Staff Spotlight – Leonard Welch

Overseeing one of Yale’s most important infrastructure services, Leonard Welch, Director of Telecommunications, works to ensure we all stay connected. Leonard began his career at Yale a little over a year ago. He and his team are responsible for providing telephony services across the campus, serving various areas, including phone lines and equipment for on-campus faculty and staff, contact centers for clinical areas, Yale Health, and Public Safety. This includes health, life, and safety equipment – such as elevator phones, alarms, blue phones, and off-campus connectivity in support of remote working environments.
We recently chatted with Leonard about how the pandemic has impacted his work and home life, what he’s done to achieve work/life balance, and more!  

How has the COVID pandemic affected your work?

When coming into a new position from outside the organization, the first few months involve concentration on building a foundation of relationships with colleagues, IT partners, and the Yale community. Upon my arrival, one of my immediate initiatives was implementing a new telephone system for our clinical contact centers. The timeline was aggressive – four phases between December 2019 through February 2020 – and we were able to meet our deadlines. At the end of February - the close of the deployment phase - we were developing a ‘spring cleaning’ list of items that we needed to revisit as a result of the activities that previously consumed us. By the time we left campus in March, all of our efforts were immediately redirected to accommodate our customers’ various emerging workplace arrangements.

Throughout the pandemic, I continue to be thankful for the positive working relationships I’ve established with many colleagues throughout ITS. In retrospect, if my first six months hadn’t been consumed with the clinical phone project, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work with and get to know so many of the people who were essential in enabling us to achieve our objectives. Those relationships have been critical to ensuring that we’ve been able to meet the community’s remote working needs and provide continuity to our services.

While working from home, what steps have you taken to achieve a work/life balance?

Working from home has real advantages. Especially from a balance perspective, I’m more connected to my home and family, which has been incredibly helpful in these troubling times. I’m appreciative to work for a progressive employer that recognizes the work effort that’s possible when employees aren’t in the office.

At the same time, all of us need to manage the boundaries between work and home. In many aspects, it’s another type of time management challenge. I find myself making more lists to ensure that my workdays stay productive and that my family can count on me to be with them when I make that commitment.

How have your leaders or peers supported you and ensured your success?

My mother became ill starting at the beginning of the year, and I’ve had to dedicate more time to her care. My manager has been supportive of whatever time I need to take – planned or emergency.

One day, I had to work from my mother’s house during a meeting with our CIO and my manager. Since it was a Zoom meeting, my mother popped in to tell everyone on the call how great I am (!) and how she was making breakfast for me. I gulped – and thankfully – everyone enjoyed the diversion.

The point here is that there is a recognition that we’re all stretching to make this work – and our leadership is appreciative that we’ve been able to achieve our objectives while working through the uncertainty that we all face in our working and personal lives. That is extremely gratifying.

What have you learned about yourself as a result of this experience?

I’ve had more of an opportunity to share what I do for work with my family. One day, my son participated in a web conference with the Peabody Museum about softphones – a software application that allows users to receive and place telephone calls as if they were sitting at their campus phone.

After the meeting was over, the people on the call gave us a virtual tour of the renovation planned for the Peabody and showed a video timeline of the dismantling of their exhibits. I turned to my son – with awe – and said, ‘this is a really cool place to work, huh?’

Sometimes, when you work in IT, it’s easy to think that it’s all about wires, computers, and routers. Times like this serve to energize and remind me of the real impact of what we do and how we contribute to the university’s mission.

Do you have any advice for colleagues who are facing challenges due to the pandemic?

I realize that not every situation can transition as easily as mine has. I think it’s important to be open with your manager – perhaps more so than ever before. The only way to make the situation work effectively for both parties is to understand what you both need to accomplish objectives.