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Reshaping the Data Centre Narrative: Schneider Electric’s Mark Yeeles Champions a Sustainable and Inclusive Future

Fri 15 Mar 2024

During the buzz of Data Centre World 2024, we spoke to Mark Yeeles of Schneider Electric following his panel ‘Reshaping the Industry Narrative: From Toxic Dumps to Climate Change Champion, becoming the career path of choice’.

As Vice President for Secure Power for UK and Ireland at Schneider Electric, Mark brought to light the critical need to alter public and internal perceptions of the data centre industry.

Mark stressed the importance of projecting a positive image of data centres, particularly in the context of environmental sustainability.

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Turning the Tide on Perception

Mark’s panel session aimed to confront and redefine the longstanding narrative that paints data centres as energy guzzlers contributing to environmental degradation.

“It’s really important we put the positive message out there,” Mark asserted, indicating a collective responsibility among industry stakeholders to shift focus towards the significant strides being made in sustainability and energy efficiency within data centres.

Mark’s comments reflect a broader understanding that data centres, traditionally viewed through a lens of skepticism due to their substantial energy consumption, are actually at the forefront of adopting green technologies and practices.

These facilities are increasingly leveraging renewable energy sources, implementing advanced cooling techniques, and exploring innovative solutions to minimise their carbon footprint. These transformations enhance operational efficiency and place the data centre in a leading role within the global effort to combat climate change.

This shift in narrative is crucial for improving the public image of data centres whilst also attracting investment and support for further green innovations.

Mark pointed out that the industry is mostly aligned in its environmental goals, with clients and providers on the same page regarding the urgency of embracing sustainability. The challenge becomes communicating these efforts more effectively and to ensure that the positive impact of data centres on climate action is recognised and celebrated.

By focusing on ‘changing the narrative’, Mark highlighted the need for a concerted effort to educate both industry insiders and the wider public about the transformative changes underway. This involves showcasing the technological advancements that make data centres more eco-friendly and framing these developments within the larger context of global sustainability efforts.

The drive to ‘turn the tide on perception’ is, therefore, a multifaceted endeavor. It requires data centre operators, service and solution providers like Schneider Electric, and industry bodies to work together in promoting a more informed and balanced view of the sector.

Through conferences, media outreach, and educational initiatives, the industry can start to redefine its image, portraying data centres as key players in a greener, more technologically advanced future.

Embracing Diversity for a Sustainable Future

Mark explained that diversity extends beyond the conventional parameters of gender and ethnicity to encompass diversity of thought, background, and experience. This comprehensive understanding of diversity is pivotal for the data centre industry, particularly as it grapples with the dual challenges of rapid technological evolution and escalating environmental concerns.

“The younger people can help us redefine what the language needs to sound like when we talk outwardly about the industry,” said Mark, highlighting the essential role that the next generation plays in crafting a new, inclusive narrative for the industry.

Mark also recognised that younger demographics are more attuned to the pressing issues of climate change and more likely to prioritise employment in industries that demonstrate a clear commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles.

By fostering an environment where diverse experiences and ideas are valued, the data centre industry can better align its operations with the principles of sustainability and social responsibility.

Attracting the Next Generation

Traditional job descriptions, corporate communications, and even the way companies present themselves on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn need a radical overhaul. The goal is to resonate authentically with a generation that prioritises sustainability, diversity, and innovation.

Mark suggested that the industry needs to speak the language of younger professionals by being clear, purposeful, and impactful.

The critical takeaway from Marl’s discussion on attracting the next generation is the imperative for the data centre industry to listen more attentively and act more decisively.

The industry must move beyond conventional recruitment strategies and embrace more inclusive, dynamic, and transparent approaches to highlight the exciting and impactful career opportunities it offers. This involves showcasing the diversity of roles within the sector, from engineering and software development to sustainability management and beyond, thereby illustrating the data centre industry as a vibrant and fulfilling career path.

The key to unlocking this potential also lies in authentically addressing the concerns and aspirations of younger generations. This includes offering competitive remuneration and benefits that are clearly stated on job descriptions, as well as demonstrating a clear commitment to sustainability, social responsibility, and innovation.

The Crucial Role of Industry Veterans

Mark shared a vision where seasoned industry figures become active advocates for ESG principles and ‘agents of change’.

“People of my demographic have a big role to play,” said Mark, underscoring the idea that industry veterans are key drivers of change. This perspective shifts the narrative from one of passing the torch to a more collaborative effort between different generations within the industry.

With their wealth of experience and knowledge, longstanding individuals in the industry are uniquely positioned to influence the industry. Their insights into the industry’s past and present can offer invaluable lessons in navigating the future, especially as the sector grapples with rapid technological advancements and shifting societal expectations.

Mark also suggested that new and established talents can be attracted from different sectors, including those from sectors such as food and beverage, energy, and more. This approach injects fresh perspectives into the data centre industry and aligns with the drive towards diversity and innovation.

Envisioning the Future of Data Centres

Mark’s reflections offer a blueprint for the data centre industry’s path forward. At the heart of this vision lies a robust commitment to ESG principles, signifying a transformative shift in how data centres operate and are perceived both within and outside the industry.

“We all work for money and joy; they’re the two things that we work with. If you get both of those, hallelujah,” Yeeles remarked, highlighting the important balance between financial sustainability and personal fulfillment as central to attracting future talent.

Mark called for a unified effort among all stakeholders in the data centre ecosystem to drive this transformative agenda. This includes operators, suppliers, customers, and the broader community working together to redefine what data centres can and should be in the service of society.

“Can we change it? We can. We can make this change,” said Mark.

It is about making ‘little steps’ towards a grand vision, recognizing that progress often comes through cumulative, incremental efforts rather than sweeping, instantaneous changes.

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