The Talent Matters column celebrates the people and personalities in the data center industry and employment issues. The great news is that due to continued growth, those of us in the data center industry have terrific job security. Bullish indicators include the private equity acquisition of ViaWest by Oak Hill Partners, the commercial enterprise sector acquisition of CyrusOne by CBTS, and the acquisition spree of wholesaler Digital Realty Trust, which acquired Sentinel Data Center and 365 Main. Even more exciting is continued private equity funding for additional acquisitions and startups.
My inbox is full of reports from the likes of Jim Kerrigan, National Data Center Practice Leader for Grubb and Ellis, and Bryan Loewen from GVA Cawley, who contend that demand continues to exceed supply, particularly for the larger category players.
As long as this trend continues, sufficient, uniquely qualified talent at all levels will be needed to design, construct, supply products, monitor, manage, network, sell, and operate all these new facilities. However, the available employee base is shrinking, creating a supply-side market for data center staff, and they are getting wise to the demand. Employers in the data center industry face must become aware of demographic, market, and organizational imperatives that they face. Consider this column a call-to-arms to recognize the inevitable war for talent the data center industry faces.
The Baby Boom generation and ensuing GenX created a labor force growth rate that is inversely related to the growth of data center market space. There are more people leaving the workforce than entering, we have a dramatically smaller population of 28-44 year olds, and the mid-management experience range of 10-20 years is most affected.
Why? The generation that was born in 1968-78 and graduated from college from 1990 to 2000 grew up professionally during a time when there were many new, cool occupations in IT, hardware, software, web design, and applications development that were more in vogue than data center development and management. This factor, combined with the recent and somewhat unexpected proliferation of data centers, makes two causes of shortages of experienced talent.