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Wanted: Women in the Data Center Industry

Jack Pouchet •

Okay so let me set the frame of reference for the imaginary Wanted Poster headline – at the Datacenter Dynamics Converged event in London the final panel session discussed Big Ideas to reshape the data center industry of the future.

As I sat in the audience listening to an all-male panel with a male MC and looked around the room one thought jumped to my mind as blatantly obvious to any impartial observer – we are an industry dominated by men and most of them are over 40 (being kind).

Now we certainly do have some notable women in the data center community such as Annette Popp at Winter Street Architects, Serena Devito at eBay, Nicola Hayes of Andrasta Consulting, and Beth Chase of Emerson Network Power who are each making an impact upon our industry. But in general women are vastly underrepresented within our community. Their insights and unique approaches to problem definition and resolution may lead to innovative breakthroughs in the data center design, construction, operation, and lifecycle services.

It isn’t easy to recruit and hire women like those mentioned. In Beth’s case, since I know of her as a coworker of mine at Emerson, her path may not have been the most obvious or easiest but she has shown us that you can not only go to college (PhD), serve as an officer in the Army, work your way up through the commercial tech sector (Dell), and transition to data center services then design & construction operations but also successfully raise a family and be involved in the local community. Again, did not say this was easy but what a fine example for young ladies in high-school or college who may be considering a STEM-based career path.

At Emerson we are actively supporting STEM education and appreciate the support of our industry peers, clients, and strategic partners in encouraging more of our youth to explore the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics – any of which create solid foundation for a career within the data center industry. But let’s be honest – data centers aren’t exactly the first thing people think of when considering STEM so how do we capture their hearts and minds early and keep them interested as they progress along their academic and perhaps military paths?

Reaching our youth early and often in the education process will be key to fueling their curiosity and driving interest in ICT and data centers as a possible career path. One idea proposed at DCD London was ‘adopt-a-classroom / school’ where one or more data center professionals reach out to a school in the community, perhaps one where an associate has a child, and engage them in more than a mere ‘my dad/mom works at cloud-services-R-us’ session. Instead let’s challenge the students to consider where their cellphone service comes from, how Wi-Fi and the Internet are delivered, where Facebook, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Netflix and other sites / services come from and the importance of not only the IT kit but the data centers, infrastructure, networks, and energy / water eco-systems to their daily lives.

So let’s go beyond take your daughter to work day and start spending some time at local schools talking with students about the importance of data centers and the interesting careers within the industry. Invite a classroom to tour your facility. Encourage continued STEM education with data center centric scholarships.

I am keenly interested in seeing more women actively participating in the data center community. Please share with me your thoughts and ideas below.

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