data centers play an indispensable role in our digital society and economy. Without data centers there is no internet. But who are the people that actually keep the data center, and therefore the internet, running? To answer this question, we interview various professionals working in the data center sector.
Sarah Przulj works as an Electrical Engineer at Google Data Centers. In her role she is busy doing Electrical Maintenance and support on construction and commissioning projects.
You work in a data center. Could you explain to us what a data center is?
A data center represents the technical infrastructure behind the internet. It is a physical facility that provides housing, cooling, power and networking for IT servers and ensures they can run without interruptions and are secure 24/7. This allows users to store large amounts of data and be able to access them at any time. Data centers make things such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other online services possible. In Google’s datacenters, we run a variety of Google services such as Search, Maps, and YouTube. Many critical entities and industries rely nowadays on data centers, including governments, banks, hospitals and businesses.
And what does your position in the data center entail?
The physical infrastructure of the internet, that is hosted in data centers, consumes electricity. To be able to distribute the electricity down to server level, we need all different kinds of electrical components and equipment. It is my job to look after the electrical equipment on all fronts. That means from being produced in the factory, through testing, installation onsite and eventually also maintenance and upgrades. The electrical equipment is an essential element in the data center circle, but even more important is the continuity of it. A data center has to be on 24/7.
What interests have brought you in the direction of this position and sector?
I started working at Google’s data center during my studies, as an intern. I did not know much about this industry back then and applied out of curiosity. I took it as an opportunity to gain practical experience, since my education was more theoretical. Since then I have learned a lot about all electrical and mechanical systems, as well as how data centers operate as a whole and how we serve our customers. I was always interested in engineering and business, so data centers are a very good match.
Which activities do you spend the most time on and which do you most enjoy?
To be able to satisfy the demand of the data center market, they need to deliver more and more capacity and grow at an enormous pace. Currently I am working on a data center expansion project, ensuring that the quality of newly installed equipment meets these high standards, despite aggressive delivery targets. These activities are mostly related to testing and commissioning, but also reviewing operations and maintenance manuals and arranging training for the operational staff. Tasks that I find really interesting are projects related to redesign and improvement of current technical infrastructure setup. Their execution in a live data center has additional challenges to not allow any impact on production or other ongoing work. Making sure that the job is completed on time, with no safety incidents or effect on reliability, is one of the things that makes me happy at the end of the day.
What is the atmosphere in which you work and the people you work with?
Working in our data center operations team is very dynamic, it brought me in touch with many internal and external work groups. On a daily basis I work with factories that produce our equipment, design and construction companies, safety department, quality department, different maintenance and project teams, but also logistics and security. This gives a high variety of people I work with which makes the work a lot of fun.
What is in your opinion the coolest thing about data centers?
Before getting the job at Google’s data center, I had no idea how big and complex it actually can be. I was really amazed by its size, as well as how different disciplines come together, like electrical, mechanical, chemical and environmental engineering in order to provide all what is needed for servers to run smoothly. What especially impressed me, were the water-cooled processors used for machine learning. They are state-of-art technical structures.
What have you learned that you would like to pass on to people that are interested in this industry?
Technology is changing and advancing rapidly. For example, just from one to another building we have different designs, and softwares are continuously upgrading to improve efficiency, operability and reliability. One must be very open-minded, adaptable and willing to constantly learn to be able to keep up and take part in these changes.