Nancy Novak’s Advice to Women New to Mission Critical: Even if You Don’t Have the Experience, Focus on Leadership Skills

LEESBURG, VA — Nancy Novak, Compass Datacenters’ SVP of Construction, has over 25 years of construction experience and has overseen the delivery of over $3.5 Billion USD in project. Prior to Compass, Nancy was the National VP of Operations for Balfour Beatty Construction which she joined after serving in a variety of executive positions for Hensel Phelps Construction Company. Novak will be a featured speaker at CAPRE’s upcoming Women of Mission Critical Summit September 9, in Leesburg, VA. We caught up with Nancy to learn about her journey, perspective, and advice for other women considering entering the mission critical space.

CAPRE: Thanks for chatting with us, Nancy. We’re looking forward to hearing from you September 9. Please tell us about yourself and what you do at Compass.

Novak: I’m Senior Vice-President of Construction at Compass Data Centers. I’m what they call the face of the company, promoting diversity and inclusion in our industry. I’m head of health and safety, I support our sales group, and I head up any kind of “firefighting” that has to happen.

CAPRE: How long have you been in the Mission Critical space?

Novak: I’ve only focused solely on mission critical for the past two years, but before that, I was involved with building data centers for military, Equinix, and other major names as a general contractor.

CAPRE: What are you looking forward to about CAPRE’s upcoming Women of Mission Critical Summit?

Novak: We’re talking about disrupting the industry. The more I do this, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we can solve for inclusion, we can also solve for innovation, flexibility, and the way we apply technology to our industry, both on the mission critical side and on the execution side. The women on my panel are cutting edge, I’m looking forward to networking with them and having this discussion.

CAPRE: What advice do you have for women who might be recent graduates or looking to change their career and enter the mission critical space?

Nancy Novak, SVP of Construction, Compass Datacenters

Novak: The number one piece of advice is to network — with both men and women. Know the ropes, make connections, have a social media presence. That’s how we find people. Get out to these events as well – make sure you’re out there and able to be contacted. Then, focus on the attributes you have rather than prescriptive credentials. Women have a tendency to check a lot of boxes, and it might be discouraging to see you only have 3 years of experience when the job calls for 5. But focus on your attributes, such as those of a leader, and it may outweigh that requirement.

CAPRE: Let’s switch gears a bit. What’s the latest at Compass?

Novak: Well our focus is on hyperscale, though we’re doing second tier clients as well. Broadly, we have three big data center products that we’re really proud of – Skyfall (a 1.2-4.8 MW), Thunderfall (6 MW), and Moonraker (36 MW). On top of that we have our Edge core product.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we are very proud of our program in which we hire junior construction managers and then train them. We have a young bench of really talented women who want to learn more about construction and the data center industry?

CAPRE: What have you learned throughout your career, breaking into this industry as a woman?

Novak: Obviously, loving what you do is the most important aspect of success. It’s what gets you up every day and puts a smile on your face. I love this industry, and that’s why I’m sad it’s not more inclusive.

CAPRE: What’s the bottom line when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

Novak: We just have a shortage overall with talent – it’s not just about women. It’s a real crunch. The conversation needs to be about women, race, ethnicity, you name it. The bottom line is that you learn the most about what you need to know about your job, on the job. So having a good attitude and those critical thinking skills is 90% of what you need. After that door is open, it’s all up to you.

CAPRE: Indeed. Thanks for your time, Nancy. We’ll see you in Leesburg!

Ms. Novak is actively involved in a number of organizations dedicated to the advancement of woman in business including Above Glass Ceilings, Women in Government Relations, Women Construction Owners and Executives (WCOE), The World Trade Center Institute, Fortune Media’s Most Powerful Women and the National Women’s Party. Nancy was named by Data Economy in the #Powerwomen50. Nancy was featured on Kathy Ireland’s Worldwide Business series on Women in Business. Nancy is a frequent speaker on the topic of advancing women and has participated in the White House Women and Diversity in STEM forums. Nancy has also been published in several publications such as CIO Magazine, Data Center Frontier, ConstruTech, and so-forth.

Hear more from Nancy on September 9 at the 3:50 pm – 4:45 pm closing panel, “Seeking Talent and Skills: Best Practices for Recruitment in Today’s Environment.”

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