We ‘Deep Dive with Rik Williams, Data Centre Operations Manager at Node4, who tells us about life inside and outside the office.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?
We designed and built a 400 rack, 2MW data centre for a partner of ours in about seven months end-to-end. Design and build wasn’t our core business at the time and the project had some pretty steep learning curves, but I was really pleased with the end result. I’m also pretty happy with the facilities and DC ops teams we have built to support Node4.
What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?
I’m showing my age here, but I was studying physics at Leicester University when the World Wide Web was being rolled out – Netscape, Mosaic and all that. At the time, physics departments were right on the cutting edge of the Internet and I could see the potential straight away.
Unfortunately, I didn’t invest in Microsoft, Apple or Cisco shares, so I ended up working in the industry instead.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
If you have a team of people who know what they are doing, let them get on and do it. Set a direction and trust people to make decisions when they have the expertise to do so.
What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?
In my area of physical DC infrastructure, it’s all about power and cooling efficiency, but I’ve not seen anything radically new in DC design for a couple of years. We are just tweaking around the edges.
In the wider IT industry there’s a big focus on process automation and information security.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Stress management for me is about maintaining a sense of perspective and trying to plan ahead to avoid things piling up. As for relaxing, as a stereotypical Yorkshireman I enjoy taking my whippet, Ted, for walks (if there is a pub involved) and I’m constantly DIY-ing in a couple of old properties I have.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Security services are probably the area where a lot of companies are playing catch up. GDPR has raised the financial stakes and focused businesses on finding ways to protect their customer data. Data centre physical security is just one small part of this.
What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?
Node4 is primarily UK-focused. We do deal with several global businesses though and challenges tend to arise when they expect us to be compliant with American or other regional standards. We try to keep everything as international as we can by adopting ISO standards where possible.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
We’re currently in the final stages of adding a lot of infrastructure capacity to our data centre sites, so once this project work is finished, we’ll probably settle into more of a routine ‘maintain and replace’ mode. Unless we decide to build something new.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a senior position in the industry?
As in any industry, treat people well and build good relationships at all levels. It should go without saying, but you need to have good, experience-based knowledge of the field you are managing in.
You don’t need to be the best technically, but you need to understand what is achievable and how to pick talented individuals to work with you.