Women in Data Centers: Advice for Developing a Career

  May 4, 2017

By Edward Sullivan

Women can build very successful careers in the data center arena: That was the message from a panel of women who have done just that. The panel session, held at Data Center World, offered tips to help women get ahead in the field.

The good news for women is that organizations now understand women can be just as effective as men in technical fields. “It’s no longer a surprise,” said Ileana Aquino-Otero, global critical infrastructure engineer, LinkedIn. She said neither gender nor ethnicity have been barriers to her. “There’s been generations of people before me.”

Even if doors to advancement are no longer locked, women still have to understand the steps that will help them build their careers. One recommendation was to be willing to take on new assignments in areas where you don’t have expertise. “Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know,” said Cindy Choboian, vice president of business development for FORTRUST. Choboian herself started out as a broadcast major in college before getting into global product marketing and then data centers, so she didn’t have a technical background to prepare her for the directions her career has taken. “No one knows everything,” she said, pointing out that on the job training is common.

Even after you develop expertise in a specific area, “don’t pigeonhole yourself,” said Cindy Joos, regional director — west, CenturyLink. Joos has an IT related degree, but she has also experience on the mechanical-electrical side of data centers. While that wasn’t her background, she brought leadership skills that the organization needed in the mechanical-electrical area.

A willingness to speak up is important for moving ahead. “Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn,” said Carrie Goetz, global director of technology, Paige DataCom Solutions. Speaking up can also help if your career runs into a roadblock. “It’s usually one person,” Goetz said. Her advice was to talk to others in the organization and make sure they know what you’re achieving.

While career development requires a certain amount of savvy in dealing with the rest of the organization, it’s important to look inward as well. “Find out what your passion is,” Aquino-Otero said. Her passion is sustainability, but she didn’t know that coming into the data center field. Only when she had the opportunity to work on sustainability did she recognize it as her passion.

This Quick Read was submitted by Edward Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine, edward.sullivan@tradepress.com. Click here to read more about ways women can develop careers in FM.


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