20 Jul 2023

Learning to navigate the rapids and meanders of life in the data centre industry

Earlier this month the team at Kao Data and I had the huge pleasure of hosting a ‘Challenge Day’ for a collection of Year 10 and 12 students who are part of UTC Heathrow’s excellent ‘Digital Futures’ programme.

Kao Data has been supporting UTC Heathrow - the UK’s first dedicated University Technical College for data centre and engineering professionals, since November 2022. As one of its institutional partners, Kao Data helps support the development and learning of students between the ages of 14-19, sharing our teams’ technical expertise across the spectrum of data centre design, engineering, and operations. This course is helping provide a roadmap for the next generation of data centre talent in the UK, and with 2.3M new employees needed globally by 2025 to maintain the growth anticipated in the industry – it’s a vital step towards achieving this target.

The theme of July’s Kao Data Challenge Day was “team building” and fittingly, we hosted the event at Lee Valley’s amazing Olympic white water rafting centre – the world class home of a number of canoeing triumphs at London 2012. This gave us the opportunity to get more than 30 students out of the classroom for the day, and into an inspiring venue, steeped in success that dramatically showcases the crucial role teamwork has in achieving high performance.

Across a busy morning, students undertook desktop exercises which highlighted how our teams at Kao Data work together to deliver industry leading data centres and why first-class team work is essential in our pursuit of supporting our customers’ mission critical workloads. Each group had a Kao Data mentor who guided the students across their exercises and discussions. It was great to hear the feedback from the students and see how in-tune they were with how the wider industry is evolving.

One of the exercises prompted six individual teams across Fibre, UPS, Power, Security, Maintenance and Cooling, to work together to find clues and solve questions regarding the technical specification of our latest 10MW data centre in Harlow – KLON-02, which will go live this Autumn.

It was inspiring to see how capable the students were and how they solved this challenge with a really collaborative, team spirit. Many students realised they had the clues that could solve another team’s problem and without prompting they were offering help and contributing to a fellow team’s success.

All the students impressed, and as you would expect, there were a few standouts. Alex in particular within our Fibre Team really excelled in guiding his team to draw a 3D image of the data centre, supported by Howard, which showed the various access points and meet-me-rooms within the facility for fibre routes. It really helped the room understand how we build in resiliency across the facility so we can ensure our customers are 100% uptime all of the time.

Group presentations to the whole room followed, which for some of the students was quite a nerve-wracking experience, but all of them tackled it head-on and it enabled all corners of the room to understand the role their team play within a data centre and the elements we need from their discipline at Harlow to be successful.

I should also acknowledge our excellent Kao Data staff – Jon, Charlotte, Howard, Samir, Rod, Adam and not forgetting Rory from Spa Communications who all mentored the student groups with real skill, patience and positivity.

Following their exercises, the students then spent the afternoon in their teams using the same skills of collaboration, communication, determination (and a fair slice of bravery) as they took on the Olympic course and some seriously wild water! Not all of these students would easily have the opportunity to do something like this and the most rewarding part of the day was seeing how they relished the opportunity, and quite literally jumped into the deep end!

Some of the greatest learning experiences come from doing something ‘out of the box’ and realising you can use similar skills in different environments and against different challenges with the same outcome. The white-water rafting setting really helped in this regard and afterwards you could see the confidence in the students stand out as they realised they had just taken on an Olympic standard course together.

“My experience with Kao Data at the Lee Valley White Water Centre was both very informative and fun,” said Hussain Al-Waeli, Year 12. “We were able to learn a lot of fun and interesting ideas about the data centre industry with members of the team, and the white water rafting after was definitely one of the best parts of the day!”

“Today the Kao Data team delivered a high-impact and engaging team-building experience, directly aligned with our students’ engineering curriculum,” said Michael Halliday Head of Employer Engagement Strategy Activate Learning Education Trust and UTC Heathrow. “It’s valuable experiences such as these, delivered through the support of our partners, that continues to make the Digital Futures Program a success for our students, and helps to bring the data centre industry to life.”

We can’t wait to welcome back some of these students to Harlow to see the very data centre they helped us build-out the technical specification for during our workshop. Thankfully there’s no wild water on our campus, but there is still plenty of interest to inspire these students along their own data centre journey.

This was a wonderful day enjoyed by all, and certainly a privilege to support and add to the excellent work already done to date by our hyperscale and industry partners in this fantastic program. We at Kao Data certainly look forward to our next event in October, when we host another group from UTC Heathrow at our new high performance KLON-02 facility in Harlow.

Mike Tamblingson

Mike is Kao Data's Operations Director and has over 25 years of experience working within the international data centre, cloud and wider technology industry.



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