work at a local Walmart and then spent two years at a local community college studying computer science with the hope of enrolling in a four-year computer science program. He turned to a friend enrolled in the ATEC program at UTD, who offered him a place to stay. Shortly after arriving in Dallas, Noelle interviewed for a position at the Pub. He got the job.
Two weeks later, in August of 2014, Noelle took the plunge, packed his car and drove to Dallas with $150 in his pocket. He said the adjustment to this chapter of his life wasn’t as drastic as those in his childhood because of the friends he’s been able to make in Dallas.
“I was too timid or too shy to try new things or meet new people,” Noelle said. “In retrospect, I should have done (that) a lot sooner. When I moved from El Paso to (Dallas), I had two or three friends here, but being more open is what allowed me to make those friends.
Though Noelle has settled into his job at the Pub, his work has not come without challenges. A recurring problem for Noelle is inconsistency in staffing for the semester. The majority of student workers at the Pub are graduate students who often accept internships at varying points during the year, leaving vacancies behind.
“I rarely have a staff that stays for the entire semester,” he said.
Noelle said he hopes to eventually enroll in the computer science program at UTD once he has saved enough money for tuition, with a goal of pursuing a career in the software or video game industry.
“Hopefully, I’ll be doing some coding on something fun. Really, to be in the industry at all is a blast,” he said. “That was the main reason I got out here in the first place. I don’t see myself not making it.”