International Data Center Day, an event powered by the 7x24 Exchange International, is designed to create awareness of the data center industry and inspire the next generation of talent. At STACK that means celebrating the power of data center education.
We have recently been covering the work of our of our in-house adjunct professor TJ Ciccone, whose Introduction to Data Center Operations course at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has helped place more than 20 qualified students into lifelong operations technicians careers in the data center industry. STACK asked a few of these former students about their experiences in breaking into the data center field.
Q: What was your understanding of, or experience with, data centers before taking the Introduction to Data Center Operations course?
Jim Brandenborg - I had zero experience, with little knowledge of what a data center was. Already living in Loudoun County, Virginia, I witnessed firsthand the industry's explosive growth and wanted to be a part of it!
Chris Vinkler - I have been working in the data center industry for almost ten years now. I've worked in numerous data centers as a contractor.
Nick Rodriguez - Prior to taking ENE-195, I worked in data centers with a company called TechnoGuard, where we did everything from hot and cold aisle containment to post-construction cleans. I was always interested in the infrastructure which led me to NoVA's program.
Beth Ciccone - I had absolutely no experience with data centers. I had an elementary understanding of what a data center was only through knowing people who work in the data center business.
Dan Delaney - Before taking the Introduction to Data Centers course and enrolling in the Data Center Operations program at NVCC, I knew very little about data centers. I understood that servers were needed to operate and store information or data for websites and search engines but had no idea of the scope.
Austin Capoziello - My understanding and experience with data centers were slim to none. Taking the ENE-195 course was highly informative and highly beneficial in terms of the backbone for my data center knowledge and current career.
Q: How has the data center industry impacted your life?
Jim Brandenborg - My life has been impacted in a very positive way. I started the data center operations program at NOVA Community College two years ago, and it is soon coming to an end with graduation this May. The program allowed me to start at an entry-level job as a remote-hands technician, and with experience and networking, I was able to land a position as a critical operations technician at a premier data center company where I continue to work today.
Chris Vinkler - The data center industry has had an incredibly positive impact on my life by providing me with various jobs that have allowed me to learn, grow, and achieve my goals within an industry I genuinely love working in. I have also met many intelligent people who work in this industry that have become friends and mentors.
Nick Rodriguez - Getting into a facility technician role might be the best thing that has happened to me. Prior to getting into the field, I felt so much pressure to go to college and get a degree for something I was settling on. Now I do what I love every day!
Beth Ciccone - As a teacher, I was looking to find a new career in which challenged me, provided me growth opportunities, and where my income would not decrease dramatically. I found that the data center industry was able to meet all those criteria.
Dan Delaney - My life has been impacted in a significant way thanks to the data center industry. Due to the global pandemic, I had lost my job soon after graduating from the Data Center Operations (DCO) program in early 2020. Today, I have cultivated the knowledge and experience I gained from that program and implementing it in my new position as a Facilities Technician.
Austin Capoziello - I am currently an Engineer II in Ashburn, VA, which is a considerable advancement in my career. Not only do I make a very comfortable living, but I am happy with my day-to-day duties, my growing skill level, and what the future holds for me in the data center world. I have found my career choice and look forward to the next twenty years in this field.
Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in data centers?
Jim Brandenborg - Take a leap and enroll in the program at NOVA. Take advantage of open houses and peer networking to check out the vast number of companies here in Northern Virginia!
Chris Vinkler- I would tell someone to consider a career path within the data center industry highly. There are many jobs within the industry ranging from operations to physical IT, networking, construction, and data center design, project management, finance, security, etc. The list is endless, and there is no doubt you will find a position you will love!
Nick Rodriguez - Take every opportunity presented to you, even if you feel like you are not ready to take that leap of faith. You miss 100% of the shots you do not take. Also, never stop trying. Focus on growing your skills and knowledge, and you will be surprised how far along you come.
Beth Ciccone - If you are looking for a new opportunity where the growth is endless and you are willing to work hard, the data center industry has a place for you.
Dan Delaney - My advice to anyone interested in pursuing a career in data centers is to feel comfortable asking questions. The industry is growing exponentially and NEEDS inquisitive minds and fresh perspectives to help lead the charge towards the future. Take the initiative and show whatever company you want to work for that you are willing to put in the effort they need and more.
Austin Capoziello - My advice would be to set up a tour at a local facility to spend a few hours with a Data Center Engineer. Then, I would highly recommend signing up for some classes in NOVA's Data Center Operations program and make sure that TJ Ciccone's class is one of the first courses that you choose as it covers the facility as a whole and is the basis for an engineer or technician.
A career in this industry is both achievable and accessible. Interested in learning more about data centers? Here is a wide range of programs and certifications to get you started:
Northern Virginia Community College's Data Center Operations (DCO) program for NoVa-based individuals.
International Data Center Authority and The Uptime Institute offer online and instructor-led certifications for working professionals.
Ferris State University – College of Engineering Technology offers a traditional program.
Meghan Pearson is Director of Sales Operations at STACK INFRASTRUCTURE