Mentoring the Millennials: Mountain West Mission Critical Insiders Share Tips and Strategies for Keeping Talent Within the Industry

DENVER, CO – As the data center industry prepares for the next evolution, it’s becoming more and more obvious that we may not be prepared to capitalize on the opportunity in front of us. A staffing shortage and lack of diversity might be the weak link in an otherwise strong chain to the future. That’s why CAPRE’s International Data Center Series is increasingly honing in on how to acquire and keep the right talent. CAPRE’s Construction, Design, Engineering Evolution and the Optimization of Hyperscale, Colocation & Enterprise Data Centers Summit in Denver last week included a panel titled “The Rising Role of Women & Mentoring in Mission Critical Construction, Design & Engineering” that blew the roof off of this hot topic.

After some initial discussion about rethinking legacy job descriptions and requirements, Moderator Rachel Barrett, Vice President at Swanson Rink offered some remarks on how to maximize the exposure and experience of entry level staff.

“One of the things we’re doing at our team is figure out how to accelerate the learning curve for entry level staff,” she shared. “One of the things we’re doing is bringing in our retired engineers, and they’re training our recent college graduates. And before we stick a recent grad in with another engineer, who’s going to stick them in the corner because they’re too busy to mentor them, we actually have a formalized training program now. Our retired engineers bring back their old projects and just start going through them with these new engineers, teaching them. They know the basics, but in terms of designing things that are mechanical or electrical, they actually work with them through those processes.”

Rachel Barrett, Vice President, Swanson Rink

However, it’s not just about internal expertise. According to Barrett, Swanson Rink has also reached out to their vendor community for external perspective. “We’ve asked their subject matter experts to come in, and not just give us lunch and learns, but give us real training on these different products and product types,” she explained. “That’s something as an industry we can continue to do – reaching out to each other to make sure that entry-level staff can take advantage of all of the expertise within this room.”

“[Copanelist] Cindy Joos and I haven’t done it yet, but we’ve been talking about, perhaps being able to swap interns for a period – different ideas within the industry. And then not only can we leverage that, but how great would that be for a college student who not only got the chance to work, for example, at Cyxtera for the summer, but then also got the chance to work with an engineering firm or with a vendor,”  envisioned Barrett. “They’d get the chance to see different elements, and that’s really a part of the experience – them finding the right place within the industry. So as we talk about entry level, let’s move onto mentoring and how to keep people motivated so that we don’t lose them to outside industries.”

At that point, Joos herself some insight from her firm — Cyxtera Technologies — where she is Vice President for Global Shared Services. “We just started a mentoring program at Cyxtera. I’m actually the Executive Sponsor. What we’re doing is asking people, not just do you want to be a CFO or CTO, or where do you want to go, but where they want to go within the company? if you want a change, well who can train you?” she explained.

“We’ve got volunteers from all of our departments who can bring someone in who wants to learn. Maybe they’re in the security department and they want to learn about accounting – whatever it is,” concluded Joos. “But there’s someone across the company in each department who will take on someone to help them to move across departments. So we’re expanding this all the way across from data centers to security, and it’s really been received very well by our employees.”

Stay tuned to future CAPRE Insider Reports for more coverage of this panel and more from CAPRE’s Construction, Design, Engineering Evolution and the Optimization of Hyperscale, Colocation & Enterprise Data Centers Summit.

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