25 Aug 2022

Encouraging STEM will promote a greater understanding of data centres' role in society

When people ask me what I do, or what Kao Data does, I’ve often previously felt a bit like Chandler from Friends who had a job that no one really understood. What on earth is a data centre? For most of my friends it has always ended in a long and convoluted discussion about hosting computers…and that’s when most people switch off!

So given that I was especially delighted when Kao Data launched the Kao Academy STEM initiative earlier this year. As a mother working at Kao Data with two children, one within the 7-12 age category targeted by the Kao Academy, it’s been really great for my children to see exactly what a data centre does, how they are built and how they impact our everyday lives. I’ve even been able to use some of the explanations on my own friends!

The Kao Academy website and ‘Build a Data Centre’ pack explains the concept of a data centre in an interesting way and introduces them to young people as a potential career option that they may not have considered or even thought of. Particularly with the interest in gaming that children have it is great to give them an insight into where the game data is stored, and how games need data centres to be designed, rendered and hosted. Thinking about it, my kids have been interacting with data centres for years without even realising it. Now, hopefully they have a wider appreciation.

As a parent I see the importance of STEM and I am fortunate that my children both really enjoy school, maths in particular, and I am encouraging their love of science further with a science tutor for my eldest son to prepare him for starting his GCSE studies later this year. STEM builds within our children resilience, problem solving and critical thinking skills and encourages experimentation to name just a few important attributes.

According to Euroscientist, “by making STEM interesting to a child at a young age, you can improve their chances of greater success later in life.” Early engagement in these subjects is critical as this generation of children will be expected to play a key role in both the growth of the UK digital economy and the country’s future as it continues to reinforce its position as a global leader in technology.

For girls in particular introducing STEM at a young age will give them more opportunities to pursue a STEM career, ensuring a more diverse workforce. Gender diversity can broaden the viewpoints and areas explored by researchers allowing greater potential for new discoveries.

When the Kao Academy was launched, we actually received communication from Sir Charles Kao’s widow, Gwen. She reached out to us from Hong Kong and offered her congratulations. Gwen shared how pleased she was about the programme and her belief in the importance of STEM education in encouraging young girls, in particular, into STEM careers. I fully agree with her sentiments.

As I’ve mentioned, many people don’t fully understand what happens within a data centre or even what a data centre is or does so it’s often hard for children to learn this from their parents or guardians. In my role at Kao Data, I get to see first-hand all of the different careers that are connected to a data centre. There is the perception data centres don't employ many people, but they do something perhaps more important – they are an enabler. Data centres facilitate great breakthroughs in science, computing and research. They enable us to enjoy life by helping us stay connected to each other or work from home or entertain ourselves during a global pandemic. If you look at the number of careers that are based around a data centre and its wider supply chain, you will see a wide variety and number of jobs and disciplines. It’s important for kids to understand how this thriving industry benefits us all and helps make exciting things happen. In an age when climate concerns are growing, it’s also important for the local community to understand how companies, like Kao Data, are making sure that as the role of a data centre expands, their carbon footprint and environmental impact is reduced.

Last month we announced our first Kao Academy winner – young Jasmine Wales, 11, from Ely, Cambridgeshire. She designed a brilliant desert data centre that cleverly used the desert environment (and its snakey inhabitants) to better protect the facility. What fantastic creativity and ingenuity Jasmine showed.

I would encourage parents and teachers to follow that and check out the Kao Academy and give your kids a head-start to better understand this important industry. Data centres are the engine rooms of our increasingly digital economy and society and they provide a world of opportunity to young STEM enthusiasts like Jasmine.

Jo O'Riordan

Jo is Kao Data's Office Manager and our Executive Assistant. Based at our Harlow campus, she coordinates a range of activity across the data centre and works with our senior management team on a daily basis.


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