We’re back with another installation of our Employee Spotlight series. This time, we’re featuring Danielle Thomas, a graphic designer who has worked at E & E for 12 years in our Buffalo office. Danielle is part of the Data Intelligence Group (affectionately referred to as “DIG” here at E & E), which works together to add value for our clients by providing tailored tools to collect and manage data efficiently, collate information quickly, visualize project data, and support project collaboration.
As a DIG team member, Danielle spends her workday closely collaborating with E & E project managers and proposal writers to design illustrations for public health and emergency planning projects. She also assists with the production of polished documents for submission to our federal and private clients. Over the years, she has worked on visual deliverables for clients including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and more. But during her free time, she has a particularly interesting hobby — roller derby.
Danielle is a long-time member of the Lake Effect Furies, a Buffalo-based roller derby team that is part of the Queen City Roller Girls league. She recently competed in the 2019 International Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) playoffs in Seattle with the team. Read on for her Employee Spotlight story.
What do you like most about working at E & E?
The variety of projects. There are so many different things I work on! At any moment, I may be working on a time-consuming page layout that spans many days, right alongside a quick creation of figures or proposal covers that need to be finished ASAP. The variety keeps work interesting. I also get to work with everybody in the company, from project managers to geologists to engineers. I love that.
Any memorable moments or projects?
One of my fondest memories is the first time that a big public outreach project came together. The first time I saw everything come together, printed and looking professional, was pretty amazing. When you hear that one of the projects you worked on has won a bid, it’s exciting that you’ve had a piece in it.
Tell me about your experience skating with the Lake Effect Furies derby team.
I’ve been involved with derby for 11 years. I always roller-skated with friends and schoolmates as a kid, but I didn’t start roller derby until I was 34, when I was well out of college. I had heard about it and remembered seeing it on TV when I was a kid, so I was definitely curious and wanted to look into it because of my skating background and my time spent playing sports when I was a little younger — so I figured I’d give it a try. Pretty much immediately, I was hooked.
When I first started, the initiation process was a four-week boot camp. It was four Sundays in a row, 3 to 4 hours at a time, really early in the morning and really hot at the roller rink! We learned the basics of skating, stopping, and turning around. Then there was an assessment that you had to pass to become eligible to be drafted to a team. You had to pass all of the minimum skills that you needed to know in order to be safe for yourself and for other skaters. Once I passed that, then within a few months, there was a draft. It was a pretty formal process.
What does your position on the team involve?
I’m a blocker. On the track, each team fields four blockers and a jammer. The jammer is the person who scores the points, and the blockers are out there trying to play offense to get their jammer through and are also playing defense at the same time to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from scoring points. As a blocker, you’re switching back and forth between those two.
Explain the gameplay of roller derby.
It’s a one-hour game, divided into two 30 minute halves. Typically, the games are divided into “jams,” or two-minute increments. “Jams” can go anywhere from ten seconds to two minutes long, and you typically send out a new group of players every single time that a jam starts. The jammer scores points by legally passing the hips of the opponent blockers to get a point. Jammers see less “jams” than a blocker, because a jammer’s job is basically sprinting on the track and getting blocks, sometimes getting hit and having to get back up to speed — so the endurance is a little different. It also tends to be a really high-scoring game. For example, the scores in the last few games that we had at the tournament were 201 (London) to 136 (Buffalo), and 224 (Buffalo) to 176 (Stockholm).
What are some of your favorite memories from roller derby over the last 11 years?
The first time we ever qualified for international playoffs was pretty incredible. It was such a huge, monumental moment — even just walking into the building the day that the competition was starting, I remember seeing all the announcers and the televisions streaming the game. Being around people who you have admired for years on teams and high-level referees was crazy. The feeling that you’re up at the same level is pretty amazing.
What is your favorite thing about roller derby?
I love the competitiveness. On a personal level, I enjoy trying to push my gameplay to the next level — and with the team, too, and just get better. There’s always something new to work on and something new to master. I love the athleticism and going after new goals with the team. The team really is like a support network, and the people you play with for so many years you become so close with. You’re like co-workers in a way, but more intense because of the sport. You see each other through all sorts of changes in life: marriages, babies. And you’re traveling with each other, too, on trips to tournaments and games, so you really get to know your teammates on a personal level and get experiences that you might not get to otherwise have if it wasn’t for the sport you’re playing together.
Oh, the places she’ll go…
Here’s a snapshot of the places Danielle has traveled to compete with her roller derby team over the last 11 years.
What has roller derby taught you, and how has it affected your job at E & E?
I definitely think that derby has crossed over into helping me out in my regular life. A lot of that is due to how I’ve had different roles within my league: travel coordinator, inter-league coordinator, team captain. All of these roles have taught me a lot and helped me gain more confidence in working with other people. If you’re gaining successes in things that you do outside of work, the confidence that builds from that just crosses over into your whole life.
Editor’s note: After over a decade of skating with her roller derby team, Danielle has recently decided to take the next season off and will instead support the team from the sidelines. In Danielle’s words, “I’ll be a fan cheering this year!”