This month marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic turning our lives upside down. As a society, our flexibility and resilience should be noted. When our backs were up against the wall, we figured out a way to move forward. In local government, we certainly took our lumps. Looking back, I am of the mindset society managed the constant influx of adaptation well all things considered.
Professionally, I am accustomed to change. I embrace it. Par for the course in technology. From a personal perspective, the pandemic altered how I view my own existence. The personal growth ascertained through the pandemic has changed me as a person, and it has done so for the better. The powerful reminder of our society’s fragility experienced over the past year is knowledge that will never be forgotten.
I am simplistic in nature. I don’t want for much, and the experience gained from a lifetime saying yes to what the world had to offer has provided an overlying sense of gratitude I enjoy today. Per those same experiences, life has taught me the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. I consider myself fortunate to know that, and today I am more comfortable than I have ever been in my own skin as a result.
A year into COVID-19 has bestowed a new sense of gratification for me. It is said what does not kill us makes us stronger. I came to Seguin, Texas in March 2018 through a desire to simplify my existence. I had spent the previous 20 years pursuing opportunities and aspirations to experience the unknown. Thankfully, my wife and I had the opportunity to experience life as part of the community prior to the pandemic.
The past year has done nothing but make our bond with this community that much stronger. I am beyond grateful my employer rolled the dice on me professionally to be their first director of IT. It has been a privilege to support the community through the pandemic via the lens of local government. I was honored to share my experiences on this during a recent GovLoop webinar on the technology behind distributing vaccines.
Prior to my working in municipal government, I spent a few years in private industry. In 2014, Dell lured me away from the federal government to help manage their global cybersecurity services division. For the first time in my life, I was working with civilians from around the world, and did so virtually.
I had spent most of the previous 15 years employed in cleared environments in support of national security. It was a culture shock to work so openly. A laptop and an internet connection were instruments to work from anywhere. I cannot say I missed SCIFs.
The ability to oversee technology operations by leveraging a global talent pool virtually was eye-opening. I was completing a graduate degree around that time and used my introduction to telework as the premise for my final thesis. “Leveraging Virtual Resources for IT Operational Success” was written through my introduction to private industry virtual technology operations.
Fast forward to 2020, the pandemic hit, and I was working in an environment that had yet to embrace virtual work. The experience gained years prior set the stage for an easy transition to municipal virtual operations.
The technology infrastructure had already been built up in preparation. Most notably the greatly enhanced network capabilities that garnered the city a 2020 “Best of Texas” award, along with a crucial aspect we took care of early on in upgrading the city’s VPN capabilities.
That’s not to say the transition wasn’t difficult, particularly when you consider the unknowns associated on a personal level. The investments made in our technology environment were an asset enabling the transition required a seamless experience versus an impediment. I appreciate the trust in Seguin IT to deliver on the technology initiatives that made the conversion possible.
I contracted COVID-19 a few days before Christmas. There was an outbreak in my proximity, and unfortunately, my wife contracted it as well. We were fortunate. Thankfully, it was a minor inconvenience for us. I had a headache for a few days, lost taste and smell and that was about the extent of it. It was a version of the same for my wife. I am thankful as it could have been so much worse.
That said, my organization has been incredible working with staff throughout the pandemic. Organizations are quick to say they care, but their actions sometimes say otherwise. Simply not the case in Seguin. Leadership here operates with integrity.
I am privy to some of the internal workings of the city, and I participated in the conversations early on when we were trying to figure out how to keep the city moving forward while protecting citizens and staff. It was always safety first, at the office, and on a personal level. Employees were afforded flexibility on an individual basis as needed throughout the pandemic.
I don’t have enough space to get into all the details, but I am proud of the approach and operational balance we have been able to achieve. Somehow, we were able to transition without missing a beat. I am thankful to work alongside such an outstanding group of professionals.
I hope by sharing my perspective on the pandemic may benefit someone out there. It’s the same thought process on my website. I operate under the premise if my words help a single person achieve their personal or professional goals, then the time commitment is worth it.
I have long been guilty of being a glass half-full person. That mindset has been tested over the past year, but as always, reflection and subsequent gratitude have provided the baseline needed to ensure I am seeing life with the right perspective. Focusing on what really matters has the capacity to do that.
As we move into Spring 2021, it feels as though we’re coming out of the pandemic as a society. We all certainly hope so. If you have been fortunate to make it through this past year relatively unscathed, leverage the experience to your benefit and walk into your post-pandemic life using perspective as an asset. Applied correctly, the knowledge ascertained will benefit you for a lifetime.
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Shane “El Jefe” McDaniel is the first Director of Information Technology for the city of Seguin, Texas, with more than 24 years of experience across multiple IT disciplines. He began his technology career in 1996 through an enlistment in the Air Force supporting military intelligence, subsequently transitioning to NSA, NRO, private industry and municipal government technology operations. Shane is the proprietor and champion of Country IT, running the countryexec.com website promoting personal and professional development for future leaders. You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.