Jan 19, 2021
Cindy Twiss

Ray Zick: Persistent Problem Solver and People Person

Ray Zick has his head in the clouds. No, he isn’t absent-minded or unaware, and he’s certainly not illogical. Quite the opposite, in fact. But as the manager of the Cloud Services team at AdvantageCS, he spends a lot of time with his head---as well as the rest of him---in the clouds. He and his team provide hosting services for Advantage clients in the cloud and are constantly working to enhance what services they can offer to cloud clients, such as continuing improvements to onboarding procedures.

But that’s not all Ray’s team does. They manage our internal systems and network and provide user support to everyone in the company. When the lockdown in Michigan began last March, the team scrambled to get dozens of employees, who had always worked in the office, set up to work remotely. Which they did in record time. During that period, at least one of them was always in the office while the others worked remotely. With restrictions eased, team members can most often be found in the office. Ray explains that they all missed being in the same area where---even with distancing---they could hear what the others were working on and be able to jump in to help.

The team is highly experienced---the “junior” member of the team has been at AdvantageCS for 19 years. The rest average more than 30 years and Ray himself has been at AdvantageCS for 38 years. Ray says that his favorite part of his job is the people he works with---both coworkers and clients. He also enjoys that his job is dynamic and he deals with new things all the time.

Some people are natural problem solvers and Ray is definitely one of them, although he prefers to call it solving puzzles. As the manager of the cloud services team, he is exposed to plenty of puzzles that need to be solved. Ray can be counted on to do what needs to be done, whatever it may be, and he does so cheerfully and with an unflappable demeanor. He has developed good relationships with many clients over the years and is always looking to do what he can to make their jobs easier.

“I’ve known Ray for a long time,” says Joe Wixted of the American Medical Association. “Ray’s one of those guys that, if you ask him a question and he doesn’t know the answer (which I’ve found to be a rare occasion!), he’ll work tirelessly to get the answer. His “If you can repeat it, we can defeat it!” phrase is legendary!”

And, indeed, that phrase has proven to be true, as there has never been a bug that Ray couldn’t figure out. “There’s always something else to try” is another of his familiar sayings. And he doesn’t give up.

Coworker Paul DesRosiers has worked with Ray a lot over the years. “Ray is great about investigating client issues, even if they don’t clearly fall into his realm of expertise,” says Paul. “He either works the issue through to completion or points us to the person who can. This is true for support tasks, upgrade questions, and even Emergency Support calls in the middle of the night.”

Paul continues: “I appreciate working with Ray because he always keeps a cool and level head. He clearly understands the technical issues as well as the business ramifications for the client.”

And he can do all of this with both eyes tied behind his back! (Another famous Ray-phrase. He is well-known for his one-liners and groan-worthy puns.)

A native of Durand, Michigan, Ray is the 12th of 13 children, or the penultimate child, as he likes to say. Ray attended the University of Michigan, the 11th in his family to do so, and earned a BBA degree with a specialty in computers from there. Ray joined ACS in 1983, right after graduating from college. The last job he held while in college was as a bagel baker, where the ovens were set at 550 degrees. Ray proved then that he could stand the heat in the kitchen; perhaps good training for problem-solving.

Originally hired as a configurations analyst, Ray quickly moved into the systems area as a programmer and he has been involved there in some capacity ever since. In addition to debugging and problem solving, he enjoys making things work better. He also has the goal of dealing with issues so that his boss, Matt Varblow, VP of Engineering Services, doesn’t have to.

Dick Hile, VP of Product Engineering, was Ray’s boss for many years. “The great thing about Ray is that he knows something about everything and everything about some things that some others know nothing about,” says Dick. “He got that way through equal parts natural ability and a good-natured willingness to dive in and help customers and co-workers who are in distress.”

Ray lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Suzan. They have 3 adult children---eldest daughter, Mary and her husband are expecting Ray and Suzan’s first grandchild any day now. They live in Boston where Mary is a school social worker. Youngest daughter, Theresa, lives in Chicago and is engaged to be married next year---to a software engineer, like Dad. She is a recent graduate with a degree in music from DePaul University. She is a substitute in several Chicago area orchestras, teaches at a music school and works at Starbucks. Middle child, son Tony, has a master’s degree in poetry and recently got a job as a development writer at the Detroit Zoo.

When he isn’t working, Ray enjoys listening to audio books on his daily walks, cooking, and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He normally sings in a choir but that is on hold during the pandemic. Ray also serves as the designated tech support person for his extended family---although that is also greatly curtailed due to the virus---and manages the family website and email list (with 62 members).


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