The future of data center talent pools

By: Kurt Russell

International Data Center Day is all about spreading awareness for the industry and inspiring the next generation of talent. And our industry is in dire need of fresh talent to meet the demand. So I’m here to shed a little light on just what it takes to work and thrive in the data center industry.

Technology moves incredibly fast and it is extremely unpredictable. New developments disrupt and divert the industry all the time. 

The dramatic growth of the data center market in recent years certainly caught many off guard. We may have foreseen an increase in demand but the exact rate of growth is staggering.

As I write this, the industry continues to expand and new data centers are being built all over the world. How long will this growth last?

The talent pools are rapidly becoming too small for the size of the industry. Every other contract goes to the same companies who pull from the same pools of people. If the industry doesn’t make a concerted effort to bring in fresh talent and train them to be ready for what’s coming, it may soon struggle to keep up with clients’ demands.

So what do we do?

It’s not dark magic, it’s just in the dark  

Unless you work in a data center you probably don’t know much about them. It’s a fairly new industry and there’s no marketing campaigns, TV ads or sparkly instagram pictures promoting them.

As such, most people tend to imagine an elusive, incomprehensible structure, impossible to understand by anyone with an IQ of less than 150. Either that or they picture a small number of computer screens.

Being bound by a non-disclosure agreement, I can’t shed much light on the inner workings of a Yondr data center. In fact, I often confuse and disappoint people at barbecues when I describe my job in rather vague and unhelpful terms.

But I can tell you this. The data centers we maintain and operate are huge infrastructures, hidden away in warehouses that are bigger than your average football pitch. There’s some complexity to the infrastructure but we write engineering processes and procedures to be as simple and easy to follow as possible. There’s no dark magic involved. The maintenance side of things can easily be taught—to the right people.

Young people

This faux mystery and lack of visibility means talented young people aren’t giving a moment’s consideration to a career in our industry, which is a shame for both us and them.

There are many benefits to working in our industry; the pay is good, there’s plenty of room for progression and it offers the kind of longevity that few sectors can boast of nowadays. Data center is one of the few markets not at risk of being wiped out by tech because it is the tech.

The more young people we can bring on board, the better we can prepare for the future. And not just the next five years but many decades to come. Maintenance companies and data center owner-operators must invest majorly in marketing campaigns aimed at attracting young people to our industry.

What we need 

At face value, there’s nothing that’s especially glamorous about our industry.

Building, operating and maintaining a data center doesn’t come with the same social recognition as, say, working on a stunning piece of architecture in the centre of a cosmopolitan city. You’re out of sight, hidden behind closed doors, working on something most people will never see or think about, repeating the same processes and procedures day in and day out.

However, some people love the data center environment. They thrive in it. It suits their personality, they feel valued and they take great pride in their work. These are exactly the kinds of people we want.

The key criteria for a good candidate is their attitude. A recruiter doesn’t need to go and poach someone with 15 years’ experience working in data center maintenance from one of Yondr’s competitors or raid the supply chain. Find me someone with the right attitude and I’ll do the rest.

Data center maintenance is a hands-on job that requires discipline, humility and an ability to operate in a live environment. The environment requires conscientious, hard working individuals who will execute with excellence, pay meticulous attention to detail and keep themselves and others safe.

Whenever I am hiring I focus on finding the best candidate, regardless of industry. So, if you’re reading this and think you might be suited to a data center environment but don’t have experience in the industry, do not hesitate to put yourself forward.

Regardless of what skills you arrive at Yondr with, the nuances of the job will always require training. So in many ways your previous experience isn’t nearly as critical as you may think. However, it helps if you come from a disciplined industry because you’ll be well-versed in process and procedure.

In-house talent acquisition teams have an important role to play in helping our industry overcome its recruitment crisis. By investing time to understand the integral roles required, recruiters can help our industry meet its needs, spread the word and rapidly grow our talent pools. Any recruiter who does this will be greatly rewarded by the amount of positions there are to place.

Time is of the essence 

Both the industry and recruiters must move now.

If we are to continue meeting the demand which is increasing everyday and keep delivering excellent quality and service, we need to act fast because we’re already falling behind.

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