Employee Spotlight: Bill Daniels

Our tradition of highlighting the talented individuals who work here at Vision Net continues. This month, the spotlight shines on our skilled E-911 Supervisor, Bill Daniels. He has been working at Vision Net for over 14 years and has a lot of knowledge to share.

What is your position here at Vision Net and what do you do?

E-911 Supervisor. The team I supervise is responsible for maintaining and monitoring Montana’s IP-based Emergency Services network (or ESINet), Network centers in Billings and Missoula, and the 911 call-taking equipment in many of those counties.

E-911 in a Nutshell.

E-911 means Enhanced 911, and that means, in addition to a person’s 911 call coming into a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), their location information is also delivered to the 911 call taker.

We are working with our partners to bring the next evolution of 911 to Montana, and it’s called NG-911, or NextGen 911. It will allow new features, like the ability to text to 911 (which many places already have), send video or photos, as well as many other types of data. More importantly, it will bring better location information, especially for wireless and VoIP callers.

How has this pandemic been impacting your job?

We’re not making as many visits to our sites, obviously, and we’re working from home. Beyond that, I wouldn’t say that it’s impacting the job itself much. We spend a lot of time on the road, plus being on-call after hours, so we already have the tools and procedures to support the ESINet and our PSAP customers remotely; tools we’ve used for years. I have just as much access to monitor and maintain the 911 network that I would from my office. The one thing that is different and I miss is the face to face time with my teammates and co-workers. We exchange a lot of information, and it’s sometimes hard to do in group Instant Messaging… especially when I feel like I’m always 2 or 3 sentences behind everyone else! 

How has working from home been?

In a lot of ways, it’s not much different. I still keep the same routines; I get up, shower, get dressed (including a Vision Net shirt), fix my morning coffee and head into the office. My commute is just a lot shorter… but the dogs love it. I also get to have lunch every day with my wife, Karen, so that’s a bonus.

It came to our attention that you had trouble with H1N1 in the past, how this makes the difference facing the COVID-19 threat?

Mostly, how seriously I take it. I was young and healthy in 2009 when H1N1 struck. When I got sick, I figured it was just allergies, a little hay fever, or a touch of bronchitis. By the time I finally got medical attention, I was past H1N1 and straight into full-blown pneumonia. I spent 14 days in Benefis hospital, had a thoracotomy and was off work for another two full months. Even when I finally came back, it was a couple of months before I had my strength back. But bigger than how it impacted me and my family, I think about how many people I might have exposed; that’s where the current situation really hits home. In Public Safety, we do our best to protect the public; people around us, our families, our teammates and co-workers, and the public in general. In retrospect, I failed to do that, both for myself and others. It’s difficult to live with at times.

What’s your favorite Vision Net perk?       

The opportunity to grow. Seems strange coming from a guy who’s basically had the same job for over 13 years, but it’s true. I’ve been afforded outstanding opportunities to grow, personally and professionally. Not only have I been given the opportunity to learn many advanced hardware and software platforms, but I also get to go to conferences and workshops several times a year to meet and network with other Public Safety professionals from around the US and the world as a member of NENA. We work closely with our partner companies and customers to address their needs. We see problems; we tackle problems.

Besides that, there are the programs that Vision Net has launched for our growth and well-being: Employee Assistance programs, Wellness, and leadership just to name a few. We’ve had opportunities in the past to take CPR and First Aid as well.

What are 3 words to describe Vision Net?

Opportunity. Forward. Challenge.

What advice do you have for prospective Vision Net candidates?

This isn’t a cookie-cutter job. I can’t think of many classes you could take that would let you walk in and just excel. This is a job where you’re going to have to spend the time to learn Experience. You’re going to have to think ahead, to see problems before your customers know that they have one and get them solved. It’s very proactive as opposed to reactive.

What do you like most about your job?

I get to work with a lot of different people. I have a great group of people here at Vision Net that I get to work with daily. I’m amazed at their knowledge, skill, and dedication… and how much smarter they are than I am! I love working in the 911 community. My family has been in public safety for the last 3 generations (mostly law enforcement, but also fire and EMT), so I really feel at home here.If you could add one thing to the Vision Net office, what would it be?

We actually started doing that over the last few years. I’ve worked for companies in the past that were very community-oriented. Vision Net has always been involved locally, but we’ve really picked up the pace by doing things like supporting Special Olympics; not just financially, but we have had a pretty big presence at the Olympics themselves the last couple of years. It’s very cool.

What has been the most important innovation you have witnessed in your lifetime?

I’d have to say global communications. I grew up in the 60’s, and I remember things like party lines and rotary phones. To be able to take a very small device and talk to literally anyone, anywhere in the world (or even in orbit) is completely astonishing. Compare that to picking up the big black phone on the wall and having to listen to see if anyone else was using it before you could make a call.

What is your favorite book and why?

This could be a very long list, but I’d have to go with Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. I love Clarke’s work. It’s great fact-based science fiction. Say the subject of the book is about an elevator that would take cargo and people up to low earth orbit; the afterward in the book would include something like ‘Here’s the math, why it would work, and I proposed this to the Royal Planetary Society in 1967. However, Clarke really touched on the humanity, the human story rather than three-eyed monsters and space battles. That was always the important part of his story, the people involved, and how they’re affected.

What is one food that you cannot resist?

Anything spicy, especially in chocolate. Some Sriracha in Pots De Crème (a rich chocolate custard), guajillo or chipotle in Mexican chocolate, ancho or cayenne (or both) in hot chocolate. We even put cayenne in our morning coffee.

Do you have any talents or hobbies?

I play bass, as well as acoustic guitar… poorly, but I’m taking this time to actually take lessons on-line. I was also pretty good at the tenor saxophone way back when. I also like to spend time practicing with my bow.

How do you define success?

Easy. Tonight, when you go to bed, close your eyes. How do you feel? How do you feel about what you did or what you accomplished today? Did you help someone, or is something better just because you made it so? To paraphrase (I believe it was Confucius), your Vocation and your Conscience should be in harmony, and not conflict.