Jason ValdryJason Valdry learned early in his career with UC that he was happiest when he was giving back to the university. And serving as staff advisor to the UC Board of Regents was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

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“I went into this role without a clear sense of just how big a responsibility it would be, but the hard work has been worth it," said Valdry. "It has been truly fulfilling to take what I hear from employees around the system and elevate the common threads — so individual voices aren’t lost among the 150,000 plus staff members working throughout the UC system.”

Valdry’s two-year term has sped by, and he is happy to share what he’s learned with others who are considering applying.

What issues drove you as you took on the role of Staff Advisor to the Regents?

I am passionate about making sure supervisors have the training they need to manage people well. As a staff advisor, I was able to talk to people across the system whose stories confirmed my hypothesis that improving training for supervisors could help a lot of people. When people are managed effectively, they stay, and they thrive.

I’ve been able to raise this issue with regents and with local human resources offices. There’s no one simple fix, but there’s a conversation happening about how we can change policies to give supervisors more support, and give staff members every opportunity to grow in their careers at UC.

What significant issues arose during your term?

I’ve been part of two working groups that have taken a lot of my time and attention: cybersecurity and retiree health benefits. Coming from IT, I was well aware of the critical importance of cybersecurity for the university, but it was a new experience to tackle the issue on such a broad scale.

Retiree health benefits weren’t on my radar, but I’m happy the staff perspective is part of the discussions. How we treat our retirees has a big effect on our ability to recruit and retain the best employees.

As a staff advisor, were you able to see your influence on the president's and the regents’ discussions and decision-making?

In some ways, we really do have more influence than I expected, but much of that influence is indirect. I’ve had people come to me after watching the streamed video of a regents meeting and ask why I didn’t make a certain point more vocally. I try to explain that I was able to make that point more effectively in a one on one conversation. In the past few years, staff advisors have been very deliberate about having one-on-one meetings with the chairs of regents committees, and we’ve found it to be the most effective way to make sure the staff voice is heard.

Did anything that you learned during your time as staff advisor surprise you?

I was constantly surprised by the breadth of UC, by the experience of seeing the university from so many different directions. I had a lot of opportunities to see UC from someone else’s eyes — which is a really good way to figure out what people need. The more we improve the experience of working at UC, the easier it will be for staff members to make the university better.

I also learned a lot about myself. Coming from IT, I’ve always loved solving technical problems. It’s been something of a surprise, though, to realize how much I enjoy solving other kinds of problems, too. I’ve found that my technical background has given me a way of approaching problems that is effective beyond IT, and it’s been really exciting professionally to have the opportunity to apply those skills to a broader set of issues.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about applying to be a staff advisor?

First, watch the regents meetings. Plenty of conversations aren’t on camera, but it will give you a sense of what’s going on.

It’s also critical to have a good line of communication with your supervisor. Since neither of you can really know what you’re getting into until you take on this role, you need a lot of trust, and unconditional support. There’s no way I could have been successful as a staff advisor without the unflinching support of my supervisor.

Finally, please call us. I can honestly say that I speak for all previous staff advisors in this regard. I know how generous they’ve been with me — sharing their time and experience every step of the way. We’ll happily talk to you about the role, tell you our thoughts, our impressions, what to expect from the selection process. We want staff members to be successful, and we know that this is a very big decision.