My experience at APCO

This year the voting committee of the Within the Trenches Continuing Education Scholarship made the unanimous decision to make Janelle Williams, dispatcher out of Oak Creek Police Department, Wisconsin. The follow is her experience.

APCO 2018 was my first conference ever, for dispatch or otherwise. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I read all I could about what new attendees should know. I was nervous because it was my first experience traveling alone and I was worried about how I would connect with others. I have to say it was Ricardo’s first “Imagine Listening” session that immediately made me feel like I was among friends. How appropriate that the conference opened with one of his sessions. Sharing in the stories of other dispatchers was an amazing experience. I cried with those who experienced horrible calls and I laughed with those who had stories similar to those I have about open mics and dispatch shenanigans. All of the sessions I attended had at least one takeaway and I came back with so much new information that it has taken me a few days back at work to even process everything I learned and what things can help my own center.

When the exhibit hall opened, I was faced with a new challenge of talking to vendors and having to think like my manager or supervisors on what things might help us and what questions they might have. Something I didn’t expect was how many vendors would ask about me and what I do at my center. I quickly reverted back to my high school robotics team days when I had to talk to CEOs of international companies and sell what we were trying to accomplish and how important our work was. I realized that I was experienced in unique ways to handle all of these new opportunities and I proved to myself that we are all valuable people with unique quirks that make us perfect for this job and makes us love what we do. I have been a dispatcher for only 3 years so I know I’m young in the field, and at only 26 I’m barely into the professional part of life, but I realized I was brought up to succeed in this type of environment more than I ever knew.

I’ve had plenty of realizations over my short career of what this job needs from me and I feel like I’ve reached a time where everything is falling into place. When I attended this conference, I finally began to feel like there are other people on our side and people fighting for us, something that I think we all need when we are in a career where it feels like no one understands what we go through. Dispatchers are a resilient group that hear things the everyday public wouldn’t believe. I learned that when it seems like there is no one else to lean on, we have to lean on each other and be there for our own. I will never stop fighting for more for my own co-workers and our career field. We are important and we deserve to be for what we do.