By Carrie Goetz
Many veterans may not be exposed to the mission critical industry—aka—the data center industry. Veterans serving on the IT side will undoubtedly understand the concept of a data center. For those that didn’t serve in the technology sectors, don’t think this industry is not for you. As a brief explanation, the mission critical industry is responsible for constructing, operating and maintaining data centers. By way of explanation, every known digitally documented thing “lives” in at least one data center. Every bit, every byte, every conversation and even transitory data will have some stint in a data center.
According to Arizton, the global data center market is set to reach 288.3 billion by 2027, up from 215.8 billion in 2021. Plainly put, the industry is not going away. The depth and breadth of jobs within the industry are vast. While some veterans will have directly transferable skills, other skills map well to skills needed to fill the over 300,000 open jobs requiring people over the next couple of years. The industry is a bit of an enigma for those without an IT background. At a recent Heroes in Transition event in San Diego, the overall theme was to show transitioning Soldiers some of the industry’s opportunities and the purpose surrounding the industry.
As we discuss the industry, let’s tie this back to the “every known digitally documented thing” statement above. That one sentence discusses the need for diversity within the industry. If everyone’s data is in them, shouldn’t everyone be represented in the industry that supports that data? The need for TRUE diversity is vital. We haven’t reached gender parity (not even close). We aren’t in every country on the planet. We don’t represent everyone yet. But we do have jobs for every background, skill level and education level. In fact, the majority of the positions within the industry are learned on the job. Veterans are in great demand.
Building a data center starts with site selection. Telecommunications, power and latency are the prime considerations for the site. Not that these necessarily need to be in place, but the ability to get them to the site is critical. Envision a piece of land somewhere. Everything you can imagine that needs to be at a home site is required here, at a much grander scale. Site selection involves real estate, logistics and liaising with telecommunications carriers, power companies, municipalities and the state or country. These jobs exist with all data centers, and many cities with large data center allies have their own liaisons, too.
Construction and Build
Careers in construction and building design are private commercial versions relatable to anyone in construction from the military. Jobs range from engineering and drafting to hands-on trades. In fact, we owe the trades everything! If it weren’t for the trades, nothing would be built. There are many construction firms out there that specialize in mission critical buildings. Some are design-build, and some are just construction. Some larger colocation (colo) data center builders that lease space have in-house construction arms. While others rely solely on contractors. Regardless, the building, power, cooling, telecommunications, generation, electricians, plumbers, masons, carpenters and heavy machine operators are just a few of the skills in demand for construction.
It’s Built, Now What?
Once constructed, the building becomes an ecosystem supporting information technology and systems within the space. Every single thing that gets installed must be maintained within the ecosystem. The information technology systems also must be installed, maintained and at some point, replaced. Many jobs in operations lend well to skills obtained in the service. Operations personnel must think fast on their feet and react calmly to find a solution. And while you may be thinking, “I don’t understand the ecosystem,” there are books to help and certifications that will fill in your skills gap. In fact, many college-trained individuals get the exact same certifications to learn to support the data center.
Operations jobs can be chaotic, so if you thrive on chaos, operations could be right up your alley. If you don’t thrive on chaos or have had enough, thousands of jobs in and around the industry support operations without the frenzied pace. Vendor companies need sales, systems engineers, designers and customer service personnel. Human resources, marketing, accounting and logistics are also in demand.
Where’s the Purpose?
The purpose is yours for the taking. Whether you find purpose in helping others or being a guardian within the industry, there are plenty of ways to gain fulfillment. For those in the military that crave working as a team, this entire industry is a team. People here are helpful. This industry is one of the most extensive ongoing apprenticeships ever. People learn from each other. We need diversity to keep groupthink in check and ensure that our platforms are kind, serve all and, most importantly, are safe.
The stark reality is that the internet isn’t completely safe. Our children are not inherently safe on the internet. We simply can’t assume it’s always someone else’s job to foster safety. But then, veterans don’t. Veterans have stepped up and shown character through their service. We need these guardians in our industry, from construction to the cloud and everything in between. If travel is a passion, many of these jobs lead you around the globe. Want to be a homebody? These jobs are everywhere. You probably look at data centers every day and don’t even realize it. Most every company either has one or uses one someone else runs. The cloud is technically a data center that provides services to users.
If you are transitioning or a prior service member, rest assured you are in demand. Training is available. Organizations such as Salute Mission Critical, Overwatch, iMasons and others will help you find your path. I, too, am happy to help and make introductions. Lastly, thank you for your service. We are all in your debt. It’s time to pay it forward, and our industry is working to do just that!
Carrie Goetz is an Amazon best selling author of Jumpstart Your Career in Data Centers and associated educator’s reference with an extensive career in the data center industry. She is published in 69 countries. She is the inaugural AFCOM/ Data Center World Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 2023 Top 25 Women in Mission Critical and 2023 ICT Woman of the Year recipient.