Talent for talking makes technician the voice of IT Express

People hear of Derrik Arenal even before they meet him. That is, they hear his voice--and like it.

For five years, Arenal has recorded all the voice messages for IT Express, the campus tech help desk. That's not why UC Davis hired him, but he has a talent for it, backed by stints in radio, film and TV when he was growing up.

Arenal graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1999 with a degree in avionics technology. He was hired by Information and Educational Technology in 2000 as a Data Center operator and webmaster, and still works in its operations unit. His duties include overseeing operations in the center's machine room, developing and changing Web-site content, and handling service requests from system administrators and other campus clients.

His skills on the phone gained him the unofficial title of "voice of IT Express" from his previous boss, Mark Stinson, now client services manager for IET's Data Center and Client Services. Stinson tapped Arenal because callers who had talked to Arenal had liked his voice. They appreciated his messages. They praised his engaging voice and succinct delivery.

Stinson's decision wasn't the first time Arenal has been singled out for his vocal skills. When Arenal was studying at Pasadena Community College, he worked at a local radio station, KPCC. He was the show engineer for a live broadcast that profiled local events and had interviews, and often read public service announcements when the regular hosts were absent.

And he has worked in Hollywood. A Pasadena native, he was an extra in TV shows and movies, lived near the Gyllenhaals (a family with famous actors), and occasionally baby-sat Maggie Gyllenhaal (later an actress in "Mona Lisa Smile" with Julia Roberts). Arenal also worked with Stephen Gyllenhaal, Maggie's father, on a "Sesame Street" production in which Arenal was the narrator, and his younger brother Victor Arenal (now production manager for "Stunt Junkies," a Discovery Channel show) was the co-star.

Arenal was reluctant to accept the "voice of ITX" label. "I'm a programmer,? he says. "That's my title." But he is glad for the chance to be the voice. "It's an honor to have been selected for the job."

He is a family man at heart, happily playing tag-team with his wife, Christine, to care for their three kids. He has no plan to rekindle his show-biz past. "I'm here to serve the Davis community," he says.