We ‘Deep Dive’ with Marc Garner, VP, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric UK and Ireland, who tells us about life inside and outside the office.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?
There have been too many to mention, new customer successes always leave you with a great feeling. Getting to know our partners, learning more about the challenges their customers face and finding new ways to support them has also been very rewarding.
What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?
In a sense, the technology industry found me. I wanted to join a leading technology company where I could have a career and develop, so I joined Schneider Electric, rather than the data centre industry itself.
At Schneider, I progressed through some of the other business units before I came into the Secure Power Division, which works directly with the data centre sector. It was the opportunities that the company provided to me, to take on bigger and more complex roles, that brought me to where I am today.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I’ve always been focused around the people in the business. I firmly believe that if we invest in our people and their development, we will see significant returns in terms of customer satisfaction and experience, which will deliver success to the overall business. Ultimately our business is led by people, so it’s important to have a motivated and happy group of professionals working together collaboratively, as a team.
What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?
Edge Computing is certainly one of the main talking points within the industry today. Many of our customers are concerned with reducing latency, network resilience, power availability and with managing distributed IT environments. That naturally leads to an interest in deploying data centres at the Edge of the network, where data is created, processed and consumed.
There are various challenges associated with the distributed environment and at Schneider we believe there are three key enablers for Edge. They include; remote management with simplified monitoring, 24/7 visibility and predictive analytics; greater physical security to prevent unauthorised access to IT equipment; and rapid deployment to ensure a standardised, repeatable and quick to deploy approach.
Another important talking point is about people and skillsets. There is great concern throughout the industry that there are not enough skilled people to deliver projects in a timely and reliable fashion. Something very important to me is how we bring new skills into the industry and how we develop our people to serve our customers both now and in the future.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Golf and family. There’s nothing like having a three-year old to distract you from the office, but on the rare occasions that I can tear myself away from both, I enjoy a round of golf.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
For me, this comes back to the issue around skills shortages within the industry. We need a variety of skilled people to keep up with the demands of today’s customers and ensure we can deliver outstanding service throughout the data centre lifecycle.
As an industry, this will include project managers, engineers, salespeople, marketers and technical specialists. It’s vital that we invest in these people and their skills because demand is growing and we need to ensure that projects are delivered to meet customers’ expectations. Right now we are very focused on recruiting people with the right skills into our business.
What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?
Depending where you are, power and/or connectivity can be major issues. Some regions have an abundance of one and a none of the other. I know of some places where one can access 200MW of power with little difficulty, but there is little to no fibre connectivity.
Conversely, in some high-density population areas there is ample connectivity, but it can be challenging to construct a new power-generation facility. That’s an important trade-off to manage. The availability of green energy is also an issue in some regions. Customers are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment, sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint, so demand for renewable or green energy is growing within the industry.
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?
Over the last year the biggest change to my job role has been the learning curve that comes with joining the data centre sector. There have been many changes within the industry, especially those surrounding the creation and use of data. In some cases, we’ve seen new technologies become more popular, like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). In others, the re-emergence of those once considered out-dated, like liquid cooling.
For our customers, the challenges across many verticals will remain the same during the next 12 months. Power availability is key, ensuring resilience of distributed IT is another, latency and physical security will also continue to be important, especially with the advocacy of technologies like 5G.
How we service our customers may differ from use case to use case, but I believe that presents us with an opportunity to overcome new challenges and demonstrate significant value to them. My role will continue to ensure we bring the right skills in to service their needs.
As the technological demands change, we may also shift our focus away from spaces that have seen large areas of industry discussion, such as colocation, cloud and hyperscale, towards smaller and more intimate customers. It’s often in the space below the biggest names that one finds key opportunities for growth.
As businesses continue to embrace hybrid computing environments, those areas will of course continue to grow and cannot be neglected, but over the next 12 months my team will also continue to focus on identifying new ways to add value to our customers in many new spaces.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a senior position in the industry?
The technology industry is a people industry, so network as much as possible. It’s important to get a deep understanding of any industry and find out how it works. I’d also recommend that anyone new coming into it find the right organisation to support their ambition, their development and their career progression.