Chris Rader ’90 ~ IT Solutions
Entrepreneur and information technology specialist Chris Rader ’90 attributes much of his career and business success to the liberal arts education he received at Spring Hill College. Rader, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from SHC, now runs his own company which provides IT solutions to more than 100 corporations throughout the United States.
“We provide comprehensive strategies for organizations that prefer to outsource information technology (IT) services. Our expertise includes network monitoring, hosting, security enforcement, desktop support, and virtualization, in addition to employee education and training,” says Rader. “What sets us apart is our ability to customize IT services for the needs of each individual business we serve.”
Rader Solutions, based in Lafayette, La., works with a variety of energy and construction supply companies, as well as several healthcare organizations. The company employs 18 highly skilled technology specialists and support staff.
Rader got his start in the IT field with Electronic Data Systems in Detroit, Mich. working on a General Motors account. Later, he returned to Louisiana and began installing a computer system for his father’s lumber yard business. Soon after, Rader was hired by a software company and began installing systems throughout the country. During that time, Rader earned an Executive MBA degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
“It was then that the light came on and I figured out how to make a profit in many of the lumber yards through software automation and process changes,” says Rader. Two companies hired Rader in June of 1998—a millwork company in Houston and a drywall company in Los Angeles, both of which later sold to Fortune 500 companies. Rader juggled the two positions, handling IT for both organizations and serving as the Interim CFO for the millwork business in Houston. After gaining this invaluable work experience, Rader decided that it was time to create and launch his own IT company.
“Being open to challenges and being bold enough to take chances were tenets instilled in me because of the education that I received at Spring Hill,” says Rader. “When I find myself looking at a ‘Y’ in the road, I think of the consequences of going either way. Once I choose a path, if I have made a mistake, I pick myself up and change course.”Rader credits his Spring Hill College professors for preparing him to think critically, problem-solve, and plan for his future career.
“In particular, I remember Dr. Jerry Scott always used life lessons to teach us about computers. His commitment to students was unwavering. He allowed us to work in the lab, gaining as close to real-world experience as possible,” says Rader. “He later coached me about how to interview for my first job. He had more faith in me than I had in myself and taught me never to give up.”
That one-on-one attention was what initially attracted Rader to Spring Hill. When he first visited the campus, he was actually enrolled as a freshman at Louisiana State University.
“When I took my tour, I was impressed with the community here. Most every person that I met acknowledged my presence. I was not a number, and people remembered my name,” says Rader. “I was able to sit in on a class and I met with the staff of the computer science department. The passion of those professors moved me from Baton Rouge to Mobile.”
After transferring to Spring Hill College, Rader became involved in a number of on-campus activities. His memberships included student government, Knights of Columbus, the computer programming team, as well as the association of computer science and business club. During his time on The Hill, Rader also served as president of his senior class and president of the Springhillians.
Rader says he looks back at his time on campus fondly. His advice for incoming freshman or transfer students is simple: Make the most of your years at Spring Hill.
“Work hard and develop a study schedule. Get involved in clubs early on,” says Rader. “And allocate time to learn about other students. Since almost everyone lives on campus, you have a comfortable place to develop friendships with students and professors. I often traveled to other students’ homes and my friends visited my home in Louisiana. To this day, years after graduation, I still enjoy keeping up with my classmates on the phone and Facebook.”
The real value of Spring Hill College, for me, is a combination of three things,” adds Rader. “The wonderful education I received, the wide variety of cultural opportunities I experienced, and the lifelong relationships I made along the way.”
Rader lives in Lafayette, La. with his wife Jennie and their three daughters, Emma Catherine, Caroline, and Virginia. His hobbies include saltwater fishing, exercise, and giving back to the community through service on various boards. Rader is a member of the Spring Hill College National Alumni Board and has been instrumental in assisting SHC with student recruitment in the Lafayette area.