Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Stanley Ratcliff Jr., NANA's Infrastructure Systems Architect

This is part of a series of interviews with NANA’s shareholder-employees.

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Stanley Ratcliff Jr. is a shareholder with family from Kotzebue. Since joining NANA in 2009, he has advanced from an IT service desk technician to an infrastructure systems architect. Prior to his full-time employment with NANA, Stan was an intern at WHPacific.

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

My mom named me Eglurak, which means to laugh, because she said I was a happy baby.

Where is your family from?

My mom is Elsie Curtis. She was born and raised in Kotzebue. She moved away when she was young and lived in Metlakatla, Anchorage and Palmer. I was born in Palmer in 1986. I’d never visited Kotzebue until I started working at NANA.

What was your impression?

It was small and different than what I was used to. I went up in December and February. It was windy and cold and very dark.

NANA sent me to the villages to work on board members’ computers. Everyone was so nice. They came and visited with me and fed me.

When did you first learn about NANA and what it meant to be a shareholder?

My mom. She encouraged me to reach out and look into scholarships through NANA. So I met with Kristina Patrick and she let me know about internships and, later, job opportunities. (Kristina is the senior director of shareholder employment and development.)

I’m grateful for NANA, for all the opportunities: the scholarship (through Aqqaluk Trust), the internship, and the encouragement.

What was your first job?

At 13, I pulled weeds at a 55-and-older community in Palmer. Then I worked at the State Fair, as a dishwasher and a food prep cook in a halibut shack.

Who has inspired you?

My parents. They have a strong work ethic. They taught me how to stay positive and keep a good attitude, which has gotten me far.

Also, my coaches who encouraged us to be good human beings, on and off the court. One coach always said that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. You can’t control what happens, just your reaction.

So you were into sports?

I played basketball at Palmer. We made it to state. I learned about teamwork and that you can’t do it all alone. You have to rely on other people, just as they need to be able to count on you.

Where did you go to school?

I graduated from Palmer High School. Then I went to Western Oregon U. They recruited me to play ball.

I got my degree in information systems, which bridges business and enterprise computing. My minor is in business.

What is your current job?

My title is infrastructure systems architect. I support applications, servers, core services—which includes phone, email and file sharing. I deploy new business systems and applications, maintain them, and support the users (employees).

I’m responsible for understanding systems and how they work. I’m jumping in and fix them when they break, or I’m looking for ways to improve them when they’re running smoothly.

What are your strongest beliefs about what you do and what you hope to achieve?

My job is to create complex processes and then to simplify them. We help business move forward by creating good processes and streamlining them.

What do you like best about your job?

The challenges. Every day/week/month, I learn something new. Technology is always changing. I have five or six certifications now and I renew one or two a year.

It keeps me motivated. It makes me want to stick around. I used to worry I’d be sitting on my hands, but there’s always more to do.

It’s rewarding to see hard work pay off. My supervisors have me take on new roles and support me along my path. They took a risk on having me work remotely (in Portland, Oregon), but it’s worked out.

How is it, working remotely?

I don’t have much of a commute. I have access to our cloud-based data center to make any changes.

Thomas Henry is my boots on the ground. We’re in daily contact, IMing or on the phone a couple of times a day, depending on what we broke. [laughing]

You could work in your pajamas.

I keep an ironed shirt handy for video conferences.

What advice do you have for young shareholders?

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Take on new responsibilities.

What important lessons have you learned?

Take advantage of opportunities. They are there if you’re willing to do the work. Be prepared to do the work. My bosses want to see me succeed. They are willing to help.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I played ball in high school and college, but I don’t watch sports.

When I’m not working, I’m into DIY projects: bread baking, canning, woodworking, gardening, brewing, fixing my motorcycle, and playing with my dogs.

You sound like a Portlander.

I traded snow for rain, but I still tell people I’m from Alaska. Alaska still feels like home.

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Stanley Ratclliff Jr. was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.