Back in the early 1990s, when Chris Van Vladricken was barely in his teens, his family invested $5,000—a king’s ransom at the time—in a personal computer. His mother was convinced it would lead her son to a productive and profitable future.
Before long, he developed an interest in dial-up connections and began building rudimentary websites. He and his friends, as they played the game “Doom” in an after-school computer lab, “thought we were changing the world.”
As it turned out, his mother proved prescient: Van Vladricken today is AMMEX’s chief information officer.
His path to that position followed unexpected routes. After high school, he spent some time in community college before deciding that his ticket to success was a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certificate, which a friend assured him would guarantee an immediate $60,000-a-year job. For a guy who’d spent his senior year of high school working at JC Penney, that was simply too good to pass up.
No small accomplishment, it involved a series of difficult, highly technical tests. But he persevered and, over the course of 10 months, did little other than sleep and study to earn his certificate.
An ad for an IT position brought him to AMMEX and an interview with founder Fred Crosetto. He was hired as an analyst and dived in immediately, putting in long hours to acquire all the practical knowledge he could.
“I was always a very logical thinker,” he says. “If I didn’t know the facts, I would never make assumptions. That plays well in IT, and luckily for me, my first boss was a guy who thought the same way.”
He learned quickly that without due diligence and decisions based on facts, he was leaving himself open to chance—never a sound policy when one’s raison d’être is to keep computer systems operational.
“I always thought, if I make a mistake, my career is over. If the company is down as a result of my mistake, my IT career is down the drain. So I worked pretty much every weekend, because I viewed that as my safety net. I would work all week, pull all-nighters. I felt proud to be relied upon.”
That feeling of being needed is one of the key factors that have kept Van Vladricken at AMMEX well beyond his original estimate of a year, maybe two, before moving on to move up the ladder at another IT operation. Now he is closing in on his 15th anniversary.
“The reason I never left the company was that it was always growing with me. When I started at AMMEX, we were only servicing North America, one location in Kent. But there was always something on the horizon, something I could take on.”
Working for a small to medium-sized business, he says, has shaped the way he approaches his career as well as the defining the degree of satisfaction he enjoys from knowing he is always making a difference.
“I can’t imagine not being part of a company where my work has a direct impact on the success of the company that’s visible, at least to me and in many cases the people around me. Being able to see that impact, it’s hard to describe how much it means.”
What is the difference between 2002 and 2017? The company has the same vibe and cultural feel, he says, although that is starting to change: “Before it didn’t have a lot of culture. It was just a go-go-go kind of entrepreneurial vibe that trickled down from Fred. I think that’s starting to change now.
“For me, it’s somewhat the same AMMEX. Our sales have gone up, and we have more locations and back-office support in Asia, but there’s never a sense of, ‘We’ve made it.’ It’s always, ‘How do we get to the next level?’”
He sees a limitless future for AMMEX. During his tenure there have been occasional years of economic downturn when growth was not in double digits, but it stayed healthy nonetheless. There remains the feeling throughout the 29-year-old company that this is just the beginning: “I think this company will continue to grow. There are opportunities we don’t even know about yet that we know will come.”