In Conversation With: Dana Adams, AirTrunk

  • March 09, 2021
  • Eloise Brown
 

Dana Adams is the Chief Operating Officer at AirTrunk. Having previously led teams as a VP & GM at both Iron Mountain and Digital Realty, Dana has a wealth of expertise across data center acquisitions, development, operations, real estate, portfolio management, sales and customer support. Dana is currently responsible for leading data center and business operations across APAC for AirTrunk. 

We recently spoke to Dana as part of our interview series for International Women's Day, to celebrate women in the data center industry. You can read the main article here

Dana, please could you start by telling me a bit about your background? How did you get into the data center industry?

I came into the industry about 15 years ago through a connection at Digital Realty. He knew me from my previous role at a non-profit organisation where he was on the Board of Directors. I knew very little about data centers, but he was building a team and knew that I was a very hard worker. When I came in for the interview, it was the first time I had ever stepped foot in a data center. I had a good feeling about it, and I’m so glad I followed my gut and joined the growing company.

I worked for Digital Realty for nearly 10 years, primarily in the US, but I was also fortunate to have an expat assignment to Europe for a couple years, and I was involved in the company’s first APAC investment in Singapore. I loved having the opportunity to travel and be part of the company’s strategic growth initiatives in new markets.  It was a very steep learning curve, but very exciting as well. When the opportunity came to move to Europe, I was literally on a plane two days later. I lived in Dublin and worked in London, Paris and Amsterdam, before heading to Singapore for a short stint and then back to the US.  The industry was growing fast and there were new opportunities and new challenges every day.  

I then moved back to Boston and a few years later in 2015, I was recruited to join Iron Mountain’s newly formed data center team as the VP Portfolio & Operations. Iron Mountain is a well-respected global brand and I had a great experience helping them build their data center practice through M&A and development projects.  

Then, the opportunity to move to Sydney to work for AirTrunk, came out of the blue one day. Making a big move (literally around the world!) with my family was a huge decision, but it was a great opportunity to join the C-Suite and deepen my APAC experience. AirTrunk was generating a huge buzz in the market with their early success and I knew the APAC markets had a ton of growth potential. In the end, it was an opportunity I could not turn down, and I was thankful to have the support of my family in making the big move. We have been here in Sydney for 2.5 years now, and we are truly enjoying it. AirTrunk has lived up to my expectations of being an exciting, fast-paced and hugely successful business that I am very proud to be a part of.  

How does it feel to be a woman in a male dominated industry?

I have seen the imbalance over the years, but it’s never been something I’ve dwelled on. I can look around a room of 20 plus people, and notice I’m the only woman in the room, but I don’t let that change my approach or hold me back from sharing my point of view. I am thankful at AirTrunk that we have a really strong cohort of female leaders and gender balance on our Board of Directors, so I am not alone here. There are also many great women I have worked with along the way at my previous companies.  

I have definitely seen a shift to more diversity in our industry over the last 15 years. Not only gender, but also age and racial diversity. I have also noticed a lot more support for women in the industry, with women’s professional networking groups and industry events targeted to women. This has been great to see and I am very thankful to all the women behind those initiatives.

At AirTrunk we are very focused on diversity and inclusion. Our CEO and I co-chair our D&I Committee, and we are developing strategies to promote more diversity in our industry.  We are going to start with mandates for diverse applicant pools and interview panels for all open roles at AirTrunk. We are also looking at community programs to help promote knowledge of the data centre industry at a younger age, through STEM programs and Women in Tech programs in the communities where we operate. I myself didn’t know what a data center was until I started at Digital Realty, but hopefully now with the way technology has become such a huge part of our lives from an early age, our industry will become more “mainstream” and we will be able to attract more young talent.

What could companies do to attract more women in the industry?

Every company needs to look at their recruiting practises and push for more diversity in their candidate pipelines, as we are doing at AirTrunk. It is also important to have diverse interview panels so that candidates can see they would not be alone if they did join. We also need to invest in training programs so that we can bring in people from other industries and train them on the skills specific to data centers. Most importantly, companies need to look at their culture and ensure it is truly an inclusive culture, otherwise good talent will not stick around for long.

What are some of the biggest challenges that women in the data center industry face?

These are not just gender specific challenges, but challenges faced by all of us in the industry. The pace of growth continues to boom and the demands keep increasing. While we are working to build data centers at record speed, with high efficiency and low cost, we are also focused on customer service, safety, sustainability as core to what we offer our customers and what we owe to our communities. The best way to accomplish all of these objectives in parallel is with a truly diverse team who can redefine our industry in ways we never thought of in the past.  

Is there anything that you’d like to see changed in the industry?

At AirTrunk we are constantly raising the bar and pushing ourselves to reach further in the areas of sustainability, safety, operational excellence, innovation, and our people.  One thing we are finding is that a lot of the industry “standards” that exist aren’t really fit for purpose anymore, or don’t align to what our customers need at this point in time. I’m excited to see what the next wave of innovation will bring to the hyperscale data center space, whether it’s lower PUE, less water usage, or wholesale changes to design and resiliency frameworks that better suit our customers.  

One piece of advice for women wanting to get into the industry.

Reach out to someone you know or make a connection with someone in the industry and get the conversation started! Our industry is starving for good talent and if you’re willing to learn, you can find your place. There are so many transferable skills that apply to data centers including legal, financial, accounting, real estate, HR, marketing, ICT, project management, engineering, and more.  

What’s the best part about working in the data center industry?

At AirTrunk, we are providing the critical infrastructure to the companies who are changing the world as we know it. I love being a part of the tech industry and knowing that what I do enables millions of individuals and businesses around the globe to better utilise technology.

Data centers have taken me from the US, to Europe, and now to APAC with my family. I have met and worked with so many amazing people along the way.  It has been a wild ride and always challenging, but the opportunities for growth and the ability to learn something new every day has been the best part for me.  

Thank you so much Dana for a great interview.