Meet Zenik Hite
Audio Visual Manager | Carolina Union
Nine years at Carolina
Describe your role as Audio Visual Manager.
I work with the Carolina Union's Event Services team to ensure that clients have all of their audio-visual needs supported during their events and meetings. That ranges from handling the lighting and sound for guest speakers and performances, to setting up power and stages for outdoor festivals, to making sure projector quality and sound balance are just right for a movie screening, to helping set up and maintenance meeting room technology, and everything adjacent and in-between all of that. I also manage the administrative work for the AV team, like hiring, budgets, vendor communication, staff evaluations, and so on. I work with team of 12-16 student staff as well as an assistant AV manager and an AV specialist, and it is really through them that we manage to do so much. I captain the audio-visual ship, but without them I would just be one guy overseeing a sinking vessel.
How is your work now different from a traditional academic year?
Thanks to COVID, the 'events' portion of my Event Services job is greatly reduced - for example, last year my team handled around forty events in February, but this year we had a total of two. Without events or meetings to support, or spaces being used that we check and maintenance, we've shifted focus towards projects and training. With a lot more 'free' time we have been catching up on big projects, like a full building inventory where we count and log every piece of equipment we own, and we're taking time to fix and upgrade equipment where we can. The student staff still come in to lend a hand, and we're really focusing on getting their input to help design or re-design documentation like our manuals and resource sites to be what they want them to be since they are doing so much of the day-to-day work.
What has been the biggest challenge with the switch to remote learning?
I think it's tough to get folks invested in all-virtual trainings, especially with teams like my own where basically everything related to our job involves interacting with either a physical piece of equipment or observing and adjusting that equipment to real-time feedback. I can show someone a picture of an audio console and explain every dial and fader, but without them actually being there to fiddle with it, without hearing and feeling how everything interacts, it's just not the same. Videos help a lot, but nothing beats learning AV in-person.
How are you maintaining a sense of community among those you serve?
I try to keep in touch with my team as much as I can via technology (like Teams and Zoom) but I also know a lot of them are working really hard with the virtual learning setup for their classes, so I try to make each Zoom meeting or Teams chat count. Whenever they do come into the building, I try to make sure I meet and talk with them in person since we have so little physical interaction these days. My AV team is full of positive and funny people, and its been a rough year so just getting to see them smile or laugh in-person again is really heart-warming.
What do you like most about your work?
I joke with my team that we make dreams come true, but I do mean it when I say it! Clients come to us and they go 'we want to make this kind of event happen', and it is our job to work as hard we can to make that a reality. For some clients it might be one of a hundred presentations they'll give to a crowd in a year, and for other clients it's the final concert performance of their college career in front of their friends and family. No matter who or what for, we make sure that clients are getting the best possible version of the event they want that we can give them. Another plus is that I get to work with some of the most wonderful people on this campus. Not just my own AV team, who remain some of the nicest, funniest, kindest people I have ever known, but also our clients, my Union co-workers other campus staff - nothing beats working with other like-minded people and making dreams come true.
What is one thing you hope will stay the same once things return to normal?
I hope the digital flexibility we've learned is something that becomes a normal part of UNC culture. I think that keeping remote options open for people to work and learn from home on a regular basis will really help keep our community cohesive, as strange as that may sound. It'll help keep people safe down the line, like if you feel sick and don't want to endanger your team but still need to make a meeting, but also it'll help keep communication going for that day-to-day stuff. Things like a car malfunction, or a missing baby-sitter, or even just the chance to be outside on a sunny day don't have to be things that make you lose vacation time or work hours. Just grab a laptop, open up Teams and Zoom, and you're good to go!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'd like say how lucky I am to be where I am today and that I am grateful for the folks who got me here. I would not be able to be writing this without my boss, Joe Singer, who I thank for being a true mentor and a great leader for the near-decade I have been here on campus, from my time as a student AV staffer all the way to being AV manager today. I thank those at the Union who have supported and encouraged me - and continue to do so - on my journey both at UNC and in my personal life. And of course, I have to give all of my love to my wife, Courtney, who I not only have the pleasure of working within walking distance of here on campus, but who I also get the joy of spending the rest of my life with.