Angie Markel applies the same energy and motivation to her job in the Advantage Support Center as she does to running a marathon, which she has done 4 times (including the Boston Marathon, for which one must qualify). She is detail-oriented, quick to grasp new concepts and adept at building relationships with the clients with whom she works .
Her supervisor, Ev Acton puts it this way: "Angie is an excellent analyst who works well with all of our clients. Angie makes sure she understands the customer's needs and ensures that the solutions ACS provides meet those needs. Angie is a very effective communicator and does a great job of sending alerts to the user community as needed. In addition, Angie always has a smile on her face and has a dry sense of humor."
Most of her ten years at ACS have been spent in the Support Center, but Angie has also worked in the Upgrades group. Her upgrades supervisor Paul DesRosiers has this to say about working with Angie: "Regardless of the role – projects, training, support, QA – Angie consistently does an outstanding job of completing the task at hand and providing a detailed and structured outline for others to follow. This leadership and attention to detail produces an environment where others are very pleased to work with her. With her product knowledge and positive mind-set, it's no wonder Angie is such a frequently requested analyst."
Although she also enjoys training and other visits to client sites, Angie appreciates the team environment of the support center. With two school-age kids at home, she also likes the consistent hours.
Angie's ACS work history also includes a stint on the Projects team, where she worked with Penton Media on their consolidation project. Penton's Carver Bonine was very pleased with her work. "It's difficult to narrow in on only one outstanding aspect of working with Angie," he says. "From the onset of the monster Penton project, she exhibited incredible cheer and optimism. As our upgrade/consolidation project manager, she was very adept at all the organizational, technical, and personnel hurdles that come with the territory. In the thick of things, when we didn't quite get it yet, she held our hands and when we got overloaded, she pitched in and carried us a time or two. After go live, when we were still plodding through issues, Angie reminded us to celebrate all we'd accomplished. Even today, when I call up in a panic thinking the sky is falling, she finds a way to remind me that it's probably not as bad as I might think. If I had to pick one thing Angie does better than everyone else, it's having an attitude that is inspirational."
A methodical person, Angie likes making lists and being able to cross tasks off as she accomplishes them. She prefers a day completing many small tasks, although according to all her past and present managers, she performs excellently on large ongoing projects as well. The Support Center functions nicely as a team, and Angie credits supervisor Ev Acton with making that happen. "Ev is an effective manager without being overbearing," says Angie. "Ev is there to support you if you need it," Angie explains, "but trusts you to follow through and get things done."
Co-worker Molly Mathe feels this way about working with Angie: "Angie is someone I can count on to bounce ideas off of, troubleshoot problems with, or just laugh with. She has the ability to make an insane day become very sane."
Angie grew up in Bay City, Michigan and attended Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, where she earned a dual bachelor's degree in math and computer science. During college, she was a co-op student at Dow Corning and then took a job there after graduation. She moved to the Ann Arbor area in 2000 and joined ACS that September.
Angie lives in Dexter with her daughter, Ella, 9, her son, Camden, 7, and their cat, Mabel. With Ella's involvement in soccer, gymnastics and learning the violin and Cam's flag football, wrestling and basketball, Angie is always on the go. But she manages to find time to indulge in her hobby of running—whether it is on local roads, hills and trails or in organized 5K, 10K or marathon runs. When she's not running, she heads to the nearby gym to attend a spin class or to swim laps in the pool. And for fun at home, she and the kids are usually playing in the yard or enjoying board or video games. She is also enjoying decorating their new home so that it reflects their personality and active lifestyle.
With all that she does, Angie's shoes would be hard to fill. If you could catch her, that is.
Bob Gray has the distinction of having more years of seniority at ACS than the company has been in business. That's because Bob was working at one of the firms that merged to become T & B Computing (the original name of ACS) and was allowed to count his years of service there when T & B Computing was formed.
In his 30+ years here, Bob has witnessed remarkable changes in operating systems, programming languages and software technology. When he first began his career in computing, he programmed in Fortran for a mainframe computer, even using card decks on occasion, and had to debug using core dumps (or hex dumps). Access to the computer was through shared terminals in a terminal room, where they were connected via phone modems running 300 baud. Reports and data were printed out on green-bar paper.
By the time T & B was formed, the programmers got desktop terminals, which was a huge deal, Bob recalls. From mainframes, he went to Prime mini-computers and was involved in writing the General Mailing System, which was the forerunner of today's circulation functionality. Over the years, the software was ported from Prime to VAX VMS, to UNIX and then to Windows.
In the early 90's, Bob moved from the circulation side of the software to the book and product order. Development in that area has been his focus ever since and he has worked on such functionality as taxes, EDI, customer search, duplicate consolidation, payment dialog boxes, premiums and premium sets, online authorization for credit cards and the new user interface. Bob's favorite tasks involve creating a new feature or piece of functionality that he knows will be useful to clients and improve what Advantage has to offer.
Currently in the product development group led by Howie Brooks, Bob has nothing but admiration for Howie as a supervisor. He is especially impressed with Howie's ability to multi-task. And Howie has good things to say about him: "Bob is the resident expert on all things PRO, but he's also more of an expert in CIR/AMB/ARP, etc. than he'll readily admit. You can depend on Bob for anything and know that he gives everything his best effort. He cares deeply for the integrity of the product."
Bob's reputation for caring about the integrity of the software is well known. Other engineers like to run their ideas past him because he is good at pointing out potential problems with a design. As Howie explains, "If your design can get past Bob, then there's a very good chance you've covered the bases."
Bob has worked with nearly everyone at ACS over the years. Project manager John Sheehy has this to say about his experience with Bob: "I've had the pleasure of working closely with Bob over the last three years on a large development project. His attention to detail and ability to consider wider development implications proved to be an invaluable asset to the project's success. His easy-going nature also makes him a lot of fun to work with and very approachable for development collaboration."
A native of Ann Arbor, Bob studied engineering at the University of Michigan as well as elementary education at Eastern Michigan University. Upon graduation, teaching jobs were scarce and Bob went to work for Project Management Associates—a precursor to T & B Computing—and has never been sorry.
Bob and his wife of 36+ years, Sarah, live in Saline with the youngest of their five children. Their eldest, Angela, 35, lives in Ohio and works for Xavier University. Charlie, 33, is a lawyer and lives in Cleveland with his wife and Bob and Sarah's first grandchild, Arlo. Robert, 30 manages a small business in Ann Arbor and Carla, 28 works in federal law enforcement in Washington, DC. And the "baby" of the family, Eleanor, 16, attends high school in Saline. Bob is visibly proud of all of his children and their accomplishments and enjoys visiting them whenever possible. In his leisure time, Bob enjoys gardening and playing hockey and is also an avid runner and tennis player. He is not one to sit still or waste time.
We hope that Bob continues to use his considerable energy on Advantage development for many more years.
Scott Ghormley's history with Advantage starts before there even was an Advantage Computing Systems. In 1978, when he was 15 years old, he was hired by Infomatics--one of the precursor companies to ACS--to work in their computer room "flopping tapes and delivering output." He has come a long way since then. Scott returned to the company as an intern twice between his first stint and 1986 when he was hired as a full-time employee. That lasted until 1988. During his time away, Scott spent four years in the IT department at Domino's Pizza, and also worked as a consultant and network engineer at a variety of Detroit-area based companies (including Lotus Notes Development).
Scott returned to ACS in 1997, this time as a lead engineer in the group led by Karl Davis. He worked on a number of implementation projects for clients including Boy Scouts,SRDS, Farm Progress, Horizon Publishing, Ogden, Oakstone, Penton, American Medical Association, Bayard Presse, and ACP.
Peter Loftus of SRDS has this to say about working with Scott: "Although I have not had the pleasure of working with Scott for several years, he has always been there for SRDS in the past. His knowledge, patience, good humor, and excellent problem-solving skills have gotten us through quite a few situations. His attention to detail and keen understanding was a great assistance to me and ultimately benefitted our SRDS Clients."
Peter continues: "I would eagerly welcome the chance to work with Scott on any future initiatives. We share fond memories of Scott, from the time he got deathly ill from eating fish at a local hotel, to crazy whirly-ball matches, to him solving a label problem with my assistant, who was in labor with her first child and heading for the delivery room."
Several years ago, Scott moved to the Client Services Division at ACS, where his technical abilities and people skills are put to good use. There, he has served in project manager and account manager roles, working with clients such as Agora Publishing and Our Sunday Visitor. He enjoys working onsite with clients and problem-solving. Scott has also helped out in the sales area, performing software presentations and representing ACS at trade shows.
Scott's supervisor, Greg Stout, sings his praises: "Scott is one competent guy. The combination of his Advantage product knowledge, industry expertise, and communication skills make him the perfect fit for serving our clients. Scott takes personal responsibility for everything that comes his way and his level of commitment to the well-being of his clients is second to none."
Born in Tampa, Florida, Scott has lived the vast majority of his life in the Ann Arbor area. He decided to make a break from his hometown and went to college at Miami of Ohio. He finished up at Eastern Michigan University, however, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in operations research information systems (now called MIS).
Another link between Scott and ACS is the fact his father, Ron, was president of the company from 1980 to 1981.
Scott lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Tammy, a nurse practitioner, their four children, and Molly the dog. Mike, 19, just finished his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon, where he also plays football. Elena, 16, will be a junior in high school this next year and is a competitive diver. Peter, 9, is going into the 4th grade and Derek, 6, will be a first-grader in the fall. Kids activities keep Scott busy in his non-working hours. He coaches several of the teams the younger boys are in, which is not too much of a sacrifice, as Scott describes himself as a "sports junkie." University of Michigan football is his favorite, but he is interested in just about anything sports-related. Family vacations are usually spent camping and they enjoy visiting state parks throughout the Midwest. In his rare free time, Scott likes fly-fishing and doing projects such as building decks.
It's all too common for Michiganders to decide to desert their home state once they have had a taste of sunnier climes. But not Stan Bisgaier. No, he is one of a select few that chose to come back from sunny Florida– Gainesville, to be exact–to live and work in Michigan. And we are very glad he did!
Although born in New Jersey, Stan moved to Ann Arbor with his family when he was a kid. He didn't stray far from home when he enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned his undergraduate degree in computer engineering. Stan worked at several programming internships and, after graduation, he took a job with a game development company, where he worked for about a year. Stan then decided to go to graduate school and headed down south to Gainesville. Stan earned his Master's degree in computer engineering from the University of Florida, but decided that he wanted to return to Michigan. He did, and joined ACS in 2005.
In his five years here, Stan has worked with Matt Varblow on various web development, ecommerce, capsule and client website projects, but most of his time has been spent as a developer in the Product Development group led by Howie Brooks. He has done work for several clients including Bayard, CDS Global and Agora, in such Advantage areas as customer service, direct debit, conference and event, and reprints. Some of his assignments have involved collaborative projects with the QA and Documentation teams. Through it all, Stan displays a calm and capable demeanor.
Ev Acton, manager of the ACS Support Center, comments: "I REALLY like working with Stan. He's so good with the clients, and is very thorough."
Although he is interested in the systems area, Stan enjoys development the most. "Howie is a great boss," says Stan. "He does a good job of balancing assignments so that no one gets too overwhelmed. And I'm continually impressed with how smart he is."
Stan likes to approach a new feature looking for how he can incorporate creativity into his design. He enjoys having an influence on the evolution of Advantage.
"Stan is very thorough and good at identifying potential problems with a design. He works well on his own but never hesitates to involve others when a consensus is needed," says Howie. "He is always quick to respond to questions that arise during client testing and QA."
Stan's colleague Alan Cherney has this to say about him: "I really appreciate Stan. Having him just over the wall (we're cubicle neighbors) is extremely convenient when I need to take advantage of his technically sound opinion or advice. Additionally, he's just a friendly guy who likes good coffee, plays a solid game of wallyball, and laughs at good jokes. Who doesn't enjoy a coworker like that?"
Stan currently lives in Ann Arbor and, in his leisure time, enjoys snow skiing—preferably out West or in Canada—and baseball, and likes to keep up on the latest technical and science journals. He also likes to play video games, watch movies and listen to music.
Although Dave Rees is a 17-year veteran at ACS, the years are not consecutive. He was first hired as a new college graduate in 1988. He worked at ACS (then T & B Computing) for two years in the Trackstar group, a product line that has since been phased out. He left ACS for a few years and, in the interim, he worked at Unisys and then at a small software company that developed electronic communication software for auto manufacturers and their vendors.
Dave returned to ACS in 1995 and joined the development group led by Karl Davis. He did a lot of work with Farm Journal, as well as other clients, and then became a lead engineer, working on implementation projects such as Weekly Reader, Massachusetts Medical Society and National Auto Research.
A couple of years ago, Dave moved to the technical support team, led by Linda Lorenz. He likes dealing with client issues and enjoys learning new functionality and ways of doing things. Currently, he spends most of his time on Bayard Presse and has studied French in order to communicate with the people there. He appreciates the fact that ACS is a small enough company that he can see a project through from start to finish and he feels a great sense of satisfaction in doing so.
Evelyn Acton, Support Center manager, enjoys working with him. "Dave is a man of many words," she says. "The good news is that they are good words. He communicates well both with clients and ACS staff. Our clients always enjoy their exchanges with Dave. I'm glad he's on the team."
The son of an IBM engineer, in a family that moved a lot, Dave enrolled in the computer science program at the University of Minnesota. At first, he enjoyed all his classes EXCEPT computer science and thought that he might pursue something else. He took a break from college, came to Michigan and worked for a time, and decided that computers were indeed what he wanted to study. He returned to school, at Eastern Michigan University this time, and finished his degree in computer science. He tossed in some accounting classes along the way, which have served him well working with the accounting functionality in Advantage.
Co-worker Bryan Varblow has this to say about him: "Dave is dedicated to finding a solution to any problem which comes his way. Whether it's a quick task or a long term project, you can always count on the fact that Dave will see it through to completion until the client is satisfied that their needs have been fully met. While Dave is solving the issue du jour, he also brings a positive attitude which encourages all those around him."
Dave and his wife, Shelley, have three children: Emma, 20, a sophomore in college, Matt, 17, a senior in high school and Gabe, 16, a high school sophomore. The family lives in Redford Township and Dave and Shelley are heavily involved in the worship ministry at their church. When the kids were younger, Dave spent much of his free time with his sons in Boy Scout activities. He is proud that Matt has achieved Eagle Scout status and Gabe is very close to it. Dave's other leisure-time interests include singing in the church worship band, reading up on his Welsh heritage (the family was able to spend two weeks in Wales a few years ago and would love to go back), exercising and tinkering with new technology.
A fun-loving guy with a great sense of humor, Dave has enlivened the ACS office over the years with a ready smile, his non-stop flow of puns, and an ever-changing collection of toys and novelties in his cubicle. Dave has twice served as the emcee at the ACS Christmas party, entertaining employees and guests with his humorous banter. But when it comes to his job, he's plenty serious.
Ask Bob about his new clock. Bob Thornton celebrated his twentieth anniversary at ACS early this year, and so received a lovely Howard Miller clock of his choice, engraved with his years of service. Bob came to ACS in February 1989 as a combination support analyst and account manager. In his two decades here, he has done almost everything, with the exception of programming. Bob worked on a number of implementation projects for Advantage clients large and small, and has done training, consulting and even some sales work. Yes, for one Advantage client, Bob not only did the original software demonstrations for them, but also handled the follow-up sales process tasks.
Bob likes the fact that he can build long-term relationships with clients. For instance, he worked on the original 1992 implementation at NAMG (North American Membership Group) in Minnesota, and serves as their account manager today.
"I've worked with Bob since sometime in 1992 when we started planning and testing for our conversion to Advantage," says Lana Carnahan, Information Manager at NAMG. "Between the time he spent in Minneapolis and the time we spent on the phone working through test plans, conversion prep/issues, (which seemed to be every night for months) I've gained an enormous amount of respect for Bob and his values. He is always patient, understanding and willing to do anything he can to help someone out. If he doesn't know the answer (which is rare) he will make certain to find it out."
Lana goes on to say: "I'm proud to say that through all these years, I do also consider Bob a friend."
Another long-time client is José Garcia of Health Communications, an Advantage client since 1994. "I've known Bob for a good number of years," says José, "and it's always been a pleasure. Bob has always been there for us in any capacity that we've needed. I've had him as a trainer, installer and now as our account representative and he's always been someone that I enjoy working with."
Currently a senior account manager, Bob is responsible for close to a dozen clients. He says that although his plate is full, he is able to juggle it all. One of his favorite aspects of his job is teaching clients how to use the software and how to use it more efficiently. He really enjoys "figuring stuff out"getting questions from clients which cause him to dig to find the solution. Asked which part of the job he enjoys least, Bob respondednot surprisinglyinvoicing and account maintenance. He prefers to deal with people rather than paperwork.
"Bob is very customer oriented," says his supervisor, Greg Stout, VP, Client Services. "Plus, he has an acute knowledge of Advantage functionality. This combination of skills positions Bob well to understand his clients business concerns and help them take full use of Advantage features. He is a very effective trainer and a great resource for providing input for new Advantage enhancements."
Bob travels to each one of his clients at least once each year for a "wellness" visit. As opposed to identifying modifications or an operations review, which have specific goals to be accomplished, he maintains that his number one priority on these visits is "to listen." He is there at these times to deal with issues involving such topics as the overall software, the client's future plans, or the relationship between ACS and the client.
"We look forward to our visits from Bob," says Andy Wright of Oxford University Press. "He's one of life's Good Guys--always cheerful, always helpful. His all-around system knowledge comes in handy whenever we are introducing a new business model."
Scott Simerlein, VP of IS at NAMG, feels this way about Bob: "He is one of those rare people who represents his company as a consummate professional, yet always makes you feel like your concern is his personal concern, too. A true gentleman and Advantage scholar, Bob has provided a consistent and valuable connection between ACS and NAMG."
Bob was born and raised in Minnesota and attended college there at St. John's University in Collegeville. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in government and political science, he moved with some friends to Michigan and took a job working for an interdenominational religious organization. During his tenure there, he spent a year working and living in London, England. Bob met his future wife, Rosemary, a few years later and they married and settled in the Ann Arbor area to begin raising their family. Bob and Rosemary have four daughters, ages 14 to 21, and Bob is proud of the fact that, despite two of them being in college and with the difficulty of coordinating everyone's jobs and activities, they have always managed to schedule a week-long family summer vacation. That includes this year, when the six Thorntons plan to rent half a duplex on the ocean in North Carolina, one of their favorite spots. Another favorite spot is the west coast of Michigan along Lake Michigan where they have enjoyed using their pop-up camper.
Bob's Minnesota roots are very evident in the winter months, when even hardy Michiganians are pulling out their scarves and hats and gloves and he is in a light-weight, unzipped jacket, saying: "Cold? This isn't cold!" It must be that warm heart that keeps you from getting cold, Bob!