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The following conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.
John Dragan, Senior Manager, AMO Operations, has been with Cadent since before it was known as Cadent! Over the years, his role has ebbed and flowed as the company has grown. When John is not at work, you can find him pursuing two of his biggest passions in life: photography and botany. To learn more about John, check out our Q&A below.
Tell us about your role.
My role at Cadent has evolved over time. In January 2022, I will have been with the company for 9 years. I am in the AMO (Agile Management Office) as a Senior Manager, AMO Operations. Many hats are worn by me.
I am a Scrum Master for the Data Science team – transitioning to a scrum master role for our Design team and an interim scrum master for the Broadcast team, as well as the administrator for Workfront for our time sheet application, in addition to numerous ad hoc projects.
There is also a role I volunteered for at the beginning of the pandemic, that of the office plant caretaker. I have read many sad stories about office workers returning to their office spaces to find dried, dead plants. This will not be case at Cadent! I go into the office weekly to water, feed, re-pot, and groom the plants. Currently, I am trying to ramp up my work so that everything is ready for our return. Along these same lines, I hold plant-focused events in the office for our annual Kid’s Day. During the last event, the participating kids took away a potted caladium tuber that soon sprouted beautiful foliage.
Where can we find you when you’re not working?
Aside from caring for many plants, my passion in life is traditional gelatin silver photography. Soon after I moved to Florida in 1980, I had the opportunity to pursue an artform I had dabbled in my entire life. For some context, Sarasota has a notable art school, and I began taking photography courses. I had little interest in color photography, so black and white became my forte.
In one of my classes, we were told to go out and photograph in as many styles as possible – sports photography, nature photography, portraiture, architecture, etc. We would then come back to class the next week and employing the skills we learned, process the film and print our images. Next to composing and capturing the image, traditional wet darkroom work is what I love. We then set out a “show and tell” for our professor to critique the images.
Since plants have always been a part of my life, I shot many images of various wildflowers. However, when shot in black and white, plants render as an uninteresting gray. Around the same time, an acquaintance of mine said he would model for the portraiture shots. Given that the closest beach was a nude beach, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
After reviewing the assignment’s shots, my professor stopped at my photos from the beach. She emphatically pointed and tapped the images stating: “This is it. This is what you understand.” She was so right. From that day forward, I abandoned all other subjects to focus on the male form which defines my fine art photography genre.
You’ve mentioned that in addition to being a photographer, you’re also an avid botanist. The plant community has grown in recent years, particularly as a result of lockdowns during the pandemic. Do you have any tips for new plant parents?
I have a great interest in botany. My minor degree is in botany and if I could have made a living studying plants, I would have done so. But I’m afraid an PhD is required and then you spend your life chasing research grants.
Caring for plants is a heavy responsibility. They are living things requiring even more attention than a pet. Plants cannot seek you out when attention is required; they are constrained to a pot or other growth substrate. In captivity, they are dependent on you for proper care. I tell people not to have plants, indoors or otherwise, if they cannot properly attend to them – even when away on vacation. I would hope no one would leash a dog to the corner of a dark room and slowly let it die from lack of care and feeding…
If you are an apartment dweller, I recommend you carefully choose plants that will thrive in your environment. Do your research! Unless you are very skilled, it may be wise not to choose trees for an apartment. When choosing a plant two things standout: what are the light requirements and what are the humidity needs? People tend to choose tropical plants for indoor gardens since our living environments, while dry, mimic the tropics. Side note: misting does next to nothing to increase humidity. Instead, place your plants on trays of pebbles filled with water to just below the pebble tops. This is a way to provide a humidity cap around your plants.
For me, I grow American tropicals (new world plants) and African arid condition plants (old world plants). I call it my African American garden.
I’ve also heard that you’re passionate about getting involved in your community. What are some of the ways you’ve been a leader in the communities you’ve lived in?
It is unfortunate, but between my work at Cadent and my photography – I’m opening a show at a local gallery soon – I haven’t had as much time to volunteer. Still, I do hope that the opportunities will present themselves again. I have been on many organizations’ boards during my life, from street tree planting boards, to Toastmasters, to small town NAACP boards. I am convinced that literacy may be one of the most crucial skills for success. To that end, I would like to volunteer with a local literacy council.
What is a movie or show you’ve recently watched, book you’ve recently read, piece of artwork you’ve seen, or album you’ve listened to that left a lasting impression?
By now, it may be apparent that I do not have much free time for movies and the like. And to me, books, virtual or otherwise, have been a means to an end. I read to gain knowledge and skills in the pursuit of my interests, not entertainment.
Having said this, there are a few classic sci-fi films that had an impact on me, especially during my childhood. My all-time favorite movie is the original version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still [Klaatu barada nikto].” It presented a future where hope truly exists, despite man’s folly.
Any free time I may have during the week, you will find me watching one Brit sitcom or another.
As someone who is creatively motivated, how do you think this has shaped your professional work?
I am the sum of my parts. There is no instance where my personal evolution does not color my contemporary behavior. This shapes the people with whom I associate – or not – and the nature of my professional explorations. I am aware that logic alone can lead to a sterile perception and working method, so I attempt to employ a softer nature in what I do. And I am candid – if you couldn’t tell!
What advice would you give to a younger colleague or a younger version of yourself? Do not be persuaded by consensus or public opinion. Do what you innately feel is right and follow your own north star. Do not allow yourself to be influenced by philosophies that you know to be poorly defined and based in superstition. Be your own person first; the rest will follow.