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Deep Dive: Venessa Moffat, DCA Advisory Board Member

Deep Dive: Venessa Moffat, DCA Advisory Board Member

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Venessa Moffat, DCA Advisory Board Member, tells us how she landed in her role and how she relaxes and unwinds outside the office.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?

I think keeping the DCIM topic alive is probably the main area over the years. It’s had such a difficult journey and even Gartner gave up on DCIM, but we can’t live without that software layer connecting all the various pieces of infrastructure. So I’ve always stuck with it, knowing that eventually it will be able to deliver. The more focus we have on a topic, the more people will be able to unify behind a common definition and use for it and this has been one of the main difficulties for DCIM.

What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?

Like many people, I kind of fell into the data centre industry. Interestingly, it was meeting with the DCA on a regular basis that helped me understand the landscape a little more. On top of this, the people are fabulous and I’m proud to call some of them friends.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I like driving things forward, so I’m always looking to find a good product/market fit or introduce contacts if I think they could have a mutually beneficial conversation. A leader once told me that ‘you don’t find the world, you make the world’ and this has stuck with me.

What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?

We have a few hot topics on the agenda – not least sustainability and getting to net zero. It’s an interesting area because it’s challenging the status quo and inspiring some innovation in data centre design. The question of whether generators are the way forward is being asked more, but then equally the alternatives may not be better from an emissions perspective. Scope 3 is now more widely understood, but still not always baked into the calculations. We have made good progress in a lot of areas, but there is still a long way to go.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

I take on long physical challenges. For example, I enjoy the Fan Dance race, which is based on one of the SAS selection tests. In April, I did an adventure race in Snowdonia, which involved cycling, then hiking up Snowdon and finishing with a kayak leg. All in all, around seven-and-a-half hours of exercise. I slept well after that!

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

We generally have a lot of interest from investors at the moment in data centres, because it is seen as a good asset class. So we’re seeing quite a few announcements every month. In addition to this, we are seeing consolidation with M&A activity and high supply and take-up still. This is all positive for the industry but introduces new complexity challenges and risks. For a long time, most end-users used to think that their Facebook data was hiding somewhere in the clouds, but now and for various reasons, people are becoming more aware that data centres essentially power the Internet. That poses extra risks as we become more and more reliant on this critical infrastructure.

What are the region-specific challenges you encounter?

We have mature markets and some less mature markets and each one has its own ecological profile where data centres can leverage certain aspects. For example, hydropower generation is popular in Norway and in Iceland they have a mix of hydro and geothermal generation making up 100% of grid power. Cooling considerations are different for different countries depending on the kinds of weather they experience. Companies generally find that they need to understand quite a lot about the landscape and ecological breakdown in order to choose which countries they might succeed in.

What changes have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the coming months?

We have all seen how COVID-19 has affected the world and it’s great that we in the UK are basically back to normal. I’m very happy to be going back to networking events etc. We are also now experiencing some COVID aftershocks with the economy still trying to deal with all the changes and obviously the situation with Russia. I think the data centre industry is pretty solid though, from this perspective. Our hardest challenge is finding the right talent. We need to be reaching out to younger audiences and showing them what a great industry this is. Hopefully the National Data Centre Academy will be able to help us plug this gap and I’m excited to see how that progresses.

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