Women with Data Center Experience: The Construction Industry Needs You

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Amid a generation of data center professionals on the brink of retirement, we’re facing a lack of resources and widening skills gap in the data center industry. At the same time, the shift to hybrid (including colocation) is a boon to the construction industry. We discussed the associated issues and opportunities during a recent Professional Women in Construction (PWC) panel, in which I participated, along with Lily Yusupova, strategic account executive, Data Center Solutions, Schneider Electric.

The all-female panel focused on “Driving Data Center Development” and concluded that the construction industry needs women with data center experience. PWC is a national nonprofit organization whose aim is to support, advance and connect women and promote diversity within architecture, engineering, construction and related industries.

Other panelists were experts from different offshoots of the process including: moderator Cate Agnew, executive director, head of real estate valuation, Natixis; and panelists Carrie Dicanio, shareholder, Anderson Kill; Jasmin Kelley, electrical engineer, Robert Derector Mission Critical; Ilissa Miller, founder and CEO, iMiller Public Relations (iMPR).

In addition to the data center development process, we talked about the value of women in both industries.

To Develop a Data Center Strategy, Start at the End

When discussing the data center development strategy process, Ilissa explained that a technical background isn’t necessary to begin assessing data center needs; it’s more about defining the application and purpose. Why do you need a data center? What are the operational requirements? The design and model will be shaped from there.

I agree. The beginning starts with the end goal. For a colocation provider like EdgeConneX, that objective will vary. When it comes to our customers, we need to know who their partners are; who they need to be connected with. That greatly impacts what goes into a data center.

Plus, those needs can change quickly, so you have to be able to scale fast. In one case, our customer was located in Los Angeles, California and built an edge data center in Phoenix to serve that market. Within one month, capacity had to be doubled. These scenarios are becoming more frequent, so colocation providers must be ready to respond.

Next, the discussion turned to cloud and network. We noted that cloud strategy is not just about a single cloud provider, for example. Many facilities are now offering software-defined networks to provide access to any cloud.

Lily pointed out that the growth in cloud is reliant on the quality of the network. A highly available network is needed to pass through the large amounts of data coming from all the end points.

Speaking of the network, all the panelists emphasized the need for multi-fiber connectivity (20-40 connections, for example). “Be sure to understand the routes of the fiber,” Ilissa added, “a lot of carriers share fiber, look for diversity in your networks. Multiple connections provide redundancy.” This particularly applies to mission critical data centers.

At EdgeConnex, we’re seeing this trend in customers asking for their own dedicated dark fiber. They don’t want to be in a “meet me” type of situation.

A few panelists also touched upon physical data center security, mentioning a growth in blast and ballistic proof data centers.

A Welcoming Tech Culture for Women

With the rapid pace of growth and change, the panelists agreed that the construction industry would benefit from the unique skills and data center experience women bring to the table — not just in design and build, but also in operating and maintaining. These areas are all ripe with potential.

The panelists see the industry environment as female-friendly, unlike some other tech sectors notorious for the contrary. A few members of the audience, already working in the data center space, supported this perspective with their own positive experiences.

It was encouraging to see all the people interested in our discussion. We need great talent in data centers and the opportunity for women is wide open. On the construction front, not enough firms have data center experience, so there’s a chance for them to get in early, before the competition increases.

Our advice to women is to go after the jobs and collaborate; with so many stakeholders —construction, engineering and manufacturing — working together is key.  It’s critical to have a balanced workforce in any organization where the sharing of ideas, leadership and creativity for new opportunities sees a greater chance of winning new business and building a greater place to work. Find out about future PWC events here and join the conversation of supporting and connecting women in construction-related industries.

About the author:

Elsa Pine is vice president of sales & business development at EdgeConneX. Pine provides clients purpose-built, edge-of-network facilities that enable the fastest delivery of bandwidth intensive, latency sensitive content and applications to the end user.

Pine has over 20 years of experience that began in the wireless space. Prior to EdgeConneX, she built a professional network and led teams at CoreSite, Equinix and AT&T to achieve outstanding results through her tenure. Pine has been integral to many complex data center projects, led and mentored teams throughout her career – demonstrating her passion for helping others achieve their goals.

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