Like many before me and many after me, I inadvertently found myself in the data infrastructure technology industry, a world hidden from our typical educational resources and pathways. It was a new and exciting world that nurtured my growth while powering our world. During my time, I’ve had the opportunity to lead large-scale global technology organizations via M&A, global expansion, implement new business models, and technology innovation, all the while learning the changing landscape. The great thing about this space is that there is always room for learning and expansion because of its digital nature. Why? Because there is no room to go backwards in the digital world.
Lately, I’ve found myself reflecting more on my path to where I am today. I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished many things and am lucky to be given a third chance at life. The milestones I’ve achieved in my career would not have been possible without the education and support I received from the people around me. I didn’t get a degree in data centers, or anything remotely related. Still, I can do what I do because of the education; the tribal knowledge so generously imparted to me when I stepped into the industry. I reflect now on those opportunities given to me and feel their calling. They are calling me to take the education I received and make it accessible to as many people as possible. This knowledge that powers the industry lives on through the brilliant minds of its leaders, but there is no formal pathway that is readily available to those that show interest in stepping into the industry. People go to school to become a doctor, a scientist, an accountant, etc., but no one goes to school to become a data center leader. In fact, it is most likely that the average person doesn’t even know what a data center is, much less the entirety of the digital infrastructure industry.
Take the modern-day child. They’re no strangers to video games, the internet, or the next big social media app. In fact, most might even know what a cloud is, but what happens after that? Where does the knowledge of a cloud lead? Do they know that the cloud is housed in a data center, or that our world would cease to operate at an optimal level without a data centre? Their precious video games and TikTok videos would be rendered obsolete. The current answer is most likely not. So how is it that this industry powers the world but is not widely known? A quick search on the internet will show that there are but a few places that offer any kind of education regarding the industry. Though the industry is teeming with talent, full of forward thinkers that strive to continuously improve our digital world, that talent will soon retire, and we will be faced with the inevitable: a whole gap in a generation where this knowledge will be lost.
It is imperative that we start to put down roots and create educational programs that directly address the digital infrastructure industry. We need to allow the younger generation to understand that this industry is the foundation of the world as we know it. More importantly, this industry is a possible career path for them as they discover their interests. Children are impressionable sponges, constantly soaking up information in front of them, then taking that knowledge learned and creating something spectacular. If we can show them at a young age that their interests and advancements in the digital world are contingent upon the industry that powers it, imagine the incredible leaders just waiting to take charge and lead the world.
By taking the tribal knowledge within the industry and funnelling it into structured educational programs, we’re creating a sustainable ecosystem for the younger generation to carry the torch into the next facet of the digital world. By teaching the younger generation the foundations of what the industry entails, from something as simple as “What is a data center and what does it do?”, the possibilities become endless.
I have started focusing on getting these programs created through my 501c3 nonprofit and working with other organizations with the same goal. Collectively, our resources are more substantial, and our reach is broader. I urge everyone to give back, whether in resources or donations, to organizations dedicated to educating the younger generation. We will define our future as long as we can provide education and exposure to the next generation and the leadership of tomorrow, enabling us to support human development. The future is ours to create.
Nabeel Mahmood is a Technologist, Futurist, Influencer and a Keynote Speaker. Nabeel has 25-plus years of experience leading large-scale global technology organizations through seasons of explosive growth via M&A, global expansion, implementing new business models, and technology innovation. His areas of expertise include Big Data, Cloud, ERP, IoT, AI, ML, RPA, Mobility, and Data Centers. Nabeel is a strategic CXO identifying opportunities that are being underpinned by emerging technologies and is an advisor to CIOs, CTOs and CEOs across a number of industries. He serves on multiple boards of private and publicly traded companies.