The skills shortage: Looking from the inside out

What a data center recruiter sees as the solution to the skills gap

If there is one thing that DCPro is acutely aware of, it’s the skills shortage in the data center industry. In the last couple of years, we have discussed the skill gap with different experts, attempting to understand its cause and identify potential solutions. Recently the expert in question was Andy Davis, the director for DataX Connect and Highfield Professional Solutions, providing an angle on recruitment from the inside out. “I think the skill shortage is a massive challenge with a lot of different facets within it. It’s something that people look at with quite a holistic view, and actually, there’s a lot of individual differentiators within the challenge. I always try and break it down into a few different elements. “You’ve got the entry-level, whether that’s a graduate, trainee, or apprentice. You’ve got that level, where we need more new people coming into the industry. “You’ve then got attracting people from other sectors. So how can we, as an industry, become more attractive than other industries to ensure that we’re getting the best talent? “Then you’ve also got the challenge of retention. How do we keep the best people in the sector?

There are a number of different facets that create the skills challenge. I think from a trainee and entry-level perspective, a lot of the conversations I have would boil down to getting your message to these people at the right time, which is at a school level. Going into schools, educating them about the industry, and telling them what data centers are. “I think a lot of focus historically has been on graduates or 18 to 21-year olds, but a lot of those have already made a decision on their career. They didn’t know what a data center was, so they were never going to choose data centers. The key is getting out to the schools. Let’s start educating people at a young age and telling them what a great industry it is, and the careers available.” This idea of expanding awareness of data centers, while indisputably important to focus on during student years, also applies to other industries. It isn’t possible to only recruit internally, and as a result, steps must be taken to create a wide-spread knowledge base of data centers across compatible industries. “Obviously, anyone that’s worked within the forces or leaves the forces

and moves into engineering, they’re critical thinkers and they’re able to operate under pressure. But again, that’s another group of people that the manufacturing sector is chasing, the oil and gas sectors are chasing. You’ve got to have a reason for them to come to the data center sector. “I don’t think it’s about there being a particular sector that we should get people from, which is probably where a lot of companies do it wrong. It’s about looking at the person. What are the attributes of the individual that you’re trying to recruit?” Taking this approach of evaluating people holistically, rather than demanding data center experience, can also help with the unavoidable fact of a devastating lack of diversity

across the industry. “The majority of people are around my age, and in that white male demographic. That’s the reality of it. We’ve worked this year on diversity, and how can we increase that diverse portfolio of candidates. We don’t just want three people of the same, we want a diverse shortlist. “The key to increasing your diversity is to look outside of the data center talent pool. Because if you go to an event in data centers, and you look at that as your broad brush demographic of the sector, and you want to increase minorities, they’re not there. They’re not in

the sector. The whole point around diversity is we need to bring them into the sector. “I worked with a client this year on diversity, and our mission was to find more females to bring into their organization because they wanted female critical thinking, they wanted different ideas. So we didn’t look in the data center sector. We went to other sectors. We identified people that match the attributes and the DNA of that business, and they are now working within that business. “But we wouldn’t have been able to do that if they said to us, ‘we want people with

five years data center experience’ or work on hyperscale projects based in this country, it would have been impossible. “Look outside of your industry and make yourself attractive to that minority, whatever it is you’re looking to attract, whatever demographic it is you want, make your business attractive to them, make it work, make it welcoming, and then people will come to you.” Watch the DCPro>Talk in full for more information about the data center industry skills shortage, and how we can work around it.

Watch the DCPro talk with Andy here to hear even more about the industry and skills shortage challenge.

Top 10 data centre influencers to follow on LinkedIn

By Josephine Walbank at Data Centre Magazine

Our top 10 data centre influencers are thought leaders who are sharing the most actionable, informative and current content on LinkedIn, right now

Out of all the most popular social media platforms, LinkedIn has one of the most educated and highest-earning user bases. In fact, 51% of its audience is college-educated and half have an annual salary of over $75,000. 

It is platforms like LinkedIn that are transforming the way that sectors perceive social media. 

Now, rather than limiting its perceived use case to finding new hires, the world’s data centre companies and top execs are actually using LinkedIn to enhance their understanding of the industry. 

As with any platform, LinkedIn has its influencers. These include everything from the leaders of the world’s largest names, to empowering motivational speakers, and tech masterminds to ordinary people sharing their success stories. 

So, in this article, we’ll be recommending 10 of our most inspiring LinkedIn data centre influencers. If you want to know the latest goings-on in the industry, these are the people you’ll want to follow. 

1 Kate Brandt

As the Chief Sustainability Officer at Google, few know the industry better than Kate Brandt

Through her LinkedIn, she shares her insights into Google’s ongoing climate action strategy, technology updates and decarbonisation initiatives, to name a few. 

Plus, her feed is filled with current, actionable sustainability advice for companies in the technology and digital sectors. 

2 Tony Grayson

Tony Grayson is known throughout the industry for his thought leadership and extensive industry experience. 

During his 25+ years of technology and leadership experience, Grayson has worked with industry giants such as Facebook, AWS, and Oracle, and held a Commanding Officer role in the US Navy. 

On his LinkedIn platform, Grayson shares his insights in data centre topics including (but not limited to) the cloud, the edge, networking, financial management, commercial power and sustainability. 

3 Andy Davis 

Alongside his role as the Director of DataX Connect, Andy Davis is also the host of the popular podcast, Inside Data Centre.

The podcast explores the latest big trends in the data centre industry, with industry giants across the world. And, with over 15 years of experience within the data centre sector, Davis is a host that knows exactly what questions listeners want the answers to.  

As you can imagine, Davis’ LinkedIn is a gold mine of industry insights, podcast clips and global data centre news. 

4 Todd Coleman 

Todd Coleman is the President, CEO and Founder of eSTRUXTURE Data centres (and, the face of one of our most popular Data Centre Magazine covers). 

Coleman’s industry success has made him a highly influential data centre thought leader, and his LinkedIn offers a great insight into eSTRUXTURE’s continual success.

5 Lauren Ryder 

Lauren Ryder is the CEO of Leading Edge Global, a strategic business transformation specialist, with expertise in the areas of technology implementation and virtual CXO. 

So, as you can imagine, Ryder’s LinkedIn is a fantastic example of industry thought leadership, spanning a huge range of topics. Her shared content includes everything from company insights to interview clips, and corporate culture guidance to advice for other women in STEM industries. 

6 Joshua Au 

Joshua Au currently works as the data centre lead for the A* agency for science, technology and research. Previously, he has also held the roles of Singapore Chapter Leader for the Infrastructure Masons, Hyperscale Infrastructure Track Chair for the NSCC Singapore, and been a judge at the Data Centre Dynamics Awards. 

Alongside his industry insights, Au also uses his LinkedIn to discuss sustainable initiatives at length. As such, his is a great account to follow, if you want to improve your company’s ESG standards. 

7 Susanna Kass

Susanna Kass’ extensive data centre accreditations include, but aren’t limited to, her status as an Energy Fellow at Stanford University, being the Co-Founder of InfraPrime, and acting as a Data Centre Advisor for the UNSDG Programme.

And, as with many of the industry pioneers on this list, Kass is a firm sustainability and carbon neutral advocate. She is a member of Climate 50, and is the Data Centre Advisor for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

8 Amy Daniell

Based in London, Amy Daniell is the Senior Director of Hyperscale at NTT Global Data centres. She has also held Director-level positions at Microsoft, URS and AECOM. 

Daniell is a visiting lecturer at Bayes Business School, and is a regular speaker at DCD>Talks and DCD>Events, all of which she shares on her platform. 

9 Nabeel Mahmood 

Nabeel Mahmood is a Board Director for some of the largest names in the technology sector, including SCB Global and United Security Bank. 

He is also a popular keynote speaker, and his LinkedIn page is filled with industry news, alongside his insights on the topics. 

10 Phillip Koblence 

Phillip Koblence is the Co-Founder and current COO of NYI. Since founding the company in 1996, Koblence has grown the company from the operator of a single data centre in Lower Manhattan, to a key player in both national and international markets. 

With over 20 years of leadership and data centre management experience under his belt, Koblence’s LinkedIn is an invaluable page to be following.

5 Minutes with: Andy Davis

By Josephine Walbank at Data Centre Magazine

We spoke to Andy Davis, the host of Inside Data Centre Podcast, to find out what it’s like behind the scenes, and what inspired him to launch the show

There’s a popular notion that there’s a podcast out there for everyone. And, business podcasts don’t have to be limited to motivational speakers – in fact, you can hear actionable and specific advice from the world’s leading data centre experts, straight from the horse’s mouth. 

The growing audience of Inside Data Centre is a testament to the collective curiosity of the data centre community. And, as a medium, podcasts are a fantastic way to get to know the people behind the titles, and pick their brains, as if they were with you in person. 

Alongside his role as the Director of DataX ConnectAndy Davis is also the host of the highly successful Inside Data Centre Podcast. 

The podcast explores the latest big trends in the data centre industry, with industry giants across the world. And, with over 15 years of experience within the data centre sector, Davis is a host that knows exactly what questions listeners want the answers to. 

What inspired you to set up your podcast?

The main inspiration behind starting the Inside Data Centre Podcast was the need to increase the exposure of the data centre sector. 

As a recruiter in the data centre sector, I was regularly asked ‘where can you find information about working in the sector?’. There was basically no real source of information that shared the stories of those working in the sector. 

I also knew that many people in the sector had a great story to tell, so I created the platform for them to do it. I was conscious that the other data centre podcasts were very technical and the guests were largely CEO’s/leaders of data centre operators. So, I wanted to create a more conversational podcast that was open to anyone working in the sector.

What has been your highlight in this role?

I have had so many highlights across the 90+ episodes I have released over the two years. I genuinely enjoy every single conversation: I feel privileged to be able to speak with people across the world and to help inspire others to join us in the world of data centres. 

I can never pick out one guest, as each person has their own great story to share, so my main highlight would be creating a platform that helps discuss the topics in the sector that really need a platform, such as diversity, education, and talent. 

I also love receiving feedback from those that listen to the podcast. It’s great to receive a message saying that one of my conversations helped someone develop their career or start a new role in the sector. That is what keeps me motivated.

What is your point of difference as a data centre marketing platform – what gap in the market do you think the podcast genre fills? 

I think it is that the podcast is authentic. I am not a technical whizz by any stretch, and therefore, I have to ask questions that maybe other platforms wouldn’t cover. 

I want to ask the questions that the listeners want answered and to try and take the conversation down a different route to the normal data centre discussions. 

The data centre sector is perceived as one where you have to be technical or an engineer to be successful. I want to show listeners that this is so far from the truth, and that many people from all backgrounds can develop highly successful careers in our sector.

What data centre topics do you think are the most under/over-represented? 

I think topics like sustainability and power demand receive a lot of exposure (rightly so) as that is what is high on customers lists of demands. 

They want to know that operators are talking about how they can manage the sustainability challenge and, therefore, these topics are always in the media. 

It is the topics under the radar that I like to cover, such as diversity. We talk about it a lot within the industry, but what actually are we doing, and why is it important? 

Talent is another topic that always comes up on my podcast. I always have the objective to try and provide a solution to these challenges, rather than simply discussing the problem and leaving the solution for someone else to create. 

Young people are another topic that, I feel, is not discussed enough. If we really want to manage the long-term talent challenge, we need to attract more young people to the sector, and it is up to us to solve that challenge.

Where do you see the podcast heading in the next 5 years?

When I first started the podcast, I wasn’t sure it would last 5 episodes! 

It seems crazy that it is now two years since the first episode, and we are heading towards the 100th episode. 

All I would like to know is that the podcast is making a difference. And, as long as I can see it is making a difference, I will keep releasing the episodes. 

This is dependent on always having people to speak to, though. So, if anyone has a story to share please get in contact – I would love to talk data centres with you!

“Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.”​

“Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.” Scott Cook

When we formed DataX Connect it was all built upon a vision of wanting to provide something different, we didn’t want to be ‘just another recruitment company’.

In any service industry you have good and bad, and we all know that it tends to be the bad experiences that stand out more than the good. How could we create a company that is remembered for the positive experiences?

The answer was trust.

‘Trust has to be the highest value in your company, and if it’s not, something bad is going to happen to you’. Marc Benioff

When I spoke with our customers about what they wanted from a recruitment company it all pointed back to honesty and trust. They didn’t want the bulls*it sales chat, they wanted the truth. They wanted to be educated, to be advised, to be collaborative, it was all about forming a genuine relationship and those relationships had to be built upon a foundation of trust.

It is great having the vision to build a business based on trust but how do you implement it?

You have to have a top down approach. If the leaders don’t believe in the vision then it will never be a success.

‘Your words and deeds must match if you expect employees to trust in your leadership.’ – Kevin Kruse.

You have to recruit people that match your vision. Don’t look for people that you can mould to your vision, find people that share your values and your DNA. These people will be the ones that are fronting your vision to your customers.

You have to be relentless. A vision isn’t simply writing on the wall. It has to be engrained in your processes. Every action you make will be because of your vision.

How are we doing?

We are not the finished the article.

We seek to improve every day.

We learn every day.

But what I can say is that our business is built upon these foundations. The way we act, the way we operate, the decisions we make, they are all based on trust.

We advise our customers.

We are honest with our customers.

We refuse to accept bulls*it.

We trust our employees.

‘If you don’t have trust inside your company, then you can’t transfer it to your customers.’ – Roger Staubach 

It isn’t about making the most money from our clients or getting our candidates the role that gives us the biggest fee. We want to be known as the company that provides the best service: a company that you can trust to make the right decisions for you.

We work with clients that match our values.

We find candidates the best opportunity for them.

And we are honest that we can’t help everyone.

When a customer calls me to say how great our service has been I know we are going in the right direction.

It may be a sales industry, but to be the best you need to provide an exceptional service.

‘Being trustworthy requires: Doing the right thing. And doing things right.’ – Don Peppers. 

The journey continues..

Data Centre Dynamics talks with Andy Davis

As we all may know  by now, Andy Davis – Director of DataX Connect – has created a successful weekly podcast to showcase the data centre industry and what it’s like to work inside it. From time to time though, he can be seen (or heard) on other people’s podcasts and chats, sharing his knowledge and understanding of this growing industry. Data Centre Dynamics sat down with Andy to talk recruitment, in an engaging 20 minute video that can be watched here.

Maybe you are curious about the skills shortage, what the industry is looking for, and how to improve diversity and awareness. Or do you want to know what skills are easily transferrable, or if you’re already in the industry, hear what Andy wants the industry to be aware of. This is well worth a listen to in order to gain insight into data centres as Vlad and Andy discuss how he got into data centres and how others can do the same. There are a lot of opportunities available but making people aware of these is one of the major challenges being faced at the moment, with a new push towards making sure more people know just what is out there.

Following the talk, DCPro created a blog to highlight the skills shortage, using Andy’s insider knowledge to see its effects on the Data Centre Industry. An interesting read that can be found here, giving you a more in depth viewpoint of the jobs, skills, and expectations of businesses. Knowing how the sector is run and what companies are doing to grow and retain a vital workforce shows the flourishing opportunities that are being provided; helping you to visualise a rewarding career.

There are a lot of job roles available and looking to hire the right candidates, and our wonderful DataX team can connect you with the right employer and the chance to start on a successful career path. With international connections and clients searching for their ideal fit, it could be you working in a constantly expanding industry which we rely on more and more.

Our trusted recruitment agency is filled with a very experienced and friendly team that are ready to start you on your journey. Learn more about data centres or expand your current experience with our range of positions that want filling. Call the team on 01489888499 (UK) or visit the website to find more ways of contacting us!

When the best time to look for a new opportunity is – December vs January

Tomorrow marks the 1st of December which means we’re officially coming towards the end of another weird and wonderful 12 months, as 2021 rather hastily draws to a close.

I’ve always thought of this time of year to be one of the best times to look at the options for a new position – in terms of the market, personal reflection, and planning for the next 12 months ahead (and beyond) – and whilst some will be thinking about whether to bite the bullet & do something about it now, others will prefer to wait until January.

If moving jobs is something you’re considering exploring in the near future but don’t know when to put the wheels in motion, I’ve put together some thoughts on the different reasons for looking at the end of this year vs the start of next…

PROS & CONS OF LOOKING NOW

✔ It’s a candidate market – people are getting multiple interviews and gaining multiple offers

Having CHOICE and being able to look into the detail of what the company offers, what your role will entail, the opportunities for you to progress, how the package stacks up and what the environment you’ll be working in will be like, allows you to consider various options and pick the one you think is best for you.

 ✔ Remuneration & packages are at an all-time high

Engineers in Building Services Design / Data Centres are increasing their basic salary by an average of 15-30% by moving jobs at the moment.

 Not only that, what companies are offering as total compensation is improving, how much ‘richer’ could you be with added benefits of a bonus scheme, car allowance, better pension contributions, private healthcare, tailored working from home options – be it fully remote, 1 day in 4 days WFH, 5 days in the office, an even split – whatever suits you can likely be accommodated somewhere.

  ✔ Good companies are putting together their plans for the New Year, now.

You stay ahead of the game, or you fall behind it. Well run companies are strategic and their recruitment plans are around growth, rather than back-filling a vacancy after someone has handed their notice in in January. Do you want to be joining the ambitious company who have identified a need for you, and will have a plan for how you will develop with them, or do you want to be lured into one that has just had an unexpected tender win that they suddenly don’t have enough resource for, so are looking for a ‘doer’ to fill a gap. 

✖ Too many plates to spin right now

I’ll be honest, as much as I love December, it’s a bloody stressful time of year.

I’m currently trying to find a fancy-dress outfit, a work Christmas party outfit, another outfit for a Christmas ball, I’ve been trying to buy everyone’s Christmas presents whilst they’re still in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales AND it’s still one of the busiest periods of the year for recruitment.

I don’t blame you if you’re struggling to find time to juggle updating your CV alongside your end of year workload, present buying, present wrapping, nights out, catching up with friends, Winter Wonderland, and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate and/or mulled wine every weekend…

I feel ya.

✖ Don’t know where to start

It’s daunting. Especially on top of all of the above.

Looking for a new job, particularly if it’s something you’ve either never done or not done for a while, can be scary. You don’t know who to speak to, what to expect, who to trust or whether you will be able to find something that ticks the right boxes.

As recruiters, we should be able to give you some good insight into the market, so hopefully this isn’t something you should really have to worry about. You just need to have that initial conversation to open things up.

✖ Things might get better where I am after my EOY review

If they’re any good, your current employer will be making/have made plans for 2022. Maybe your role will change, you’ll get that promotion you’ve been waiting for, you’ll get the pay-rise, or at least you’ll have the chance to speak up about what’s concerning you…

PROS & CONS OF LOOKING IN JANUARY

 ✔ New year, new me

 ✔ ‘More’ companies will be hiring (really?!)

 ✔ Take a step back, away from the pressures of your every day and reflect on what you really want to achieve from moving companies

 ✔ Take your time updating your CV over the Christmas break

 ✔ Hiring Managers are back from annual leave

 ✔ Still get your December bonus*

 *if you don’t have to pay it back if you leave within x amount of months

 ✖ Increased candidate competition – more people will use January to look for a new role if it’s something they’re thinking of

 ✖ You’re more likely to sit and ‘wait it out’ where you are currently despite not being happy

 ✖ Time waits for no man/woman – that company that would be PERFECT for you might be hiring now. If you don’t know about it or explore it now, the opportunity may not be around in January

So December vs January job hunting…

The result?

There’s no one size fits all and it will depend on you and your own personal situation.

But whichever you think is best and whenever you feel is right for you, let’s start speaking so you know what your options are and can feel confident and prepared in how to approach your search when the time comes.

Drop me a message, email your CV to [email protected] or give me a call on 01489888499.

Addressing the Data Centre talent shortage. Are we doing enough?

By far and away the question I get asked the most by our customers (client and candidate) is “How’s the market looking for engineers?”. Sounds like an innocuous question, right? This is what I usually thought too. But after being asked this question and then having the same conversation with a dozen hiring managers just this week so far it made me stop and actually think about it.

The facts are pretty clear. The market is busier than it ever has been before. I could name you 10+ companies that are looking for engineers right now. I could also name you several projects where new sites are under construction and talent attraction plans are being built out. But one thing that is becoming more and more apparent is the pool of good quality engineers is getting smaller and of that pool less and less are wanting to move.

Don’t just take my word for it. The Uptime Institute released their first global staffing report earlier this year: ‘The people challenge: Global data center staffing forecast 2021-2025’. The report highlighted the challenges we face over the next five years (link at the end of the article) and came to the same conclusion that growth will reach all-time highs and that the current pool of engineers is nowhere near enough to accommodate.

In another article from DCD’s Graeme Burton (link at the end of the article), he summed up nicely our current state with the “Age-Old problem” within the industry where “veterans are retiring but who is going to replace them?”.

The more important question for me and the people I speak to is, “Are we, as an industry, doing enough to solve this problem?” 

In my experience so far, the industry is massively disjointed in its approach. Some companies are trying some good initiatives but I’m a firm believer that we could be doing so much more.

Related industries

We have seen with the recent pandemic a real change in the visibility of Data Centres. All of a sudden, these secret hidden-away buildings have become big news and as more and more people hear of the industry, we have a great opportunity to bring high quality engineers over from other related industries such as, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, production, aviation & ex-forces engineers all have heavily transferrable skills. We are beginning to see more of these engineers take up roles within the DC market but there is still a block with a number of companies who struggle to come to terms with the idea they made need to hire someone without direct Data Centre experience. We need to open up our thinking and work on way to attract and then retain these engineers. They will be the ones who can most quickly replace the current crop of experienced and nearing retirement engineers.

Attracting the next generation

This is an area that up until recently was practically impossible to do when the market was so secretive and so hidden. We are seeing some of the particularly large companies offering courses or qualifications for younger people or apprenticeship and graduate programmes being rolled out. But it is so sporadic across the industry. We have a real opportunity now to grasp the attention of the younger generation. Data Centres are more prominent in young people’s lives with the explosion of social media, popularity of green initiatives (such as electric cars) and even online gaming all fully dependant on Data Centres to store their Data. Now is the time to educate and open the industry up to the next generation. Every single company should already be thinking about and implementing strategies in this area so we can ensure that longer term things will be secure.

Diversity & inclusion

There is very much still that macho construction feel about the Data Centre sector. The industry is historically heavily dominated by white males (like me!) and more has to be done to change that perception and attract people of all genders and backgrounds. This is not something that can be fixed quickly, perceptions take time to change but companies must act now to ensure that their culture is an appropriately open one. Longer term the focus has to be on educating our youngsters on the industry and demonstrating that all are welcome and will have the same opportunities regardless of sex, ethnicity or background. There are some companies leading the way here but again more can still be done to diversify our workforce and open it up to as many people as possible, while importantly not excluding and discriminating against those already within it. 

We can do more…

I am firmly of the belief that more can be done to help. In the short term with clients thinking more outside of the box and being more flexible with their requirements. In the medium term with an adjusting of company culture to feel more welcoming and inclusive. And finally in the long term with education and outreach programmes to attract the engineers of tomorrow. 

It’s possible but only if we all pull together. In the words of my colleague, Sam Denham (stolen from Nigel Adkins, ex-Southampton FC manager), “Together as One”.

You can download the Uptime Institute report here – https://link.uptimeinstitute.com/jBrI0225R005B0o0AZ80n00

You can read the DCD report here – https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/en/marketwatch/data-center-builders-facing-age-old-problem-retirement-youth-recruitment/

Written by Ben Palmer, Sector Lead FM & Operations

Contact him Here