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Inside DELTA: 5 Questions with Bill Hicks

Hicks in the CTI Lobby. Photo by Katie Harris.
Hicks in the CTI Lobby. Photo by Katie Harris.

Bill Hicks is DELTA’s senior systems architect and can often be seen tinkering in the educational technology services area of the Center for Technology and Innovation (CTI) office.

Hicks was eight years old when he figured out he was interested in working with computers. The realization hit him after picking up his mom’s computer programming textbook. Before her class had ended, Hicks was teaching her how to program. His affinity for technology followed him into adulthood.

Bill with his two sons and wife, Amy.
Bill with his two sons and wife, Amy.

Hicks grew up in West Virginia, and at 15 moved to Shelby, North Carolina. He started college at NC State in 1989, but took a break from school to work in various technical positions. Hicks spent time as a contractor and worked for MCI Inc. and eHomecare. In 2001, he started working at DELTA as a web developer. While at DELTA, Hicks began taking classes again and completed his bachelor’s in computer science in 2004. He moved into his current role as senior systems architect in 2012. He married his wife, Amy, in 2013.

He received the 2017 Pride of the Wolfpack award for his work revamping the CTI office space and adding digital signage next to each person’s cube.

How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA?

“My job title is senior systems architect, which entails reading and research and looking up stuff in the lab,” said Hicks. “It’s a lot of virtualization, a lot of hardware, figuring out how things work together or don’t work together. It’s more of a jack-of-all-trades sort of thing.” On any given day he may be soldering, 3D printing or connecting various components together.

Hicks has to constantly familiarize himself with new technologies to ensure DELTA stays updated. “Trying to keep up with new technologies is sort of like drinking from a firehose because stuff changes so frequently,” said Hicks. “I have ADHD, so I have a hard time focusing on any one thing for a long period of time. It kind of works to my advantage because I’m constantly having to assimilate all this new information and getting easily distracted isn’t a bad thing because you’re constantly looking for new stuff and trying to figure out how to make things work together.”

For Hicks, every workday is a new opportunity to learn. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he added.

What has been your favorite experience at DELTA?

Since 2007, Hicks has participated in the DELTA Valentine’s Day tradition of dressing up as Dupid, bringing candy and laughs to coworkers around the office. “It was something that Donna Petherbridge half-jokingly started,” he said. “I have no idea why she asked me to do it, other than the fact that she knew I had no problem with humiliating myself for the betterment of other people.”

Before DELTA moved into the CTI building in 2017, Hicks walked from one building to the next to deliver candy to different DELTA staff members. “I’d wind up having to walk through the middle of campus in this outfit,” said Hicks. Students would often stop him and ask for a picture.

Hicks went on hiatus for a few years, but started it again because he missed dressing up. “I like making people smile like that,” he said.

Who do you work closely with?

Hicks often works with Operations and Systems Analyst Bryan Aldridge. “Generally the young guy is more willing to take risks and be adventurous, and the old guy is more conservative,” said Hicks. “In our case, it’s the exact opposite.” Their differences in problem-solving make them an effective team. “We complement each other in such a good way,” he said. “I push him to try things he wouldn’t normally try and he keeps me grounded and focused.”

How has DELTA impacted you?

“I absolutely dearly love everybody that I work with,” said Hicks. “On Monday morning, I look forward to seeing everybody. I’ve been friends with Jeff Webster and Dan Deter for 20 something years and all the people that work in my group and kind of our sister group, the Applications Development/Systems Support team. I could never see myself working someplace else.”

“It really makes me happy that I’m part of something that’s affecting so many students and such a large part of the university,” he added. “To say [DELTA has] impacted me is probably an understatement, it’s more like family.”

What do you like to do in your spare time/outside of work?

Hicks enjoys making things and has built a fake fireplace, bed, headboard, drawers, and a computer numerical control (CNC) router. He also owns two 3D printers.

Bill's Shih Tzu/Yorkshire terrier named Jicks.
Bill’s Shih Tzu/Yorkshire terrier named Jicks.

Another ongoing personal project for Hicks is automating different devices in his house. “I’ve got this ability to take things that don’t necessarily relate and sort of connect them,” said Hicks. “Like thinking outside of the box, ‘how can I do this? How can I make Alexa talk to this computer so I can have Alexa turn this thing on?” Currently, he can remotely turn on lights and heating or air conditioning in his house. “My wife always jokes that we’re gonna have to reboot the house,” he said.

Whenever he has 20 minutes or so to spare, Hicks likes playing a quick round of Fortnite. He also enjoys spending time with his four-year-old Shih Tzu/Yorkshire terrier named Jicks. He discovered that Jicks will howl along to the song Ramblin’ Man by The Allman Brothers Band.