Veterans fill an important void in the data center industry

The image features three silhouetted figures overlaid with an American flag, saluting against a warm, cloudy sunset backdrop, evoking patriotic themes.

Last month, I got a chance to present at Data Center World. It was really nice to see friends and colleagues again, live and in person, and speak about Compass’s journey with Salute Mission Critical. What started as an opportunity to give back to veterans has become a boon to Compass and a critical component of our data center operations.

Compass Data Centers began working with Salute in 2013. Recognizing the problem of underemployment among military veterans, we wanted to be part of a solution. When Compass’s footprint expanded internationally in 2019, our relationship deepened as we engaged Salute to help us staff new locations.

Data center staffing struggles

Even as demand for data center capacity continues to grow, data centers struggle to attract new talent. According to the Uptime Institute, data center staff requirements are forecast to grow globally from about 2 million full-time employees in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million by 2025. Operators are finding it increasingly challenging to find qualified candidates to staff data centers.

The new generation of workers wants to focus on the software and hardware side of the tech industry. Data centers aren’t sexy. They’re out of sight and out of mind. They’re the utility of the tech industry…humming along in the background, making sure data has a secure place to live and is delivered in a timely fashion wherever it’s needed. Data centers are a piece of the tech puzzle that you only think about when things go wrong.

Military training and data center operations

Military training and experience prepare veterans for a number of civilian jobs, but really fit the bill in the data center environment. Some important traits that translate well include:

  • Attention to detail. Most of the time, when the wheels go off the rails in a data center, it’s a factor of human error. Strict adherence to protocols is key to keeping data centers up and running. The military is all about processes and protocols, and following them to the letter to support a positive outcome. Veterans are exceptionally disciplined and focused with a high aptitude for complying with structured systems of operation.
  • Quick thinking. While veterans know how to follow procedures, this doesn’t mean they’re not critical thinkers. Quite the opposite. Veterans are trained to think quickly and clearly, drawing from a well-understood and finite universe of responses to resolve problems that inevitably arise. They’ll follow procedures to the letter but when a challenge arises that’s outside of standard operating procedures, they are quick to jump into problem-solving mode and apply creative critical thinking to resolve the issue before it results in downtime.
  • Mission minded. Having a team of operators who understand their purpose and how it translates into the success of the broader mission success is key to preventing missteps. With that mission focus comes incredible discipline and work ethic that drives high quality work output.

So, while our engagement with Salute started as a means of giving back to veterans who have given so much to us by giving them a place to do meaningful civilian work, we quickly realized incredible business value. We are the winners in this relationship. Salute’s veteran workforce has become a great asset to Compass Datacenter operations.