From installing the American Botanical Council’s first file and e-mail servers to helping staff transition to newer hardware and software programs, Eric “Rick” Valdez has worked for the past 23 years to keep ABC up to speed with the rapid pace of technology. Although Valdez works off-site, his long-standing relationship with the organization, strong work ethic, and willingness to provide assistance at any hour of the day has more than qualified him as a valued ABC team member.
“Technically, I am an independent contractor, but because of the type of work I do along with my long-term association with ABC, they treat me as if I were a staff member,” said Valdez.
Eric, a native Austinite, has spent most of his life in the city and currently calls southwest Austin home, where he lives with his wife of 32 years along with their son and daughter. “My grandmother’s family has lived in South Austin since ‘before Texas was a state,’” he said. “My mom and dad moved to San Antonio because my dad was in the military service. After high school, I moved back to Austin to attend the University of Texas and, like many others, I stayed here.”
After attending the University of Texas, Eric finished his degree in accounting and minor in computer system administration at St. Edward’s University, where his daughter is currently a student. His varied academic background is, in part, what makes Eric such a valuable team member.
“When you get an IT person, you’re lucky to get someone who understands software and hardware, but you hardly ever get someone who understands the accounting side, which Eric does,” said Cecelia Thompson, ABC’s finance director. “He’s so different from so many other IT people. He’s grown through the years with all that knowledge and has just kept on going. That’s why I call him Mighty Mouse — because he always saves the day.”
Eric’s relationship with ABC began in the late 1980s, when the organization was transitioning from one software package to another. “I started working with ABC in 1989. At the time, ABC used an accounting software package called CYMA, and Cecelia contacted the software company and asked for some assistance and they referred me to ABC,” he said.
Before being hired officially, Eric offered his services pro bono to ABC, which at the time was still in its infancy. “Eric actually supported us in answering all of my questions for about 2 years before we ever went with him on something, and he did it for free,” said Thompson. “When it was time to go from whatever platform we were on, I went with him because he had helped us all along. From then on, he was our supporter of almost everything we did.”
“There’s no way for us to express adequately how important Eric is to the success of ABC,” said ABC’s Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “Eric has been with us since almost the beginning, for over 23 years. The incredible vault of institutional memory he holds is a key asset for ABC, as it would be for any nonprofit organization or even a for-profit company. And, what’s more, he really, genuinely cares about ABC, its mission, and its people.”
Before coming to ABC, Eric worked as an account manager for the City of Austin for almost 10 years, and then started his own consulting business. Currently, Eric acts as a consultant to ABC for virtually every aspect of the organization’s technological framework.
“For ABC, my company, Corsair USA, basically functions as the Chief Technology Officer. I advise on the purchase of hardware and software, provide accounting software support, help desk support, [and] manage the computer network,” he explained. “I also have a few behind-the-scenes staff that manage ABC’s website infrastructure and the content management system of ABC’s website.”
In addition to the wide variety of technical assistance Eric provides, his availability and willingness to help sets him apart from other consultants. “He’s fabulous. Most software companies, their support is Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 — he’s 24/7. Mark calls him anytime he needs assistance, and so do many other ABC staff members. He’s always available to answer your question,” said Thompson.
Despite all he does for the organization, Eric works with other clients in addition to ABC. “Today, my clients are primarily healthcare providers and professional service companies. Besides ABC, I have several other nonprofit clients that rely on my firm to provide computer network security and support, accounting software support, and website development/support,” he said. “I consider it a privilege to serve others and I have been very fortunate to have several clients that ‘make a difference’ in one way or another.”
When not working, Eric enjoys spending time with his wife and children. “I spend most of my free time with my family and I occasionally enjoy a round of golf,” he said.
And, just as ABC benefitted from his services before he was officially hired, Eric still finds time to give back to the community. “He does a lot of donating of his time and energy,” said Thompson. “He does that for some organizations and individuals who can’t afford to pay for anything; he’ll go over and fix their computer on his own time.”