New Spotlight Series: Beneath The Surface

“It’s not a sexy business, it’s boring until it’s not,” said Flint. “But it is important, it is extremely important, and you measure success from when things don’t happen, not from when they do.” This is the first of many quotes Field Representative Emily Mandresh has been collecting for a series of articles called Beneath the Surface.

Mandresh who has been the Central New York and Mohawk Valley Field Representative at Dig Safely New York, Inc. for the last four years saw an opportunity to reach other ‘humans’ in New York by writing profile pieces on contractors, locators, excavators, and how they all work together. Prior to joining the organization, she worked as a freelance writer for several years. After observing the industry for the past four years, she’s utilizing those writing skills by taking a closer look into those who help this industry thrive. Here is part of our conversation with Mandresh about the series.

What is Beneath the Surface?

Beneath the Surface focuses on individuals in the industry in many different facets. It will talk about their history, talk about what they do day-to-day and kind of give an insight with personal information as to what goes on on their end. Kind of humanize them a little bit rather than viewing them as another task who needs to be checked off as part of the process. It’s a series that I came up with in order to give a deeper look into all of the people and their important positions that help make the one call process successful. The one call center is just one piece of the puzzle and we work so closely with so many different people. Whether they are the utility companies, the locators, municipalities, the locating equipment companies, everyone has a piece of this process. So, I wanted to have one-on-ones with people to get a look into what they do day-to-day so everyone can kind of understand the importance of all of the pieces of the puzzle. What I found right from the start, when I started with Dig Safely New York, was that there can be a little bit of animosity from people in the process. A little bit of frustration, and sometimes rightfully so, but I think a big part of it comes from the fact that they might not fully understand what their requirements are, what their obligations are and they’re just focusing on what they need. But, if we can break it down and kind of look at the day-to-day obligations for each person, whether they’re the ones out there doing the locate or they’re responding to an emergency or they’re stopping by a job site to make sure everything’s on the up-and-up, we can see the importance and maybe hopefully have a little bit more patience when you need something from someone or maybe something isn’t happening as quickly. For the most part, I see a lot of these individuals working really well together. That’s apparent within our DPC’s (Damage Prevention Council). This is just another way to show that this can’t work without all of the pieces fitting together nicely.

How did you come up with the idea of Beneath the Surface?

The original idea started way back when I started with Dig Safely New York as a vague thought. As I was doing my training and observing the other Field Reps and observing other DPC’s and dealing with mine, we would do round tables, especially during the DPC’s, a lot of what was discussed was frustration. Frustration about delayed tickets, responses from utility companies, locators or whichever the case may be. I just thought that if everybody understood a little bit more about what the other person was doing, maybe this would work a little bit better. The whole system does rely heavily on other people completing their part, so it was just an idea I had. Originally, I was thinking I could tag along with people during a full day, video tape them and see what they do, but I thought sitting down with people in more of an intimate one-on-one where they could talk freely about their day, their struggle, their obstacles, things that they enjoy about their position, has been a really nice way to go about it. It took a few years for me to really think through it, develop it within my mind and also have the time to attack it. As I’ve gotten to know some of these people and formulate relationships I thought it would be beneficial to talk to some of them and to start to put it together in their own words. Some of them have sent me pictures from their past. Things that they have done along the way that really give an in-depth look into how they have developed through the years and where they’re at now.

Why do you feel it’s important for those in the industry to read about the inner workings of others in the industry?

You can be so focused on your day-to-day needs and obligations and getting your job done that it’s so easy to forget about what somebody else is required to do. It’s a fast-paced world we live in and everyone wants something done yesterday. If we can take the time and really humanize everyone who you’re communicating with and maybe see the other struggles that they’re going through or all the details that they need to check off before they can get to what you need, it might facilitate better relationships and a better understanding. For example, I was talking to a locator friend and just listening to what he has to do from the moment he pulls up to a job site. He’s already visualizing where those utilities might be, trying to pull over to a location on the side of the road where he won’t get hit. There are all these things you might not think about that they have to do and accomplish before somebody else can get the results that they’re waiting on.

What has inspired you most about those who you’re featuring for these articles?

I have seen a lot of these people very frequently, at least monthly since I’ve started, and it’s really interesting when you hear their position. It’s a position, it’s a title, you know what they do. But I’ve seen what they’ve done in action over the years and I’ve hear more in-depth stories and it really is a bit eye opening that so many people work so hard to make sure that the community is safe, to make sure that the infrastructure is safe and intact. For some reason if something goes wrong, a lot of these people work quickly and work hard to make sure that everything is taken care of. I just have a lot of respect for the long hours, the complications they deal with, the constant need for safety to be a focus. It is an important job that people take for granted no matter what aspects they’re actually facilitating in the process.

When and where can these articles be found?

You can find the articles on our website at www.DigSafelyNewYork.com/BeneathTheSurface or on any of our social media channels.

Here’s a sneak peek of the first Beneath the Surface Article:

As the sun starts to rise on another work day, a little voice calls “Dad!,” replacing the need for a traditional monotonous alarm clock. Jim Flint’s day starts when his toddler daughter wakes him up around 6 a.m. As is common in work culture these days, his professional life starts almost simultaneously. As a Sales Representative for Eastcom Associates, Inc., he checks emails while he gets ready for the day, which will typically consist of a lot of windshield time as he travels to clients and conducts trainings and demonstrations on locating equipment.

For those who have interacted with Flint throughout his career, it is quickly apparent that he is passionate about safety and specifically safe digging practices. His professional journey started at 22 years old, when Flint was hired by MCI Communications Corp., a telecommunications company that was at one point the second-largest long-distance provider in the United States. After the company merged with Worldcom and fell victim to an accounting scandal in 2002, he was laid off. During this time he struggled to find work, however his close relationship with the McVeen Family proved to be his link to a new journey.

At the time Robin McVeen was the Dig Safely New York Call Center Manager. Although Flint had done some locating while working at MCI, he was not very familiar with how the call center functioned. McVeen interviewed him and hired him on as call center staff in 2006. Flint is still visibly appreciative of the chance she gave him, stating that he was very lucky because of Robin.