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Spotlight on Lisle A. Waldron | Tech Manager Spotlight, Presented by Sennheiser

Spotlight on... Lisle A. Waldron, Manager, Multimedia and Audio-Visual Services, The University of Trinidad and Tobago

Connect with Lisle Waldron:
Lisle on LinkedIn:
University of Trinidad and Tobago:

About Me:

Mr. Lisle Waldron has worked as a higher education Information Technology professional for approximately twenty years. Having worked as the Manager, Multi-Media / Audio-Visual Services at UTT, and as the Chief Technician for the School of Education at the UWI (St Augustine campus), Mr. Waldron’s responsibilities have included overseeing Information Technology and Audio-Visual strategy formulation, implementation and support for teaching and learning and designing learning spaces for both physical and virtual realms. Lisle Waldron holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and a B.Sc. in Computer Science with honours. Mr. Waldron is an INFOCOMM affiliate member and is CTS (General), CTS-D (Design) certified. He holds many additional professional certificates from various manufacturers that include Poly, Smart Technologies, Audinate, and Crestron. 

Thank you for joining me for this month’s edition of the “Tech Manager Spotlight.” Start by telling us a little about what you do and a little about your background.

Hello! My name is Lisle and I’m a deliverer of hope, dreams, services, and experiences and I happen to do that in the world of Higher Education AV. My background is that of a high school dropout, who ends up rebuking academe and winds up wanting to reform it from the inside out for people like himself that are really just different. I’ve never done a degree for a certificate, but for my growth, development, and understanding. I did my associate degree in IT because I was curious about computers. My B.Sc. in Computer Science because of a powerful curriculum that broadened my mind. My MBA because technology was easy so studying HR at an MBA level allowed me to better understand the structure of the workplace for teams and people. I am an eclectic reader and a more eclectic listener of music. I am on the autism spectrum and it’s my cheat code as I see the world from a different perspective and through a different lens. I can break things into their simplest building blocks and rework and restructure them into something more than the parts. Higher Education has become a part of me, and I plan to give more to it in service to the next generation of kids and adults that we have the privilege to serve.

Have you always worked in AV? What did the path look like for you to get to where you are now? 

Wow. What a tough question. I think at this point everyone works in AV. Every nerd who fought with their Atari 2600 and their television, up to every cool kid now fighting with their PS5 and their flatscreen has peeked down the hallway of AV in some small way. We hate to admit it as AV professionals, but AV has become near ubiquitous and that adds to us collectively grinding our teeth as everyone with a flatscreen and a HDMI cable in hand thinks that they’re the next AV pro. What did the path look like? I started in Higher Education as a clerical assistant aka a male secretary (as the word secretary at the time somehow suggested gender) and in addition to my clerical duties I was spending way too much time shadowing the Chief Technician in the computer lab and in his delivery of PA systems for the larger classroom spaces and the really, really heavy, really, really huge, really, really low-lumen (300 I think) Sanyo projector. It helped that I was built like an NFL tight end standing a brutish 6’ 6” and some pounds over 300lb making his life that much easier as lifting and carrying was taken care of. At the same time, from about 1996-7 I began learning to DJ in my other life and with that (at that time) came an expectation that you must understand how to connect all the equipment from the turntables to the amps and the speakers. You needed to understand the difference between mic, phono, and line, and be able to use a 2/3 octave equalizer to remove anything that made it to the speaker that you didn’t wish to hear.

My then boss called me into her office one day and jokingly broke the news to me that she was really tired answering the phone in my absence while I was playing AV support technician – so I was being transferred to become a technical support technician. Just like Daigoro said in the 1980 cult classic Shogun Assassin, that was the day everything changed. From laboratory technician to Senior technician up to Chief Technician I moved up through the University growing all along the way. Growth and learning never stops and in 2010 I was hired by the national university as their Manager of Multimedia and Audio-Visual Systems.

Here I am today!

What is your morning routine?

My morning routine used to include a 2-mile run/walk and I crave bringing that back into my life. The current daily starts with my rolling over in bed and picking up my cellphone to check email. Email is the guide for the day. Hopefully the Fusion server didn’t send notices for anything offline, nor did anyone just realize that they had an event that needed assistance from the MMAV team at the last minute. The good news? This first interaction will not singularly shape the day. I usually then go through what are the needs of the day mapping out what the action plan is at whatever the ungodly hour I find myself awake, in my bed with the infernal device. What my team may need from me to help them do what they do best – service to the campus community, and what I have due on my desk that I need to get sorted in my always-broad, multirole function.

Depending on the need, I get out of bed and get going or reach for a laptop to remotely connect to a campus that may have sent notices to get a classroom back up and running, or to get the troubleshooting done to be able to make that the new emergency priority to get the classroom back up and running when I drive to, or dispatch one of our MMAV technicians to the site. If I am standing and have completed the first responder tasks on the laptop, the human logistical beginnings of the day are up next, followed by the commute to whichever of the campus sites needs my attention or just presence to have a real-world sense of what’s going on and where it’s happening. Up next are the technical, administrative, and managerial needs of the desk to serve the campus community the only way I know how.

What does an average weekday look like for you?

At work life is straight forward. If we’re building systems in classrooms, and the team needs me for some specific reason I wear the hat of the installer. If they don’t, I wear the hat of go do administrative items and stay out of sight! Is the system physically installed and configured? I’m the university’s lead Crestron programmer so I’ll load, test, and get the system closer to final handover. I am also the lead Fusion administrator, so I’ll get those systems in Fusion, ensure that all my Fusion hooks are up and running, and that the systems are doing what they are programmed to do. If I’m not in installation mode, I usually have the mundane but necessary time spent administrating. That includes the joys of future planning AV systems and processes, the reviews and updates of current AV system designs and standards, taking time to review or close off any outstanding programming assignments, and treating with service tickets that may have been elevated to my desk for troubleshooting.

With my university being a multi-campus, multi-island university, a day like this can take place on one or more campuses, or totally remotely from anywhere in the world where I have an internet connection. I may head to the airport for a 20-minute flight to the Tobago campus or I may take a cool drive down to our Aviation campus to fix another network issue that is affecting our NVX core with IT. We also manage and administrate Zoom video conferencing so end user support is sprinkled throughout the day, along with any Mediasite issues that may come up. Depending on the period of the year we can ramp up or down administrative matters from approving leave or performing performance assessments, with a dash of succession planning with my second in command for that inevitable day when I once again move on to another space to serve another campus community.

What does your busiest day look like? What are the challenges your role faces, and how do you overcome those?

The busiest day will come at two times of the year, in the first two weeks of the semester or at the mid-semester period where there may be events competing for attention and service. In either case the setup is similar. There will be a tsunami of people all asking for assistance at the same time and we may have a Murphy-esque, right-when-we-least-need-it system failure. In a university with limited resources (and I mean this beyond the normal understanding of limited resources of the average Higher Education AV person) this is the perfect storm that we here know and love. It then means on a campus with 100% usage and no spares bringing out the chewing gum, toothpicks, and duct tape and working the magic that we often do. There will be zero-prep requests for video conferencing outside of the video conferencing rooms. There will be a doctoral live stream that they will want assistance with. There will be a member of faculty who does not want to touch the button panel, or worse, was scheduled in a room with a touch panel! It will all come at the same time and one display will go offline – or an AC will go offline. Hopefully this will only happen at one campus on that day, and we will only have to lose our minds once that week attempting to troubleshoot remotely/out of the classroom while class is in session and waiting for the facilitator to take a short break for us to pour in like a Nascar/F1 pit crew armed with the information that we’ve gleaned from our remote look into the space.

If I’m really being honest with myself though, my busiest days haven’t come just yet. For now, we’re dealing with the daily that I receive as reasonably mundane as the shocks to our internal environment rarely come from within our AV bubble. I can tell you what the day is going to look like because it may finally be coming. As a multi-island, multi-campus university, I have designed our operations and workflow around a self-serve model with remote management, maintenance, and security as the management core. We’re still very present on campuses with pre-emptive maintenance on the cycle and fed by our datapoints such as Fusion. Tobago, as the sister island of this twin island republic, comes with its own issues of support and logistics that are quite challenging to say the least. We will be airlifting staff, equipment, and tools soon, and potentially coordinating the bigger items via boat. Those days will come with having to deal with all the logistical challenges that will crop up. Those days will be long days as we may leave on the first flight of the day and possibly return on a late one or crash in a hotel for stretches when we cannot get back home in a reasonable manner. Getting us there is one thing, however getting to the campus that sits on top of an extremely steep hill will be another. We’re going to have to perform this miracle over a period of hopefully no more than two weeks, get some time to recuperate, and then deal with adding those systems to our daily and weekly routines of maintenance and support. Most will be remote, but some will be physical and a repeat of those first-flight-out long days.

At UTT outside of budgets and executive buy-in, logistics as described could be considered the challenges of my role. Understanding the nuances of the needs of an Aviation programme, how those needs and logistics differ from an agricultural programme, a Maritime programme, or an Energy and Engineering programme. Most importantly, understanding that those nuances also come with different campuses with their own facilities and logistical needs and have to be done with extremely limited budget planned budget allocations, and usually no-emergency fundings for those mid-semester failures and extremes. Add a dash of island life and consider the costs and logistics involved in the import of audio-visual equipment that include the customs fees, freight fees, taxes, and the lag time that could exceed 9 months before the pandemic and you can begin to see what the challenges are like.

What do you enjoy doing on weekends? How do you spend your time outside of work? 

What I enjoy is quite different from how I may spend my time outside of work. On weekends I get most of my non-work interactions and activities in. I have lofty goals of being able to again become a voracious reader. In the interim, I just try to find ways in and out of my comfort zones to be still or be around people that I wish to commune with. I don’t have time to be a Call of Duty top 1000 player anymore, nor do I play a pickup game of basketball like I used to, but I usually manage to recharge from my selective interactions on Saturdays and Sundays. My past life as a DJ has definitely never left me. Some weekends I want to hear a song, and unlike most, I can get behind the decks, press play, and hours later have binged on a broad array of genres from the new through the contemporaries all the way back to the classics. On rare the occasion that I find a community of people that I get to share this side of me with I may commune with them through music. I have a bi-monthly, music-based podcast that takes some of my time where I spend 90 minutes sharing my favourite Amapiano tracks called From Africa With Love. Weekends are music, my small circle of friends and family, and when I can the beach. I mean – I am an island boyyy!!! (Nope. Nope. Nope.)

What energizes you and inspires you?

Without getting too philosophically deep, I’m inspired by the insignificance of our existence and that drives me to be in service of our human collective. As humans we often center the world around us, our city, our sports teams, our flag, or countries, but at the end of it all time and space are just my daily reminder of what really matters most. To me what matters most is to help other people and in so doing to be at the service of the people wherever service is needed most. I really cannot help myself. Coming out of INFOCOMM our flight delays left me stranded in Houston for a night and the next morning once I figured out my way home, I ended up helping people in the airport check in at the counter for a couple of hours. Why not? I hadn’t really slept since 3am the day before but I do what I can, where I can, and hope in so doing that I have somehow made this small place called earth better if not just for a moment.

I apply this everywhere I am. It drives me in higher education AV. It motivates me to get up and do daily. It is the reason why I would like to perhaps take my talents to south beach (yes, another quote from another random space!) as I can only do so much on the island – literally. In many ways my calling to serve in a larger capacity and space will in itself have massive impact for my community here in Trinidad and Tobago as the goal is never to leave but always to be of service in any way that you can. We’re not here for a long time even though our 80-100 years if we’re lucky seems that way to us as humans. Tell that to the redwoods in Eureka California. Tell it to the trees in the Amazon jungle that have seen us come and go for eons. In 3 generations, will they remember icons like Martin Luther or despots like Idi Amin and Alexander Lukashenko? I suggest that they may not, and by extension, what I do daily can’t be driven by lofty goals of self-aggrandization and notoriety. I am really only inspired by, energized by, and interested in being of service in the same way that I wish to be served. I wish to help as I have needed help. I do this being grateful every day for the ability to try to be better in service to all.

If another tech manager were to follow you around all day, what would they most be surprised by? What would they learn? 

Well for starters here they would learn how to be lean but efficient. To spend 1/10th the budget and achieve the same goals. System reliability and robustness while being able to maintain, manage, and secure systems in an island environment and culture that quite frankly is unable to support audio-visual systems and standards as not much more than an afterthought. They definitely would be surprised by our calm and collected way of keeping it all together with toothpicks and gum and providing world-class service and support with developing nation budgets that have reduced year on year since the financial crash of 2008. They may be surprised to see a standards-based, modular philosophy of audio-visual systems that allows a ton of flexibility while simultaneously simplifying operations and costs to the campus. 

As far as what they would learn goes, I can guarantee they’re going to learn a ton of what not to do and why regulations, OSHA, and standards matter. Most importantly they would learn very quickly that as badly as they may have thought they had it in terms of budgets, purchasing, logistics, or any other area of friction that they have someone has it way worse! Oh! They’ll also learn that visiting warm weather and living and working in it are two different things! Golden rule. If it’s super cold, I’d suggest that you can layer and get warm. If you’re hot and it’s humid and you’re down to shorts, in the pool/river/sea, and still feeling hot what’s the next move? Lol.

Tell us about the project(s) you are currently working on now?

Current projects include the upgrade to the teaching facilities at the Tobago campus as previously described, the upgrade to two classrooms at the SFTI campus, and the re-programming and upgrade of the coding core for the UTT learning commons to add additional improvements. Nothing fancy nor exciting but critical to supporting such a large endeavour with such a small team and with the budget constraints that we have.

Comparing your career path over time, what are some of the moments, accomplishments, or projects that you’re most proud of? 

I’m a talkative person when happy or around people that make me giddy, writing this has reminded me how much I dislike speaking about self lol. This is hammered home by how many of the things I have done over the years that I just really didn’t capture as I didn’t see them as being that revolutionary nor special. That said, I am really proud of 3 career points without a doubt.

In the mid-aughts at my last position at the University we faced a mid-semester power supply failure of the power supply in all our in-room switchers (manufacturer unnamed to protect the innocent) in our then ‘new’ building. This was long before I was as comfortable as I am now with system design, and it was in the old analog days with a ton of VGA and composite cables in each room. I was able to think it through and come up with a plan of action that in many ways underpinned my design philosophy for years to come. Some insightful rewiring later and faculty were back up and running without knowing what the core issue ever was.

In 2010 just inheriting my desk at the national university with its multi-campus, and multi-island sprawl, being able to assess the chaos of the day and restructure the processes and systems around a self-serve model would be my second proudest moment. Taking that approach proved itself to be the best fit for the institution because of its BYOD environment, far flung support needs, lack of AV standards, and more. Often as AV professionals we get caught up with the technology itself and not the user experience or the design of the processes involved in the interaction with the systems that we’ve designed and developed. Having that self-serve framework now 13-years later effectively functioning with minor procedural improvements is really a thing of wonder to me.

Lastly, I’d say being able to give back to the higher education community through the then UBTech (formerly EDUCOMM) conference in the 2010s was really the highest point of pride for me in my career. Designing the activities and then hosting the “Technology Enhanced Classrooms On A Budget: Designing For Live Instruction To Lecture Capture (And Hopefully Everything In Between)” really was an incredible moment for me. Walking into that room and seeing the people that took their time and money to sign up to spend a full day with me guiding their AV design path and strategy was amazing. If I ever didn’t believe that I could, that was the moment I knew that I can. In preparing for the session, I remember looking at the signup sheet and seeing higher education institutions small and large that were signing up and I felt as if I bit off more than I should chew. St. Charles Community College. The University of Alabama, Birmingham. Simon Fraser University. Central Arizona College. Indiana State University. College. University of Georgia. I looked over the list reading over all the names (both omitted and mentioned) and decided that I could. The session was superb. Great discussion on how to apply standards and modular design principles to drive costs down. There was a UBTech Lisle fan club that existed prior and it really got wider. I was able to help and it really made me know that I had/have a place in higher education AV.

You’re involved with our higher ed AV-industry orgs. Talk about why you get involved in the way you do and how that is impacting both you and our vertical? 

Working in higher education is unique in the vertical, but very similar as institutions go. Being much younger a long time ago, it was my Faculty Dean who in many ways forced me to my first EDUCOMM and I never looked back. The most important things that I learnt there was that we as higher education AV were not alone with unique problems, nor did we have to redesign the Rubik’s cube every time. Our problems were varied, yes, but they were ours and some of us had the answers – in theory and in praxis – to solving them. I got involved to learn and to be able to have a mastery of my space. I quickly learned that the learning never stopped, and the mastery can never be achieved once one realizes that the only thing, we actually know is that we know so little and have to rise daily with the will to learn it all again.

To be fair, we do know what we do know, but the idea is to understand that our possible rigidities combined with our belief in our calcified knowledge is a recipe for disaster in higher education AV. My involvement as has been the case has allowed me the comfort of being the constant reminder that there is always a bigger school, or a better way to get something done. From that I get to challenge my professional self in ways that can be and could have only been done from my involvement. In addition, my involvement in higher ed AV-industry orgs has also given voice to those without one. I remember many years ago at an INFOCOMM function waiting in line in the QA of a large session where there was a panel of persons from Kodak to Crestron. Apparently, the question asked before me came from MIT and involved something to do with some large scale project that they had concerns about. My contribution? What about the rest of us that cannot operate at that scale? Do we count? Do our needs that in many ways may be less flashy than the big schools get into the engineering and design thoughts of your companies? If the conversation is only in sessions like this, or closed doors, what about the schools that could not afford to send staff to even be able to hear these conversations much less have input? 

I directly asked this question to those guests and never expected to be mobbed by people after. Worse, I never expected to meet the founder and then CEO of Crestron, George Feldstein, who came down to shake my hand and thank me for the tone and tenor of my question. You’re right he said, and he doubled down right there on his commitment to think of Higher Education as a much bigger tent than sometimes those gatherings offer it to be. Thanks George for the confidence boost and the words of belief in the kid from the island. The reality for me on my island is this. If I can change it up there, I may get heard down here and change will trickle down at some point. AV here was anyone with an HDMI cable in hand. Now there is consideration for CTS at the level of integrators and procurement departments. It’s a long slog, but nobody said being in service of all in something far bigger than self is easy.

Where do you see your career trajectory going in the next five years? Where do you envision yourself?

In the next five years if the trajectory remains as is I should be in the throes of a Ph.D. programme in Higher Education administration and finding myself waking up on a different landmass somewhere serving new campus constituents and guiding towards their goals and successes. Once someone like myself can add value I’ll be there happily doing what I can the way I know how to.

What is your life motto and how do you apply it to your daily routine?

What I cannot control I do not receive. What I can change I will invest the time and energy to make the changes that are just, right, and must be done. Everyone matters and as a result everyone will be treated as if they matter. That’s from my head in this moment. More broadly I live by my favourite quotes from thinkers that I can only aspire towards:

  • “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan
  • “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
  • “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates
  • “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard P. Feynman
  • When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him: Whose? – Don Marquis
  • Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance. – Jean de La Fontaine
  • “It's when crisis hits - when the bombs fall or the floodwaters rise - that we humans become our best selves.” ― Rutger Bregman