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Ray Zick: Problem Solving With A Smile

Some people are natural problem solvers and Ray Zick is definitely one of them, although he prefers to call it solving puzzles.  As the manager of the upgrades and IT department, 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.

"I've known Ray for a long time," says Joe Wixted of Our Sunday Visitor.  "He taught me how to program in RepDef in the early '90s.  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.

Upgrades Project Director Paul DesRosiers frequently works with Ray on upgrades.  "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."

"Ray is a great boss," says Linda Ridley.   "He provides assistance when I need it, but doesn't micro-manage.  Ray knows the software extremely well and can usually tell me which source file to look at when I need to figure something out.  He's also available to help other people in the company.   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 tells his siblings that it's because their parents found that they stopped getting better with him.)  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.

Mike Gilbert of Crain Communications appreciates Ray's tenacity. "During/after our 2005 upgrade, we had some serious system performance issues due to the size of our database," says Mike. "Ray came on-site to visit with our users and take notes.  Back at ACS, he stuck with the issue, and followed it through to its resolution."

And Nikki Lorenz of Kalmbach Publishing has this to say about him:  "I've always enjoyed working with Ray. If an issue gets to his level, it's going to be very technical in nature yet Ray can always explain what's going on in a way that I can understand – and does so without making me feel ignorant! That's a greatly appreciated skill you don't often find in "techies". I've learned a lot from Ray over the years and it's always been obvious that he truly enjoys helping the client."

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, Dick Hile, VP of Product Engineering, doesn't have to.

"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, and their 3 children.  Daughter Mary, 21, and son Tony, 20, are in college, while daughter Theresa, 15, attends high school in Ann Arbor.  Ray has always spent most of his leisure time in kid-centered activities, although there are fewer of them as his children grow up.  But as the designated tech support for his extended family, the manager of the family website and email list (with 65 members), plus the manager of the choir and band email lists, he is far from bored. 

He also likes to bike, walk, read and sing in his local choir. He serves as a cantor in his church because, as he says: "I like to chant every chance I get."   In any leftover time, he likes to "mess around with web stuff."

Ray received the Advantage Ace Achiever award earlier this year in recognition of his outstanding efforts in serving both clients and co-workers.

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