What Google Cloud looks for in data center workers as it aggressively hires and builds new locations

  • Google is investing heavily in building data centers that power its products and cloud services.
  • That, plus higher demand during the coronavirus pandemic, means its hiring aggressively.
  • The firm is looking for workers with strong critical thinking and collaborative work skills. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On an average work day at one of Google’s data center sites in Virginia, operations manager Nicole Henley conducts tasks like adding hard drives or swapping out memory on the machines, fixing bugs, or troubleshooting issues like downtime.

Google operates data centers in 24 regions around the world, which power both its own products like search as well as services for its cloud customers.

Henley manages a hardware operations team at one of Google’s sites in “Data Center Alley” — a region in Northern Virginia where giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and more all run facilities — where she makes sure the firms data centers are secure, maintained, and upgraded on schedule.

“We’re doing everything from making sure the machine is running to making sure the network is available,” Henley told Insider. “Because data centers are scalable and adaptable, our job is to make sure to meet the demands of customers.”

And demand is high. 

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a spike in cloud traffic: Between health care workers accessing data for medical needs, teachers running virtual classrooms, and corporate employees video chatting while working remotely, the need for capacity has surged. Meanwhile, many businesses are permanently digitizing their operations, too. 

Google Cloud has said that it’s not yet profitable in part because it’s investing heavily in building out more data centers worldwide to take advantage of that sea-change. 

That increased demand coupled with an industry trend known as a “silver tsunami” effect where a large part of the data center workforce is aging towards retirement, means that Google is hiring aggressively.  

Google plans to invest over $7 billion in its offices and data centers across the US this year, creating at least 10,000 new full-time jobs at the company. Its also expanding its data centers in Nebraska, South Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Texas, and it expects its existing data center sites in Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, and Nevada to be fully up-and-running this year.

Here’s what skills Google is looking for in its data center employees:

Google looks for a wide variety of skills for its data center employees

When hiring for its data center sites, Google will look for people with prior data center experience or knowledge of specific areas like electrical facilities infrastructure. However, given the relative scarcity of people with past data center work, Google also hires people with varied backgrounds but applicable skillsets. 

For example, the firm told Insider that it has had. success hiring people who have worked in strategic negotiation, construction management, scientific research, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, environmental health and safety, program management, security, aeronautics, energy, or the automotive industry. 

“Those folks tend to be really successful here because they bring their rich history of thinking about problem solving or innovations in a way that just brings better solutions to us,” Google’s global director of data centers, Heather Dooley, told Insider. 

Dooley says the most successful employees have strong critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative working skills. 

“This is a really robust ecosystem of talent: It’s not just the stereotypical operations folks or engineering folks it’s actually much broader than that,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s compelling for people to come into the industry.”

Heather Dooley, global director of data centers at GoogleGoogle

One challenge in hiring, however, is that there is a lack of awareness around these types of careers, Dooley said. Because of that, Google works with schools and trade programs to build a pipeline for hiring, as well as to give people the skills they need to be successful in the industry. 

“There’s a whole variety of talent and skills that are necessary for those roles to be effective,” Dooley said. “We’ve been working a lot with mapping skills and capabilities, not only for our Googlers and enhancing their learning and development investment, but also working within the communities where we build data centers.”

For example, Google has been working closely with local community colleges in Virginia, where many data center sites are located, to point students to careers working in data centers. It’s been helping the schools curate curriculums that fit well with the skills required at its data center sites. 

“I think it’s important for us to participate in the development of curriculum so that the needs and skills that the trade school programs are developing match the needs and skills of Googlers and other data center workers that the industry can develop,” Dooley said.

Early-career employees, like interns and new graduates, can bring in new perspectives, Dooley said.

“We have folks who graduated from those programs they come in and go back to school and help the students by building awareness, understanding more about the opportunities, even preparing them for interviews,” Dooley said.

What it’s like to work at Google’s data center sites

The coronavirus pandemic brought on a set of new challenges for employees at data center sites, both because of the increased demand and CDC guidance on sanitizing surfaces and observing social distancing.

“Social distancing does impact the way you typically do your job,” Henley said. “We were able to find those ways to do that and make sure our people are safe and the world still has the internet use that they still would have.”

Still, there have been silver linings amid the chaos. Because the team had been dealing with increased traffic during the pandemic, it felt better prepared for peaks during the holiday shopping season, Henley says. 

“You are balancing the needs of our customers and what they expect regarding their data and internet access and also the safety and health of our team,” Henley said. “This morale, this camaraderie began to happen. We began to encourage each other and realize the importance of what we do.”

Do you work at Google Cloud? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request.

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