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Rick Dorazil's path to employee benefits a circuitous one

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Rick Dorazil's path to employee benefits a circuitous one

Like many benefit managers, Rick Dorazil's path to the employee benefits field was a circuitous one.

After graduating in 1975 with a degree in elementary education from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., Mr. Dorazil, vp-total reward, Western Hemisphere at BP America Inc. in Houston, taught for several years at elementary schools in central Illinois.

During that time, Mr. Dorazil became friends with Wade Vanderpoel, a senior vp in the master trust department at the First National Bank of Chicago.

Mr. Dorazil says he greatly admired Mr. Vanderpoel's intellect. “I label people, and the highest label I could give anyone is "whiz kid.' He was just unbelievably bright and wicked smart in finance, investments and most everything else,” Mr. Dorazil said.

When Mr. Vanderpoel suggested that Mr. Dorazil take a couple of business courses, he took that advice and enrolled in an accounting course.

“I really enjoyed it,” Mr. Dorazil said, and applied to Loyola University of Chicago to study for an MBA.

After earning his master's from Loyola in 1979, Mr. Dorazil moved to Nashville, Tenn., where he accepted a position as a treasury analyst with Aladdin Industries, a manufacturer of school lunch kits and the Stanley thermos. He later moved on to Northern Telecom Ltd.—now Nortel Networks Corp.—where he worked in the treasury department and was involved in, among other things, short-term cash management.

While at Northern Telecom, he was approached by Don Petersen, Northern Telecom's assistant treasurer who gave him the responsibility of managing the company's thrift savings plan.

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Looking back, Mr. Dorazil recalls his introduction to employee benefits as a “baptism by fire. I didn't know anything about benefits other than I had them.”

He dug in quickly. He worked on developing Northern Telecom's flexible benefit plans and its 401(k) plan, one of the country's first.

“You learn from the ground up,” he said of his years at Northern Telecom.

Later, he moved on to Playtex Inc. in Dover, Del., which was soon purchased by Esmark Corp. in Chicago, which in turn was acquired by Beatrice Corp. Beatrice transferred Mr. Dorazil to Chicago to run its defined contribution plans group.

In 1989, Mr. Dorazil accepted a position as manager of health care programs at Motorola Inc. in Schaumburg, Ill. During his tenure at Motorola, where he later became vp-global reward benefits, he was involved in such projects as setting up benefits administration centers in Puerto Rico and Malaysia.

In 2002, Mr. Dorazil moved from Motorola to accept a position at Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., and worked on projects such as adding paid maternity and paternity programs, and designing and implementing a profit sharing program. Under that program, Bank of America shared a portion of its profit—if certain financial targets were hit—with employees making less than $100,000 a year.

“That was really embraced by” employees, Mr. Dorazil said.

In 2007, Mr. Dorazil accepted his position at BP America Inc. after his position at Bank of America was eliminated as the company began to pare its workforce.

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There are many things Mr. Dorazil says he enjoys about working at BP. What he likes the most, he says, is the company's willingness to listen to “the soft voice in the room.”

“What I appreciate at BP is they try very hard to do what they say. If you build the right business case and you have gathered and analyzed your data correctly, they will go with what the talent recommends,” he said.

Mr. Dorazil, 59, is married and the father of three grown children. His wife, Debbie, is a retired preschool and elementary school teacher.

For recreation, Mr. Dorazil enjoys running. He has been training for a roughly 50-mile hike this summer that will take him to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.