Hexagon’s Steve McDaniel: Jack of All Trades, Master of All

If you need an expert in server-based solutions, Steve McDaniel is your huckleberry, and he’s got the T-shirt to prove it. His favorite movie, Tombstone, famously features Val Kilmer playing the character of Doc Holliday, whose iconic line is “I’m your huckleberry” — a huckleberry being the exact right person for the job at hand.

McDaniel’s kids gifted him a shirt emblazoned with that line, and it’s just a happy coincidence that he’s also the epitome of a Doc-Holliday-style huckleberry in real life. When it comes to the wide variety of location intelligence solutions that Hexagon provides, he knows his way around a number of them.

“He’s very dedicated in what he does and one of the main go-to people that we unload a lot of difficult things on,” said Stan Tillman, who works alongside McDaniel on the third floor of Hexagon’s Huntsville, Alabama, office. “He does a lot of work on server-based products that get a little more complicated; he’s very good at analyzing the communications.”

McDaniel, a Staff Software Scientist, said he enjoys working on about ERDAS APOLLO, LuciadFusion, and LuciadLightspeed “because it just makes sense to get the key functionality that server solutions provide to more users – lower admin costs and scalability.” But while that may be his current area of expertise, he’s covered a lot of territory in his 31 years with the company.

A Long History with Hexagon

Initially, McDaniel worked on Intergraph’s MGE Projection Manager, part of a suite of GIS products built on the MicroStation CAD engine. After that, he joined the team that created the GeoMedia GIS product. Then, he took on a number of special projects in the public safety domain, including one for Jim Taylor, Intergraph’s CEO at the time. It involved building an in-car navigation system.

“At the time, they were only installed in a few high-end cars,” McDaniel said.  “Jim Taylor walked into our office and handed us the keys to his wife’s very expensive car that had a navigation system and said we could take it for the day to ‘get some ideas’ for what we wanted to build. No pressure!”

From there McDaniel moved to the Utilities division to create web and mobile versions of the G/Technology product line, which lets employees at phone, electrical, and gas companies access facility networks in the field.

“When I see the worker up the pole holding a laptop, I always wonder if he is using my software,” McDaniel said.

To make sure he got his money’s worth from his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Central Florida, McDaniel also shared his talents with the ERDAS APOLLO team and spent a few years developing Smart M.Apps, or cloud-based data analytics apps targeted to solve specific problems. Currently, he collaborates with employees in Hexagon’s Leuven, Belgium, office on Luciad Portfolio products — particularly LuciadLightspeed and LuciadFusion, which support real-time data visualization and analytics.

Fishing Ninja

Outside of Hexagon, McDaniel’s personal interests include reading anything by astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and astrobiologist Carl Sagan, plus a range of outdoor activities: kayaking, hiking, gardening, birdwatching, and, most importantly, fishing.

McDaniel was enthusiastic about the opportunity to fish right from the Huntsville campus’ lake.

“I have caught plenty of bass, bluegill, and catfish in the lake,” he said. “It can be a nice break to throw a few casts at lunch or after work. I usually have a fishing rod and tackle in the car just in case.”

But Tillman was quick to emphasize the fact that while McDaniel makes the most of Hexagon’s amenities, he’s also completely dedicated to his work.

“He’s always the first one in the office and the last one to leave,” Tillman said. “You could refer to him as a ninja. No one might know exactly where he is or what he does, but he’s always doing work.”