We ‘Deep Dive’ with Peter Westwood, UK Data Centre Director, SPIE, who tells us about life inside and outside the office.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?
I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked on some of the largest data centre projects in the UK and have many memorable achievements but some of the best for me were related to innovation and prefabrication solutions where we built 75% of the mechanical and electrical services off site with over 500 modules and plant skids.
This not only delivered speed to market in record time but produced the best quality standards in a controlled environment in the safest manner. If you think that prefabrication and modularisation is common place now, a decade ago this type of work was truly groundbreaking.
This was extremely forward thinking for its time and I was working with one of the first companies to execute it at this scale.
What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?
I have always enjoyed technology and as my career has progressed over the last 30 years, initially as an electrical design engineer through to management I have always looked for opportunities to adopt new technologies and innovation.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to deliver my first data centre project for a banking and finance customer in 2006 when the FSA driven requirement market boomed for out of town data centres.
I relished the challenge for this very exciting type of project and it was my dream as an engineer to cover all system architectures with leading technology solutions. I also find it extremely rewarding to be involved from conception to completion. I have never looked back and love working in the data centre market.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
Throughout my career I have always been interested in and have paid close attention to my managers and their management styles, and as a result I have learned what the best style of management is for me personally. In all our careers we have had good experiences of our best mentors and managers and learned from what did or didn’t work from those experiences.
As a manager and leader, I believe that you need to be able to adopt several different styles to get the best out of your team to achieve top results. Everyone is different in motivation, so I adapt to what styles are needed. My best teams of people have been made up of a mix of solid experience, technical ability, management skills, enthusiasm and ability to work collaboratively as a team.
What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?
There are a number of areas that are considered as hot topics:
- How the industry supports the ever-growing hyperscale data centre operators from a consumer, vendor and operator perspective. This market is becoming more competitive across all areas and we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to meet future demand.
- Edge computing is a large category that will include hundreds of markets and ecosystems. I believe there are many edge challenges ahead to support the arriving market of 5G and latency issues as part of the future demand.
- The adoption of liquid cooling systems to deal with HPC and super compute architectures, with high density chip design are ever-increasing.
- Driving efficiency to lower the carbon footprint of data centres and how the industry deals with the future predictions.
- Skills shortages throughout the industry and how we feed the market with new talent for the future with the best training and experience possible.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
For me the best way to deal with stress is to try to prevent and reduce stressful situations by planning ahead and being as organised as best I can. Obviously, you can’t always have a plan ahead of time, but you can form a basic strategy with the information that you already have available.
I also think it’s crucial to know when to take time out. To unwind I spend a lot of time with my family. I have four children, so there is always plenty to do. I play golf with my older son, which is a great way to relax and enjoy time with him. I also love clay and rifle shooting which helps me to wind down and focus on one thing: hitting the target.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
The data centre industry is an ever-evolving market and this is fuelled by the global digitisation trends with more and more people online and connected via smartphones. This is driving companies to invest in transitioning to digital ways of doing business, which means their IT infrastructure is growing.
Data centre operators are also looking at many areas to optimise and drive efficiency through monitoring systems and new technologies to lower operational costs. Another area of future investment is into edge and regional edge compute architectures which will be needed to support the ever increasing IoT and 5G networks.
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?
SPIE UK has a focused appetite to grow within the data centre market and we have spent the last six months providing market awareness to the industry to facilitate this growth.
We are looking to receive more opportunities over the next 12 months to support the market with our core business offering and be a lot more proactive with new customers during this period.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a senior position in the industry?
My advice would be to gain a good sound knowledge of the industry – the technologies, leaders and experts in it – through networking events and being seen.
Working with a reputable company that has a good track record and stake in the industry is also beneficial. It is a good idea to gain five to 10 years’ experience in a management role with proven track record of capability and achievements, demonstrating that you can motivate and inspire a team.
Finally, I’d say look out for opportunities where you can progress within an organisation and put yourself out there by being proactive, showing willing, embracing new challenges and taking the initiative to enhance your position. Be ready when the opportunity comes for a senior management role.