Truth be told, I found my career in the data center industry by accident. Many years ago, after the business I was working for closed and I took a job that didn’t interest me, a friend suggested I consider a position in data center operations at Digital Realty. I joined CoreSite about five years later and now am Director of Data Center Operations for Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.
I was lucky in some ways, meeting a friend that encouraged me to try data centers, which, at that time, were an emerging industry in New Jersey post-9/11. Now that I am on the other side of the exploration phase, I realize that guidance and inspiration are very important for someone trying to define their career path – at any age and point in that path. Otherwise, how can you make an educated decision on something that has a huge impact on your life?
CoreSite is helping people make that decision. Since 2020, the company has been offering information, inspiration and a point of entry into the data center industry for students at the Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Loudoun Campus. Specifically, we fund a scholarship with the college and offer two internships with AFCOM, a trade organization here in the region, in which students enrolled in the Data Center Operations Technology program and other similar educational paths are exposed to the different departments within a data center.
Participating in the program or being awarded a scholarship by NOVA gives them an opportunity to ask themselves, “Do I really want to do this?” It offers them a rare, 360-degree sample of all phases of the business that can help them make a more educated decision on which route to go – general management, sales, operations, project management or sales engineering. It helps to potentially cut short any wasted time in the “I’m not sure” phase.
CoreSite has a rare staffing model. We have entry level, Tier 1 operations positions in which a new employee is part of the onsite data center team from day one. And while NOVA students aren’t guaranteed a job, we do look for students from the program to help fill those spots. It enables us to get people who do not have a ton of technical experience into the industry, and then train them through our qualification programs if they find this career path appealing. Our training platform also provides experienced professionals with a mechanism to add layers onto their skillset and skyrocket their careers.
Most people don’t think of colocation data center providers as being in the real estate business, but at our core, that is the business we are in. We bring customers of all kinds into our buildings, rent or license them floor space in our data centers, and enable them to interconnect with important services impacting the community. What’s also true is that data centers are typically large buildings and have a reputation as exceptionally large consumers of power and water.
However, data centers are great neighbors and good for a community. Beyond the opportunities I’ve described, the positives include significant local and state tax payments (supporting the services we depend on) and well-paying jobs in a stable and growing industry. Data centers attract ancillary businesses that add to the regional job pool, can help an area expand its industry mix to include technology-based companies and provide technology that enables older industries to be more competitive.
The Northern Virginia Technology Council reported that in 2021 the data centers in Virginia directly provided approximately:
Furthermore, the report states, “For every job inside a Virginia data center, there are 4.1 additional jobs that are supported in the rest of the Virginia economy.”1
I think that if you asked 10 people what a data center is, you would get a great variety of responses, some of them being, “I don’t know.” For those people, I’d explain that data centers are a place where computers and networking equipment connects them to the internet and just about every form of communication. In a nutshell, they are the container for community and business growth.
I’ve had the opportunity to explain what data centers are and answer questions about the industry as part of my involvement with NOVA, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and many local public-school systems in the area. We engage with up-and-coming students for one reason: to be of service. If I can share some wisdom through my challenges and journey to help shortcut their growth and success – my team and I are all in. I’m there to provide information and to help someone feel comfortable making the major life decision of choosing a career path.
I work just north of Data Center Alley. Data centers have a big presence in the region, which makes local immersion necessary to be good stewards of the community. We all live and work here, why not help out where we can? I’m proud to say that in addition to two days of community service with my colleagues, we are involved with Mobile Hope, an organization that “provides support and emergency shelter to youth up to age 24 who are at-risk, precariously housed or homeless and empowers them to become self-sufficient.” Last year we also contributed backpacks and headphones to Women Giving Back, a Sterling, Virginia organization that provides clothes and school supplies to 14,000 women and children in need every year. CoreSite’s local Virginia Data Center Operations team did the work of filling up those backpacks.
This year, we are hosting one more intern with AFCOM. We are also partnering with NOVA as a sponsor for education grants aimed at growing their Data Center Operations Course nationally.
I firmly believe you cannot receive unless you give. Like I said, I was lucky to find a career, but it took many leaps of faith. I had no idea what I was stepping into, I just trusted my friend who was extremely passionate about the industry. NOVA’s Data Center Operations course allows CoreSite to help take risk out of the equation and help as many people as possible make informed life decisions.
Visit the CoreSite Careers page to learn about the company and opportunities.
1. The Impact of Data Centers on the State and Local Economies of Virginia, Northern Virginia Technology Council, 2022
Senior Director of Data Center Operations
Christopher Lettiere is the Senior Director of Data Center Operations for the Northern Virginia market and has 17+ years of mission critical operations experience.Read more from this author