Exploring Data Center Careers and Economic Opportunities on International Data Center Day
March 22 is officially International Data Center Day—an opportunity for one of the world’s fastest-growing industries and its member companies to raise awareness of its role in our increasingly connected lives.
Data centers are the backbone of this new digital world—providing the space, power and cooling needed for the technologies that run applications, store information and analyze data. This incredible demand is why Straits Research estimated the value of the global data center market at $192.63 billion in 2021—a number that is expected to grow to $554.4 billion this decade.
This massive growth has had an incredible economic impact on the markets and regions where data centers are being built. For example, in its 2020 Data Center Report, the Northern Virginia Technology Council found that in 2018, the area’s data center industry accounted for 45,290 full-time-equivalent jobs, $3.5 billion in associated pay and benefits and $10.1 billion in economic output. And that impact has only increased as the region’s Data Center Alley has continued to flourish and grow.
To get a better idea of the careers and opportunities that are available in the growing data center industry, and why jobseekers should look to this industry for employment, we sat down with our Vice President of Construction for North America, Matt Souders. During the discussion, Matt was asked about the skills that are necessary to work in the data center industry, why it’s an exciting industry to be a part of and if he had any tips for jobseekers who are looking to start a career in data centers.
Click the “PLAY” button below to watch the interview with Matt Souders, or read a transcript of the discussion below.
Transcript: Matt Souders, Vice President of Construction for North America at Vantage Data Centers discusses careers in the data center industry
Data Centers Today: What inspired you to pursue a career in the data center industry?
Matt Souders: When I first entered the data center world, it was as a general contractor. I was 24 years old [and had just] started my career with Turner Construction Company. I just happened to be assigned to this massive building that was a data center back in 2006. I really just fell in love with the work right away. The scale, the electrical systems, the mechanical systems, the people, the designs, the customers—it was extremely inspiring.
Back then there weren’t a lot of folks in the industry, so because I started to build my resume with data centers, [I] had the opportunity to go from one project to the other, and the world was kind of booming. I was working in the telecommunications space. So, building a lot of central offices, pops, cell phone tower sites for the major telecommunications companies.
They were growing like crazy in those days. So, like I said, I just fell in love with the market, the people and [it] was inspiring to go from job to job to job.
Data Centers Today: What skills are most important in the data center industry?
Matt Souders: To me, the most important skills to be successful in the data center space are your attitude and your ambition. If you have the drive to stay focused on projects and be energetic, be creative, be solution driven, that’s what it’s all about. Building the relationships with people is secondary to that.
Interacting with folks to solve problems and build those career-long relationships that really are what it takes to get the job done in the industry.
Data Centers Today: What are some misconceptions about the data center industry?
Matt Souders: Some people assume to get into the data center world that you need to have a lengthy technical background or have all the answers right away. Really, you can enter this market with a multitude of backgrounds, educational levels [and] experience levels.
The industry’s growing so quickly that there’s really room for tremendous opportunities, mentorship and growth. So, really just getting started and finding a way to get your foot in the door is the most important thing.
Data Centers Today: What types of roles are available in the industry?
Matt Souders: So, if you think about it, we have these massive buildings, right? They need to be planned. They need to be designed. They need to be constructed. They need to be operated. And there are hundreds and hundreds of people that participate in all stages of that. Our construction projects, a lot of time, involve 300, 400 or 500 people depending on the size of the project.
And once they’re turned over, there are tons of opportunities. Everything from security, to operations, to reliability engineering and problem solving—architecture, engineering. We’re always looking for construction folks that have creative solutions to step in and run these complex, fast projects. There are really unlimited possibilities.
Every single type of contractor out there. You think about the types of buildings we have there. There are structural workers, there are concrete workers, there are drywall finishers, there are painters, of course, hundreds of electricians that participate in the construction. Really there’s a huge shortage right now in particularly the electrical side and tons of opportunities at all levels—from apprentice to seasoned electricians—to get involved in, in the construction of our projects.
And, particularly in huge data center markets, operators, there are dozens of providers and opportunities to operate the buildings. There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to when you work. If you prefer to work night shift, you know, these buildings are operated around the clock. So…lots of opportunities there for varying schedules as well.
Data Centers Today: What is the most exciting part of the industry right now?
Matt Souders: There’s an insatiable demand for new campuses, new buildings, tons of growth, really. The technology that’s out there is driving and requiring dozens of new sites to pop up.
Everything you own nowadays connects to the internet. There’s machine learning, there’s artificial intelligence. Really, it’s going to continue for a long time, and it’s going to get bigger and bigger.
Data Centers Today: What advice would you offer to others?
Matt Souders: For someone that’s new to the industry, I would give a few bits of advice. Number one, you need to live where the action is. So, situate yourself in a major data center market.
You’re going to want to find a strong company that’s established and has a lot of growth potential. You’re going to want to find an entry level position or mid-level position, depending on your experience, and you’re going to want to work really hard. And while you’re working hard, you know, build the relationships in the data center community.
There are people that I started working with 17, 18 years ago that I still stay in touch with and work with on a regular basis. So those relationships in the industry are critical. And really just be ambitious. Take on additional tasks. Learn as much as you can. Talk to your stakeholders so you see the big picture of the entire industry and you’ll be successful.
If you are interested in learning more about career opportunities at Vantage Data Centers, check out our global openings today.