What are you looking for in your career? Let’s say your top five must-haves, in no particular order, are:
You might be surprised to learn that the data center industry can give you all that, whether you are about to take a first step or make a change in your career path. It’s one reason why we are recognizing International Data Center Day 2022, an event designed to create awareness of the data center industry and inspire the next generation(s) of talent.
Let’s start with why data centers are important. We are in “the data rush” era, a time when data is one of the most valuable assets in the world. Yes, it’s intangible and, more often than not, most people don’t give it a second thought as they work with colleagues or business partners on a Zoom call, talk with a nurse during a telemedicine appointment or binge on a Netflix series. But for the people exchanging ideas on how to solve a business problem, the mother comforting her sick child or friends bonding over their favorite characters, it represents a new way of doing business and experiencing a higher quality of life.
Data centers make that happen. If you understand data centers, you know that they are the places where huge volumes of data are stored, processed and shared. You know that they are the hub for network connections enabling data to move to where it’s needed, such as to clouds (which actually are servers in data centers that widely vary in size) or your smartphone. In a sense, you hold an aggregator reliant on and wirelessly connected to data centers in your hand every day.
Data centers are facilities with cutting-edge electrical, mechanical, safety and security systems. As such, they offer the opportunity to learn skills, from the basics to the most advanced, required to achieve operational excellence, uptime and compliance in data centers of all sizes.
If you visited our careers page and looked at the opening we have for a Data Center Technician I (entry level) position, you would see that one of the requirements is: the ability to learn quickly and address issues as they arise in a Mission Critical 24x7 environment. If you read through the Technician IV requirements, you would see: ideal candidate will have a demonstrated technical ability and innovative thinking cross-functionally, including integrated systems and IT. My point is, as I said above, the data center industry is great for people who want to learn and grow in their profession.
Physical security is another critical role and opportunity. I recently talked with my Data Center Operations colleague David Cendejas, our Director of Security. David started his career in law enforcement, and after 15 years decided he wanted to use that experience in a corporate environment. A fellow retired police officer described data center security, and that got David interested in the industry. “What’s cool about data center security is that it is constantly evolving. If you really like up-and-coming physical security technologies, this is the ultimate area to be involved in,” David explained. “The gadgets that we use – bio-metric scanners, facial recognition software, infrared sensors, lasers, retinal scanners – are always evolving, and so are the standards we need to meet, especially around physically hardening and protecting the data center.”
I asked him to tell me what keeps him interested. “What gets me up in the morning is the passion of the people and culture here. I can rely on every single person. We work as a team and have a lot of respect for one another. And every day is different, you never know what you’re going to get. That’s exciting.”
There’s no shortage of data centers in the world: 7.2 million according to a September 2021 article in Data Centre Magazine. However, there is a shortage of technicians, at all levels. In a recent DataCenter Knowledge podcast, (Why Don’t You Get a Job (In a Data Center)), IT veteran Nabeel Mahmood says the main challenge for the industry is awareness – data center degrees are still few and far between, and industry professionals are too busy with their job of connecting the world to spend time on extolling the virtues of a data center career. Having a degree in mechanical engineering, I never thought of a career in data centers until presented with the opportunity and encouragement by a former manager and mentor.
The upside of the shortage is that it drives salaries higher, and it compels data center providers to work hard to retain talent. Zach Strayer, Senior Director of Operations Support Center, came to the industry with a background in finance. By chance, a friend who was the Manager of the CoreSite Operations Support Center needed help and brought Zach on as a temporary employee. About three years after being hired, Zach moved up to a leadership role.
Zach shares his story: “Since that first day, what I experienced is that you are always challenged to think outside the box to solve a problem and help someone. And, coming in with no experience and then becoming a manager showed me that CoreSite believed in me and was willing to give me opportunities to grow. If someone asked me why I thought they should consider getting into the data center industry, I’d say it’s all about the growth potential, because data centers touch everyone’s life. It will be awesome to be part of all that’s going to be developed in the next ten years.”
CoreSite is helping lead the next stages of data center, hybrid IT and core-to-edge interconnection technologies, including 5G wireless communications. As a subsidiary of American Tower Corporation, we are combining our physical assets – data centers and towers – to bring high-performance, low-latency applications to the edge and deliver at scale, globally. That includes public clouds; our direct connections to major public cloud providers puts us in excellent position to expand those relationships.
On the horizon is micro edge data centers located at tower sites. These smaller (500-kilowatt to 2MW) facilities will provide compute power close to mobile users and enable people and businesses in previously undeserved areas to take advantage of 5G.
Does this sound like something you want to be part of? I know that my career in the data center industry has been rewarding in so many ways, and the opportunities for growth at CoreSite will keep coming.
You could help by sharing this post with colleagues and friends. With just a click or two, you could amplify the work of 7X24 Exchange International, which is the group “powering International Data Center Day.” Not only can you learn about this year’s programs, but you can also find out how to raise awareness every day.
I also suggest you take a moment to learn about Infrastructure Masons. Their mission is “to unite the builders of the digital age by enabling their global membership to connect, grow and give back.” They also work year-round to educate, champion diversity and inclusion, promote innovation and technical excellence and inspire sustainability.
Vice President of Data Center Field Operations
Joe is responsible for data center facilities, operations and physical security at all CoreSite data center locations. He has more than 20 years of experience in facility operations including 10+ years of data center operations and management.Read more from this author