We had a chance to sit down with PECO Troubleman Dante Opher, who you may remember as the mastermind behind the "I Got 90 Seconds, So I Better Rap It Up" video, the winner of Exelon's 2018 Powering Our Purpose video contest. The contest asked participants to capture what Exelon's purpose statement – Powering a Cleaner and Brighter Future for Our Customers and Communities – means to them.
We asked Dante about his creative process, the organization he selected to receive his winning grant, what brings him to work every day and more. This is his story.
I first heard about the Purpose Video contest from my friend and fellow lineman Steven Linder, who thought it would be right up my alley. I've been rapping since high school when I was in a little group, Master Vic and the Super MCs (Exotic Don and MC Danny D), I'm Exotic Don. We performed at high school dances and even went on to have a record called "It's the Beat." We would usually rap about being the best rappers and DJ in the city of Philadelphia. Music has always been something I liked to do to express my creativity in my free time. My raps are usually about how I'm still rapping at the age of 50 and things that are going on in my life now or my past.
I like making videos and music at home at my leisure. At first, I produced my own raps and music, then I started playing around with videos. I even have my own home studio that I put together. When I would see something cool on TV or in a movie, I would try to figure out how they did it. I taught myself a lot of the different effects from watching YouTube tutorials.
With a Purpose
I thought about the idea for the Purpose video when I was out working in the field. Just driving through the city, you realize how much people really depend on us. I wanted people to see what we face every day from a troubleman's perspective. Being a troubleman is being a problem solver. Sometimes evaluating the cause of a power outage can be a headscratcher. It's exciting when you finally figure it out. People are usually happy to see you when you pull up because they know you're there to get the power back on. Little kids wave at you when they see your truck. I wanted the video to capture that feeling. I got some help from my youngest daughter who stars in the video (she's the one blowing the pinwheel!) She takes after me; she even makes her own little movies on her iPad.
When I found out I won, it felt good that I made something so many people from all over the company enjoyed! It's different than if I made something and showed it to my family and they said "that's nice," because they have to say that anyway.
The Big Reveal
When Mike (Innocenzo) and John (McDonald) were at our office, I didn't realize what was going on at first. When Mike started saying the lyrics to my rap, I was thinking 'What is he talking about?' but then the lyrics started sounding familiar! It was also cool that Chris (Crane) mentioned me in the company earnings email; people were sending it to me saying 'Looks like the top man knows your name.' I was joking with them 'Oh yeah, me and Chris go way back!'
It's pretty cool to be known around the company. I received emails from people I'd never met. It's funny to go into different buildings and have people say: 'You're the video guy!' I guess I got my 15 minutes of fame. I shared the video on Facebook and a lot of friends and family commented and congratulated me. The Best Part
Being able to make a donation to the organization of my choice made winning even more special. I chose the Hurricanes Youth Association that an old friend of mine, Maurice Davis, founded to receive the grant. He used to work for PECO and we met when we were both meter readers. After he left the company, we stayed in touch through basketball leagues we were in together. Maurice started as one of the players, but would coach us and give some tips here and there, and he realized that he really loved coaching. He started coaching kids in the neighborhood and that turned into the Hurricane Youth Association.
I called him to tell him that I entered a contest and if I won, there would be some charity money. I asked if I could give it to his organization. When I won, he was really excited! He saw the video on social media and reposted it on the Hurricane site, thanking me and Exelon for the donation. I took the giant check down to him during practice one day. He introduced me to all the kids and they thought the check was really cool. I felt good about being able to give something back to them. He works with young people from all over Philadelphia, and right now he's looking for a central location for the organization as traveling around can be expensive. Our donation will help. I want to thank everyone for the love they have been giving me, on social media, through emails and texts. I'm glad you all really like my video!
Keeping My Day Job
I love making music and getting creative with videos, but I think you're still going to see me at PECO for a while! I have a great job. Sometimes, though, the best thing about my job can be the worst thing -- working outside. When the weather is nice, it's wonderful – but when it's 2:00 a.m. and 19 degrees outside, that's a different story. It also can be hard to be away from family for long periods -- during storms sometimes we're away from home for 16 hours a day. One great thing is the people you work with become your family too.
I've been with the company for 32 years. Sometimes I can't believe how long it's been! I started as a meter reader and have worked in transportation and other departments before I became a troubleman. But I'm proud to say I was able to stay at this company for this long, it's a good honest living and you can stay at PECO and Exelon for a full career and that's what I've done.
If there's a video contest next year, I would enter again, but the pressure would be on to top my work last year. One good thing – there are so many talented and creative employees in Exelon, so I'm sure the submissions will only get better and better.