What Skills are Most Essential to Professional Success in the Data Center Industry?

LEESBURG, VA – CAPRE’s inaugural Women of Mission Critical Summit tackled the data center industry’s diversity challenges head on, from many angles. The culminating panel of the day, “Seeking Talent and Skills: Best Practices for Recruitment in Today’s Environment,” was perhaps the most focused on getting results fast.

Moderator Robin Aron, Executive Director of the 7×24 Exchange’s Carolina’s Chapter kicked off the panel with a request for a bit of round-table discussion. “Let’s consider our topic of seeing talent, ladies,” she suggested. “As we consider this topic, please give your input as to what you consider to be the top hard skills and soft skills to either be successful or begin a career in the data center industry.”

First to offer a response was Catherine Bedell, General Counsel at Vapor IO. “I’m definitely going to focus on the soft skills. I’m obviously not in a technical role, but I think that even if you’re in a technical role, the skills will probably vary from sub-industry to sub-industry and even within your company,” she began.

“So I think it’s far more important to figure out how you can learn what you need to know an seek it out, and whether that’s finding someone who has that skill and can help you by giving an hour out of their day, or maybe even becoming a mentor,” continued Bedell. “You know, if you approach someone and say, “Hey can I take an hour out of your day and pick your brain over coffee?” they’re usually more than happy to help you. I think having that skills is something that can take you anywhere you want in our career.”

Jenny Zhan, Chief Accounting Officer, EdgeConneX

Next up to contribute was Jenny Zhan, Chief Accounting Officer at EdgeConneX. “The way I look at it, all of the disciplines are so connected these days. I reach out and talk to my operations to learn about business and what issues they’re dealing with,” she related, before honing in on the recruitment process. “Ideally you have the right talent and the right skill sets there, but most times, it’s probably not the case. So really to me, it’s about finding problem-solvers. Whether you’re in financing, accounting, operations, or sales, it’s about seeing a problem and taking action to address it. That’s the kind of passion that I need.”

Next, Krystyna Witt of Sales Engineering at Evoque Data Center Solutions chimed in with some further expertise, and for her, it’s about a single skill. “I would have to say that for me, it’s communications – whether you’re in the data center business or a mom, or you’re helping out friends in your community, communications or any kind of relationships that you have in life, that’s the key that you need to success,” she asserted. “And in the data center world, having strong communications skills is always so critical – being able to communicate to leadership or those who report to you, is so important for any kind of platform. It’s such a critical and strong skill.”

Nancy Novak, SVP for Construction, Compass Data Centers

At that point Aron asked another panelist, Nancy Novak, SVP of Construction, Compass Datacenters, a follow-up question. “So Nancy, addressing the lack of women in this industry, how would you encourage HR teams to leverage these soft skills when seeking talent?” she powed.

“I get asked this a lot and it’s a great question,” replied Novak. “After I give a speech people will tell me, hey I’m looking for talent, but not a lot of women are applying. So I usually let them know that it’s better to focus on attributes of leadership, like we were just talking about, rather than the technical skills – so that they’ll apply. Women have a tendency to want to check very box when they submit an application. So if you are very prescriptive in your advertisement, you’re going to eliminate a lot of the women who would normally be very qualified to do that job.”


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