Sustainability, Diversity, and Inspiring the Next Generation of Data Center Professionals

Angie McMillin • April 01, 2020

To celebrate International Data Center Day, in the spirit of inspiring the next generation of data center professionals, I recently had a great conversation with two amazing women in the industry – Jamie Leverton, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at eStruxture Data Centers in Montreal, and Erin Dowd, Vice President of Global Human Resources at Vertiv. Our discussion was recorded for a podcast about the virtues of a data center career, nurturing the next generation of diverse talent supporting data centers, and how sustainability practices can play a role in attracting that talent. The highlights included:

  

Data Centers Being Front and Center Can Foster Interest

As we operate in a socially distanced, remote-working environment amid the current crisis, the world's dependence on data centers cannot be overstated. What a fantastic time to be in the industry that's so critical to helping our society transition from a largely in-person world to a sudden work-from-home one. The next generation of data center talent has a front-row seat to that change and its impact. This experience, from work-at-home to e-learning and everything else, will be part of them forever. This knowledge, and the fact that they've grown up as digital natives in the first place, is creating a generation of IT professionals with an entirely different perspective and skillset.

Nurturing the next generation of talent is near to my heart. I support a women's engineering summer camp, and other events around my alma mater, the University of Dayton. I also mentor interns and other young professionals, male and female, and I see so much potential. They are eager to learn and play their part. And with the potential impact of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) on our industry, the opportunities awaiting these young IT pros are practically unlimited.

The timing couldn't be better, because the growing data center industry needs an infusion of young, creative talent. Consider this: 33 percent of data center professionals in the United States are set to leave the industry, most to retire, by 2025 (source, Data Center 2025: Closer to the Edge).

 

Diversity Is a Key Imperative

One key to navigating this workforce transition is to proactively broaden our search for candidates, ensuring we have a diverse talent pool.

Diversity is the right thing to do, and it delivers business and cultural benefits. At Vertiv, we embrace diversity through our global workforce and customer base. Research shows that companies that have more diverse workforces outperform and out-innovate those that do not. For example, companies in the top quartile of the workforce in terms of diversity are 33 percent more likely to financially outperform their less diverse counterparts, according to a 2018 study from McKinsey.

At Vertiv, our talent acquisition team is expanding and enhancing diversity in our university relations and recruiting efforts. We are targeting diverse candidates when hiring everyone from interns to executives. We target talent early in their careers, prioritize employee development, and create career paths to help them grow into leadership roles.  

We've also recently created a Women at Vertiv Excel (WAVE) resource group, which is nurturing women within the organization and encouraging more women to pursue leadership positions with Vertiv. Our group monitors and encourages diversity in leadership positions and provides essential training that women can apply in their current positions.

 

Sustainability Can Attract Candidates … and Customers

Another example of business doing well while simultaneously doing good is in the area of sustainability. Sustainability is a valuable tool to help us attract candidates, given this industry's potential to make a difference in things like reducing  power usage.

One thing we know to be true about the next generation is that they want their work to align with their values. They want to do work they believe in. We also know the generation coming up is committed to preserving the environment, which is good news for all of us as citizens. So sustainability, and the strides to be made in this industry that continues to rely so heavily on power, present a real opportunity for the next generation.

A focus on sustainability also has been growing among our customers.

At eStruxture, all of their facilities are designed with sustainability in mind. When they purchase facilities, they immediately upgrade them to make them more efficient. They take advantage of free cooling wherever possible, and the majority of their data centers are using 99.5 percent hydropower energy. They are committed to continuing to increase their power usage effectiveness (PUE) without sacrificing performance, scalability, or uptime, and they carefully select eco-responsible technologies and suppliers. Vertiv is proud to be among them. (See the case study.)

Sustainability often drives a customer's choice to work with certain companies, and that certainly has been true in our experience. Many hyperscale customers, in particular, have announced their sustainability and energy efficiency plans, and their partners' efforts are an important part of those plans.

 

Some Advice for Future Data Center Professionals

I wanted to close with some advice to anyone considering a career in data centers. But when I think about it, it's good advice for all of us.

  1. Success doesn't happen overnight. Enjoy those small steps, keep taking steps, learn as much as you can, and don't give up.
  1. Keep an open mind in your career, and be willing to try new things. Sometimes doors are going to open that you didn't even imagine, which is OK.

 

As a prime example, I started my education in the aerospace industry. When that industry was hurting, I switched to mechanical, spent a large part of my career in automotive, then moved to consumer, and now I'm in data center and IT. I am essentially a space geek and car junkie engineer with experience in engineering strategy, sales portfolio, transformation, and operations. And now, I'm a general manager for an IT management portfolio.

If I hadn't been open to new opportunities along my career path, I wouldn't be here today. It's an example for the younger generation. There are broad possibilities. You don't have to have it all figured out now. Keep taking those steps and keep trying and learning. The world awaits you.

To hear more, listen to the full BriefingsDirect podcast or see if working in data centers is part of your future with our career simulator

  

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