Following the success of our interview series in celebration of International Women’s Day, where we spoke to Nancy Novak, Dana Adams & Danielle Rossi, we have decided to continue the series to keep creating awareness for the need for more diversity in the data center industry.
We recently spoke to Sarah Parks, Director of Marketing & Communications at CNet Training. Sarah has worked with the company for over 15 years and has over 20 years of marketing experience with the technology and other sectors.
Sarah, please could you start by telling me a bit about your background? How did you get into the data center industry?
Like so many, I fell into it!
I worked for CNet (when it was CableNet) back in 1999, when they mostly designed and delivered network cabling installation programs to those leaving the Armed Forces (something they still do today). The industry was shaken after 9/11 and I decided to start my own marketing company, I carried on working with CNet and have been back working with them again over the last 8 years to once head up and grow the marketing department.
It was the best career move and I’ve not looked back!
What got you interested in the data center industry?
I find it fascinating and there is always so much to learn, it never stands still. I am so pleased to work in the industry!
I’m also proud to be involved in education for the industry and seeing the credentials being used and specified within job roles throughout the world! We’re doing our bit to keep the world working.
What’s it like being a woman in the data center industry?
Lots of conversations with wonderful people!
I just happen to love my job and the people I meet and get to know are truly amazing. The critical nature of what we are all involved in is mind-blowing, how much the world relies on what we do. Hence why my job is so rewarding, knowing we, at CNet, are educating professionals throughout the global digital infrastructure industry, from new entrants to influential leaders, teaching benchmark knowledge and awarding certifications and qualifications that are making huge difference across the industry.
From my perspective, being a woman in the industry day-to-day doesn’t really bother me. At CNet 60% of the senior management team are females and there are certainly more women leading within the industry now. When we were going to industry events, I noticed recently more females coming along compared to 5+ years ago, which is great!
How does it feel being a woman in a male dominated world?
I don’t think we are in such a male dominated world as we were in terms of the industry, sure, in the earlier days there were many times when you did walk into a room full of men (which did occasionally feel daunting), but it is down to confidence and believing in yourself. We are all in the same industry so have a common subject to talk about. Plus, now, with Diversity & Inclusion being higher on the agenda than ever before, it’s great to see gender equality being highlighted and addressed at pace.
Why should women get into the data center industry? What opportunities are there?
If you want to end your working day feeling like you have contributed to something really special, the data center industry is for you.
There are so many opportunities, and it doesn’t always need to be highly technical either. Data centers still need talented people such as marketing, sales, account managers, finance, talent development and HR. They need the support structure just the same as any other industries/organisations.
At CNet Training, there are more women undertaking CNet’s technical education programs and across all levels. This is a great indicator that more women in the industry and progressing within it.
What could companies do to attract more women in the industry?
Of course, there is a case for companies to review their recruitment policies and widen their horizons to attract more women.
It can also be the simple things that could make a big difference such as the way the job specifications are written, are they wording in a way that is more centred to attract males? Do they need tweaking to broaden their appeal?
Also, where the jobs advertised and, if using outsourced recruitment, are the recruiters accurately briefed to ensure they represent the industry correctly to ensure they are not bias and not tempted to make any incorrect assumptions when approaching possible recruits.
With my marketing hat securely on, I do feel there needs to be more representation of women in data centers amongst marketing materials. If you search for images to use within presentations for example, they are mostly men and highly (and badly) staged. So, here is a challenge for all the data center operators out there, to create some technically correct, generic photos of women working in their data centers, and allow others to use them (they don’t have to be branded, they can be generic and therefore neutral and anonymous). This will certainly help to spread awareness of women in the industry and hopefully attract others.
Telling children about the industry will help to put the industry on the map and highlight the industry as a potential career choice. The more children we tell, the more it will help to attract all to the industry, which will hopefully include females. This will also help to address the skills shortage albeit in the future, but you must start somewhere and the sooner we start, the sooner it the skills shortage will be addressed.
It is key for the industry to unite to have a plan to promote the industry, together. With the strength of the entire industry, it will help to get data centers into school curriculum and help to highlight data centers and the amazing career opportunities they provide. However, it does need complete collaboration from all, the tricky thing here is how to start and coordinate this… it’s another challenger without a doubt.
Is there anything that you’d like to see changed in the industry?
As I just mentioned, more collaboration amongst the companies within it. There are so many issues around talent and skills shortages that have been spoken about for many years and many companies are trying to do their own thing to address this.
As I mentioned previously, the key is to introduce data centers to school children and get digital infrastructure (the importance of data center and network cable infrastructure) and data centers onto the curriculum. It must be a young age as parents are huge influencers in children’s lives. With the data center sector being reasonably young, the percentage of parents that would have experienced working in a data center, to share their experience, will be small. Meaning that many parents will not be talking about it.
One further thing… it is reducing; however, it still emerges from time-to-time, and that is some attitudes towards professional education within the industry. Some perceive the need for education as a weakness within their organisation, thinking that it means teams are not ‘up to scratch’ when in fact it is completely opposite in so many ways. Investing in further knowledge development and education for teams it such a positive move. It’s taking steps to make teams the best they can possibly be and proving it with official certifications and qualifications. It can really enhance brand reputation and therefore help to attract the sought after talent in this current highly competitive recruitment landscape.
What’s the best part of being a woman in the data center industry?
For me, it’s not so much about being a woman, it is about the opportunities to meet amazing people, travelling and feeling part of an industry that is so important for most in the world, even if they don’t realise it.
I absolutely love it when someone asks me what my job is, I can talk about it for hours - after a while I think they regret asking?!
Finally, Sarah, what advice would you give for women wanting to get into the industry?
Believe in yourself and what you do. Network, network, network, the more people you can connect with, the more quickly you will forget about the balance of males and females and just enjoy the conversations you have and love what you do.
Some women may be deterred as the industry seems very male orientated; however, it is good to see that the industry is evolving in terms of the balance of gender and diversity. So, this really isn’t anything to worry about, just go for it! It’s a fascinating and exciting industry that is at the cutting edge of everything the world does.
Thank you, Sarah for a great interview!