Council Post: How Data Centers Can Avoid A Talent Collapse

Council Post: How Data Centers Can Avoid A Talent Collapse

Pete Jones is Chief Development Officer and Founder at Yondr and is responsible for site selection, construction and client success.

It would be a lie if I said I grew up wanting to work in data centers. Like many data center (DC) experts, I fell into the industry by accident.

Despite being as integral to society as gas and electricity services, data centers have stayed out of the public eye for decades. That began to change when the world was thrown into lockdown in 2020.

As thousands of organizations began working remotely overnight, the demand for data grew exponentially. Zoom became the de facto video collaboration platform, and the number of online video streaming subscriptions reached 1.1 billion globally—a whopping 26% increase year on year.

Highlighting A Long-Standing Need

This extraordinary growth phase highlighted a long-standing challenge the industry has yet to overcome. Over the past few years, DCs have been at risk of a brutal talent shortage coupled with an impending wave of retirees. This compound effect will result in valuable knowledge exiting the industry leaving only finite time to attract the right people or risk a talent collapse.

In 2020, 50% of data center owners and operators struggled to find qualified candidates. This was a stark reminder that the industry can’t sit still and hope people will fall into it by accident, as I did 20 years ago.

Millennials and Gen-Z, the early technology adopters, have only known a connected world. They do not shy away from taking new challenges head-on and are uniquely positioned to take the internet into a new era—perfect candidates for this industry.

Portfolio Of Career Opportunities

Data centers are home to some of the biggest innovations and cutting-edge technologies. In the dotcom boom, data centers were heavily reliant on technical roles such as cloud architects, electrical engineers, network specialists, data engineers, IT project managers, virtualization experts and other highly technical roles.

These careers still play a crucial role today, but there’s an urgent need for people who can shape solutions to broader, more global issues such as sustainability.

Solving these challenges requires a specific set of skills and, more importantly, a level of passion and drive. Those who rise to the challenge will have a significant impact on how we leverage renewable energy sources, fully replace fossil fuels and develop new methods to optimize energy.

Creating A Sustainable Business

The data center industry needs to position itself in front of these potential recruits and engage them in an entirely new way. Data centers require variable skill sets to ensure these physical buildings stand the test of time and, more critically, drive community engagement and ensure environmental wellness. Roles in sustainability and energy are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are simple steps leaders can take that don’t require an overhaul of their entire organization. Implementing them can remove the barrier to entry and allow new talent in.

One that’s often overlooked is the willingness of leaders to embrace change. Remote work is a great example. The pandemic highlighted the work-life imbalance and shifted priorities for many. Unlocking geographical restrictions via flexible working has never been more important to attract and sustain a happier and healthier workforce. Leaders should aim to empower and reskill recruiters to look beyond traditional cohorts.

From investments to development, design to construction, operations, marketing, and commercial negotiations, there are roles to be filled across the entire data center ecosystem. Rewarding careers are to be had in this new industry, with opportunities to diversify and accumulate knowledge and skills from across various verticals.

The truth about the internet, or the Cloud as it’s often called, is that everybody, regardless of their background, can find a home and succeed here. This is especially true for younger generations and professionals from outside the traditional technology, engineering and construction space.

As our reliance on data continues to grow and becomes evermore fundamental to life as we know it, this is a critical time to avoid a talent collapse and ensure a fresh talent takeover for the industry.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

What do you think?

Written by Barry Black

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