How We’re Inspiring the Next Generation of Data Center Professionals

On International Data Center Day, learn how Equinix is expanding our talent pool and providing development opportunities for existing employees

Raouf Abdel
Taylor Sundermeier
How We’re Inspiring the Next Generation of Data Center Professionals

The data center industry is experiencing a period of hyper growth, in which there are more jobs available than there are people coming into the industry. This presents a significant opportunity to bring those new to career, as well as those outside the industry, into the data center industry. Hiring new talent will allow time for the more experienced data center workers to pass their expertise on to the next generation–before they retire.

To close the skills gap, data center companies should take a two-pronged approach: building a culture that engages existing employees with support and development opportunities, while also opening new talent pipelines by recruiting in different ways. With today being International Data Center Day—an event intended to raise awareness of data centers and the vital role they play in our modern digital world—there’s no better day to think about how we can inspire and support the next generation of data center professionals in their career journeys.[1]

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Does the data center industry need increased “brand awareness?”

Data center operations are integral to companies achieving digital transformation and accelerating competitive advantage. According to the most recent Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey (GTTS), 62% of global decision-makers said that a shortage of IT talent was a threat to their business success. Data centers are especially important considering the skills gap, which makes it even more difficult for enterprises to run their own IT infrastructure.

The security risks inherent to data center operations have created a veil of secrecy, with the industry essentially running below the radar. The unintended consequence of this is that people generally lack awareness of the data center industry. Data center operators are now paying the price. Faced with the departure of tenured workers with 20+ years of experience—and the knowledge they’ll take with them—operators are scrambling to attract the right talent to support the next generation of data centers.

Career opportunities abound in the data center industry. Many professionals are surprised to discover a vibrant industry offering significant career opportunities across numerous functions such as operations, finance, HR, legal, sales, marketing, RevOps, customer care, IT, product management and sustainability. Workers in all these roles can advance within and outside the data center industry.

Adopt a new mindset for talent acquisition and retention

Hiring and training candidates with diverse backgrounds and skill sets builds strong teams. Instead of searching for qualified candidates with specific job histories, data center operators are now searching for those with the right aptitude, attitude and potential, including in some unexpected places.

Companies must fully integrate this new approach to recruiting into all aspects of talent acquisition, such as rewording job descriptions, asking different interview questions and partnering with organizations that serve these potential applicants. It’s also important to remember that workplace preferences are different for the newer generation of workers. They’ve come into the market after frequent instability, such as the global pandemic and geopolitical conflict. Promoting the staying power of data centers and the career opportunities that abound will resonate with them.

Equinix expands talent acquisition programs to reach a wider audience

Our talent management and acquisition teams recognized the opportunity to expand our pool of candidates beyond experienced data center professionals. Through our Career Pathways Program, we’re aiming to build the strongest, most diverse team possible by bridging the gap that often separates the following underrepresented communities from equitable job opportunities:

  • Active and retired military and their spouses
  • Retired athletes, including professional, collegiate and Olympian/Paralympian
  • Candidates looking to make a career transition from a different industry
  • Returners looking to relaunch their careers after taking a break to care for family or pursue education opportunities

In addition, Equinix aims to staff the next generation of data center professionals by supporting students and recent graduates. This includes internships, apprenticeships, government training programs, new-to-career direct placement and co-ops to help these young people accelerate their careers. One example is the Operations Digital Infrastructure Program, our new workforce development program that provides specialized training on digital infrastructure.

Internships and apprenticeships are a particularly successful aspect of our hiring and training programs; these programs range from a few months in length to as much as two years. Here’s what one of our interns had to say about her experience:

During my 22-week internship, I really enjoyed my time with the team as well as the company culture and work environment. I also joined Equinix because I was interested in pursuing a career in electrical engineering and within the energy management field.” - Facility Engineer, IBX Operations–Singapore, Equinix

As you can see, we’ve expanded our reach significantly to discover many more potential candidates excited for the opportunity to train and work in the data center industry. In fact, 40% of our hiring is from non-traditional paths.

I had very little faith that anyone would want to hire a stay-at-home mom who has been at home for 10 years… especially great ones like Equinix. The Workforce Development program gave me not only the opportunity but the confidence that people really did appreciate my perspective and my aptitude, all the different skills that I have learned at different jobs.” - Customer Operations III Technician, IBX Operations—Culpeper, VA, Equinix

Tenured workers mentor new-to-career and industry newcomers

Once someone accepts a job offer and starts to work at Equinix, we continue to support their career development and advancement. YoungProfessionalsConnect Network (YPC) is one of the most popular Equinix Employee Connect Networks, with a vibrant community of nearly 1,000 members. The largest share of network members are data center operations employees. That’s not surprising, given that almost 50% of Equinix staff work in data center operations. YPC serves new-to-career professionals or industry newcomers—regardless of age—and includes many tenured workers who join the network to support other members on their career paths.

We’ve found that YPC members bring a growth mindset for knowledge and training to the network. YPC leaders help members continue to invest in their careers by connecting them to development resources, mentoring and sponsorships. Mentorship is a core program in the YPC network; it supports new-to-career or new-to-industry employees and provides insights and guidance the mentors wish they’d received early on in their careers.

It was incredibly satisfying to be part of the YPC leadership and observe how this dynamic network champions learning and growth. The members of YPC cheer each other on and help in any way possible to advance each other’s careers.” - Taylor Sundermeier, former Global Co-Lead, YoungProfessionalsConnect, Equinix

The YPC leadership team continuously collaborates to strengthen existing programs and develop new focus areas to engage members and support their career journey. New this year, YPC is launching a StrengthsFinder initiative to help workers learn what they’re exceptionally good at and unleash their potential. We’ve also created in-person communities where colleagues can network and get to know one another. For example, last year, we hosted a barbeque at an Equinix IBX data center in Germany.

At Equinix, we aim to be the platform where the world comes together, enabling innovations that enrich our work, life and planet. The YoungProfessionalsConnect Network embodies that purpose, and we’re proud to have an executive sponsor who cares deeply about our members.

As the Executive Sponsor of YPC, I have a personal stake in shaping the strategy to support our new-to-career workers since so many members work in data center operations. I am honored to work with the YPC leaders as we continue to find ways to ensure member engagement and influence the development of future leaders at Equinix.” - Raouf Abdel, EVP, Global Operations, Equinix

Explore career opportunities at Equinix

It’s an exciting time to work in the data center industry, and that will continue to be true as businesses expand their digital infrastructure deployments. A career at Equinix involves collaboration on work that impacts the world while learning new skills. Explore careers at Equinix and learn about our diverse and inclusive culture.

Happy International Data Center Day!


You may also be interested in reading:

Equinix Sustainability Report

Equinix Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging


[1] International Data Center Day

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Raouf Abdel EVP, Global Operations
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Taylor Sundermeier Talent Management Senior Specialist
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