Data centers play a key role in our digital society and economy. Without data centers, no internet. Who are the people that keep the data center – and thus the internet – running? To answer this question, we interview several professionals that work in the data center sector.
Don Leemker, Site Manager of an Iron Mountain Data Center, a global provider of data center and colocation services, shares his vision and motivation in an interview with the DDA.
How would you explain your job to your grandma?
You know that we stay in hotels from time to time, on vacations or on business trips. All we need to come around during this time is in most cases provided by the hotel: Clean bed linen, food, heating, water, security etc. The company I work for provides similar services for the internet. You could say we are the hotel for websites. We provide all that is necessary for the website to run. We make sure it has power, air-conditioning, security and most important, that the website is reachable for you as a consumer.
What do you value most in your job?
I really appreciate the daily variety of my work tasks. Every day is different. The second thing I value most about my job is that I get to work with technical professionals and customers.
What does your typical working day look like?
Each day is different, but let me give you an overview what is commonly done: Attend or lead team meetings with the different specialized teams, meet and advice customers, answering emails, work on process integration and alignment, read & comment reports, manage budgets, assist with customer design, investigate new technologies. In other words, lots of managerial work.
Note that when you just start working in a data center, your tasks very much depend on your role. There are roles that focus on maintaining critical facility installations like cooling systems, power distribution systems, no-break power systems and security systems. There are also many jobs that are more focused on the customer side. For example: providing support on servers and network equipment, installing customer equipment etc. It is up to you what you want to do in a data center.
What is your background and how did you end up in the data center sector?
I have a university degree in Technical Business Management. For my thesis, I conducted research on configuration management at KPN. This led to a 7-year career with Telecom Italia Sparkle (TIS) where I managed a communication network for Northern Europe. Via TIS, I ended up with MFN (today EUNetworks). There I set up a network operations center (NOC) and onwards I managed the Dutch outside plant fiber networks. EUNetworks purchased a data center (currently owned by Digital Realty). This was my first insight into the world called “data centers”.
What impressed you most when you started in this role?
The speed of the business and the level of technology used is what impressed me most. The internet business is a fast business. The data centers are state of the art and complex technical wonders. This combination is unique. You really work at the forefront of technology.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
The biggest inspiration for me are the founding fathers of today’s tech giants e.g. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google). But also people like Tim Berners-Lee (CERN). These folks saw something and went for it. Same story for Steve Jobs (Apple). He sees what the market needs and creates a product that answers this demand, and he does so with sheer perfection.
What is your ambition in this sector?
My ambition is to help develop the Iron Mountain Amsterdam campus and keep it 100% sustainable. Another ambition is to drive for the best customer service experience in the market.
If you would be looking for a successor, what type of person would you look for?
I would look for Obama and Einstein. Mix them together, take 30 years off, infuse them with internet and you have my successor.
Jokes aside, if you have a HBO or university degree, a very good understanding of technology (science, mathematics, IT) and customer service and a healthy performance drive, you will get to my position within 5 – 10 years. Perhaps sooner, if you are really good.
DATACENTER PASSPORT Name: Don Leemker Age: 51 Education: Technical Business Management Company: Iron Mountain Data Center Function: Site Manager - Supervising and overseeing the direction of the project - ensuring that the client’s specifications and requirements are met - coordinating construction workers - making safety inspections - checking and preparing site reports, designs and drawings LinkedIn