There are many Babson College employees who work tirelessly behind the scenes and oftentimes go unnoticed. Enter John Florendo, Babson’s multimedia support technician who works in the College’s Media and Production Services (MAPS) group within the Information Technology Services Department (ITSD). Whether it’s dealing with classroom technology, class capture, web/teleconferencing, special event audio/visual support and video recordings, or physical and virtual classroom support and training, Florendo has done it all in his 14 years at Babson. Going from coast to coast, he graduated from the University of California San Diego in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
You are the person behind the curtain when it comes to community forums, webinars, and other multimedia events. What is your approach to helping run a first-class event?
“Doing a rehearsal ahead of time with the key players makes a big difference, especially if they are not familiar with the platform. Mitigation of any surprises is integral, so I try to be clear in advance about what is expected during the webinar, the role everyone plays, and what is actually possible. For big webinar events, I also typically have a minor panic attack the night before, but this is helpful in that it gives me a valuable view of everything that could go wrong and how to (hopefully) fix it.”
When everything went remote last spring, what was your initial reaction, and how did you devise a plan of attack in a short period of time?
“It was mostly hitting the ground running, but remotely. I don’t really remember devising a plan of attack so much as scrambling to assist many different community stakeholders, from faculty, staff, and students to trustees. Getting the Babson community more comfortable with Webex and empowering them to use the platform on their own (even if they need to stumble a bit in the beginning) was definitely key.”
How was Babson positioned technologically speaking when it came to remote learning and work, working with faculty/drivers, and planning and producing virtual community forums?
“Babson was positioned quite well in that we were already under the assumption these types of hybrid-learning modalities were the future. Pre-COVID, our classroom technology guru Bill O’Donnell and manager Dave Foscaldo (MBA’09) had worked with AV vendors in orchestrating the launch of several technology-enhanced classrooms, which allowed for more fluid remote participation and engagement. As dozens more of these classrooms were needed as soon as possible, they pulled off a miracle in getting so many upgraded in such a short time.
“An additional challenge was that at the end of summer all of this required a massive upscaling in support. Instead of troubleshooting three or four enhanced classrooms, we now had 34-plus. Instead of managing just six student Webex drivers, we had to quickly hire, train, and manage 60 to assist the faculty who most needed it. Doing the community forums was natural as I was already quite comfortable with Webex. The Webex Events platform, which I had never really used, was literally just a few clicks away from regular Webex. It just required a different mindset, somewhat similar to when our department occasionally used to run live events in Knight Auditorium.”
“Users have now become more fully acclimated to this mode, and the technology will further adapt to become even more intuitive and simpler to manage.”
John Florendo, Babson’s multimedia support technician
What impact did the pandemic have on the acceleration of technological advances for online education and work, and the future?
“From my perspective, the technology was always there, the pandemic just accelerated more opportunities to use and exploit it. Users have now become more fully acclimated to this mode, and the technology will further adapt to become even more intuitive and simpler to manage, though all the competing hardware and software possibilities/configurations will always be a distracting challenge. If anything, I foresee a time when there’s a push back away from so much online/virtual submersion, though it may only be half-hearted.”
What would you tell your 2020 self if you could go back in time?
“Don’t worry (too much).”
Two More for John Florendo
What does Babson mean to you?
“A great place to work, with a terrific community of people, that is always meaningfully evolving but with a solid pedagogical core.”
Right now, what are you …
- Reading? Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, and Sight & Sound magazine.
- Watching? “Detectorists” on Amazon Prime and classic movies streaming on the Criterion Channel.
- Listening to? “My wife, Jennifer, is the music maven of the house, pointing me toward LA radio station KCRW’s ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic,’ which provides a nicely balanced overview.” Plus, The Projection Booth podcast.
- Doing in your free time? “All of the above, but I also enjoy cooking, hikes, and (pre-COVID) travel and dining out.”