Staffing Shortages May Hinder Data Center Success
Chris Wade works to spread the word that data center management is an exciting, lucrative career.
A growing source of pressure on data center facility managers is the tight labor market. Wade is working to spread the message that jobs in data center operations can pay well, often without requiring a four-year degree.
At the same time, for those who prefer a college degree, a few universities have created degree programs in data center operation and management — recognition that the role has become a discipline. Southern Methodist University, for instance, offers a master’s degree in data center systems engineering. “We’ve just become a profession in the last ten years,” Wade says. “When I started, we were the building maintenance guys who knew how to keep things cool. Now, you need to know how to run computer programs.”
Moreover, careers in data center management are likely to remain in demand. “The internet is not going to go away,” Wade says.
While the tight labor market is a challenge, there are a variety of steps that facility managers can take to address that issue. One is to take on more development, training, and teaching responsibilities — a role that Wade has enjoyed and one he’s well suited for. “He’s a great coach,” Grau says.
Mentoring is another strategy that data center facility managers should consider. At Walmart, Wade created a mentoring program with a handful of people. “The next thing I knew, there were 20 people showing up,” he says.
No matter where Wade’s career takes him from here, he says he’ll continue to teach and mentor. The industry benefits from his efforts. “Chris is a consummate professional with extensive experience in mission critical facility operations,” Dupree says. “His enthusiasm and commitment to his work are contagious.”
Karen Kroll, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a freelance writer who has written extensively about real estate and facility issues.
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Five Questions for Chris Wade
How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
Five-year-olds nowadays are smarter than they were when I was five. So, I would say, ‘I keep your Xbox online service up and running so you can play games.’
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
I’ve had great mentors and received a lot of great advice. One that always resonated with me is this: Never stop learning. Also, if you’re the smartest guy in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, and I always want to learn from those people.
If you could travel anywhere and time and money weren’t an issue, where would you go?
The Mayan temples. I’m a big history buff, and the Mayan civilization has always intrigued me. You look at some of the things that they built and the size of them. It amazes me.
If you could attend any event in the world — it could be past, present, future — what would it be?
I would love to have been at the first manned spaceship launch. I think that would be just wonderful, just amazing.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Finish college now while you’re young. I had always planned to get a college degree. At 18, I was already making good money, and I’m like, ‘Let me go ahead and make this money. I can always go back to school.’ But you get married, you have kids and more responsibilities. Going back isn’t as easy as you get those responsibilities.