From education to employment

The rewarding career prospects data centres offer

Technology continues to evolve at such a fast pace that new roles are being created all the time. However, the surge in demand for technology expertise is hitting roadblocks as employers are struggling to find candidates with the relevant skills, experience and knowledge.

In order to close this gap and encourage young people to pursue careers in technology, our industry needs to better engage with educators and policy makers to help us make our future workforce aware of the exciting opportunities and advantages this sector has to offer, along with the plethora of employment choices they could explore in technology.

One of these opportunities is a career in data centres! Although data centres play a significant role in shaping our modern economy and underpinning our daily lives, they are part of an industry that surprisingly few candidates are aware of. 

What are data centres?

Simplistically speaking, a data centre is where the internet lives. Its main job is to provide a secure, resilient environment to house the IT functions of every type of organisation. The computer servers inside them receive, transmit, process, store and manage digital data and by doing so data centres support every conceivable part of our modern economy. For example, business processes, government services, telecommunications, transport infrastructures and social networks all depend on computers interacting in this way, exchanging digital information. Data centres therefore enable an incredible range of activities across society and are now part of our critical national infrastructure.

In a nutshell, data centres are where science fiction meets reality: they enable space travel, artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communications. They underpin medical research and logistics but also entertainment and social media like Netflix, YouTube, TikTok, Spotify, Instagram and Facebook. Formula 1 is not just won (or lost!) on the track but in data centres. through computer aided design and performance analysis.

So those who want to help seek a cure for cancer, win Formula 1 or understand the universe, should consider a career in data centres and help shape our digital future. 

Career prospects within data centres

Data centres power our digital world, but that doesn’t mean that the job opportunities are exclusively for computer scientists or technology boffins. Let’s start with the jobs you would expect to see in a sector that has to plan, build and operate complex buildings: architecture, design, planning, construction and safety are only a few obvious categories. Then there is the IT hardware – and the software (where you may indeed find the odd computer scientist lurking!) plus telecommunications equipment and all the sophisticated engineering that needs to be installed and maintained to cool facilities down if they get hot and keep them running if grid power ever fails.  

In addition to this, there are the jobs that you might not immediately associate with data centres, but are critical to this sector, such as strategic energy supply, because data centres cannot run without electricity. There are also roles in resilience planning, and every aspect of security, both physical and cyber. And perhaps also unsurprisingly, there is huge demand for sustainability professionals to help operators implement ambitious strategies to reduce carbon emissions, water consumption and e-waste and improve biodiversity on the sites.

But the list does not stop here as there are also opportunities that you can find in any business including finance, HR, marketing, sales and also specialised professional advisory roles in areas such as law, regulation and public policy. In addition to the breadth of roles available, there are also multiple points of entry into the sector for both school leavers and graduates, with apprenticeships becoming increasingly popular.

Advantages the sector has to offer

Some obvious benefits working in data centres are job security, attractive salaries and the opportunities for career advancement that are part and parcel of a growing industry. Then there are some less obvious advantages. For instance, the complex environment brings together enough technical and professional disciplines to ensure career mobility by equipping staff with an unequalled range of transferable skills.

Therefore, if you want to stay in data centres you can, but if you have a change of heart, then there are multiple routes into all sorts of other industries. Geographical mobility is another bonus because the industry is global and engineers and technicians in particular are able to work all over the world. 

Data centres are part of a leading-edge sector at the forefront of technological development with many career routes to offer. There aren’t many sectors that are as critical as a utility, as technologically advanced as a spaceship and yet still form a tight knit community that you will quickly feel part of.

The industry is constantly evolving so there will always be new challenges and opportunities on the horizon. It’s an exciting, fast moving and critically important sector to work in and should be a career destination of choice for many. Ensuring that our future workforce is fully informed about the career prospects that await them in data centres will not only broaden their professional opportunities but will also help reduce the technology skills gap.

By Emma Fryer, Director, Public Policy Europe at CyrusOne

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