Spotlight Series: Nick Blakeney
May 21, 2020
In just one week, Palo Alto College and the entire Alamo Colleges District shifted to remote operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant students, faculty, and staff had to adjust the way they teach, learn, and work.
Behind the scenes, Information Technology Services (ITS), in particular, played a crucial role in easing the transition from the traditional classroom environment to remote learning. Nick Blakeney, director of ITS, and his team were at the forefront of these efforts for Palo Alto College, working around the clock to ensure the College had the infrastructure necessary to continue operating remotely. Though some planning occurred before the decision was made to move toward remote operations, the ITS team only had one week to supply employees and students with the equipment and training they needed.
With nearly 15 years of experience in information technology, Blakeney knew the importance of being prepared to pivot for any of scenario, so he and his team hit the ground running in order for students to continue working toward their degrees and certificates.
ITS ensured staff and faculty had remote access to the network. They also set up Wi-Fi hotspots and distributed equipment through curbside pick-ups for students, faculty, and staff.
Because remote work entails more intentional collaboration and communication than on-campus teamwork, employees across the college have developed new ways to stay connected by hosting virtual meetups and continuing to reach out through social media – with the reassurance that they can always rely on the ITS team for support.
“I see a lot of resiliency and adaptability showing up. I think for a lot of individuals, we also see a willingness, a desire, and dedication to overcome,” said Blakeney. “I think my proudest moment is seeing the dedication of my team, and knowing that they are doing everything in their power day-in and day-out to help our end users. We all know who our customers [students] are and how we impact those individuals.”
From a positive outlook, he takes this experience as one big professional development opportunity.
“I think of the professional growth that we have gained overcoming a massive challenge put in front of us,” said Blakeney. “We have learned a lot along the way, and a lot of things we will be able to continue to use in the future – Zoom being one of them. We have all now become accustomed to how they [remote tools] function and are using them to our benefit.”
Blakeney started his career working for a local school district, where he served for 11 years and fell in love with education. He first joined Palo Alto College as the coordinator of college technology, and he developed a passion for leadership.
“This community is a big part of me being raised partially on the South Side of San Antonio. Knowing that what I do every day has an impact on the future has been set into my own personal values; knowing that I am making a difference. I came to PAC as an opportunity to continue to serve the South Side community,” said Blakeney.
It’s been nearly two months since Palo Alto College began remote operations, along with the other Alamo Colleges. Though the campus is relatively empty, Blakeney and a few members of his team are among the few personnel operating on-location.
ITS continues to support students every step of the way. As summer sessions begin, ITS is working on laptop checkouts for students who need access to a computer. Checkouts are available by appointment Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can be reached at the Palo Alto College Helpdesk at 210-486-3777 (select option 1).