The industry, for many years, has complained of a lack of talent coming into data centers. Much has been written about why people don’t want to enter the industry. However, those of us who work in and around data centers really enjoy what we do. Many of us have accumulated decades' worth of experience.

Herein lies a problem. There is an impending ‘silver tsunami’ of vastly experienced talent about to retire from the industry, taking their accumulated knowledge with them. There is little anyone can do to stop this process. It is just what happens. So rather than just sucking this state of affairs up saying ‘it is what it is’, we need to do something practical about it.

Hence why International Data Center Day was born - to create awareness of the industry and inspire the next generation of talent.

What's in it for me?

There could be cynics out there that deride the notion of such as day as they cannot see how it can be monetized. This actually isn’t the point. To be able to stem the hemorrhaging of talent, we need to start bringing in emerging talent from the grassroots and also to make best use of transferrable skills from other industries such as those leaving military service.

But why would school leavers want to work in data centers? Do they actually know what a data center is or does? They make great use of them with various games and e-sports such as Minecraft, Roblox, SIMS, Snapchat, TikTok etc. Do they understand where all of those services run? If the pandemic taught us one thing, it was that being online is essential to life continuing. Why would you join an industry you know nothing about?

Perhaps the point here is that we are our own worst enemy. With non-disclosure agreements, referring to clients by code names, secrecy is the order of the day. Why would you want to join an industry that doesn’t publicize itself or tell the general public what it does?

The Secret Services may be an exception to that - although they have now seen the need to change that perception.

Then, there is the confusing nomenclature that pervades us: ‘cloud’, ‘edge’, ‘fog’ to name but a few terms,.actually confuse and obscure this fantastic industry. I have delivered and sat in presentations where it has patiently been explained that your data wasn’t floating around in big white clouds, but rather sat in a big box taking large amounts of energy.

Although The IT Crowd may have referred to the internet as a box with a red flashing light on it, there is a real facility behind it. This is one of the reasons I often use the expression that “I build the homes where the internet lives”, to describe my day job.

As with many of these issues, I view International Data Center Day as a call to action. As such, using my position as the Global Lead for the Arcadis Data Center & Mission Critical Community of Practice, both last year and this year I am giving two 30-minute presentations about data centers. This year, I am very blessed to have a variety of schools, colleges and universities joining to listen, Arcadians from around the globe and a variety of industry luminaries.

It is never easy trying to produce a presentation that will be engaging to all. However, I am going to discuss the following subjects albeit briefly:

  • What a data center is
  • Cooling
  • Renewables
  • Nuclear and hydrogen power sources
  • Carbon
  • Data center careers

So, what is my purpose?

By means of these talks, I want to raise awareness of our industry, inform those contemplating careers about opportunities within data centers, and get conversations started about how to come and work in this industry. Show the industry for what it is, pull back the covers and look at what actually goes on. Also, to show the range of opportunities that there are within the industry, including facilities, apprenticeships, operations, graduates, and second-career people.

If we all don’t do something about the fears about talent loss are in danger of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

Therefore, rather than wringing our hands and talking about the problem, let’s not be the blocker, but invite others to explore and join this fantastic industry.

Talks will be given at 9am GMT and 5pm GMT on International Data Center Day, 23 March 2023

Invites available from [email protected]