Data Center Operations Training Program & Certificate
Data Center Training is a key to maintain and develop the competence of the Green Mountain Operations team. That is why Green Mountain has developed their own Operations Training Program to support all new employees in this field.
Bjarne Sørbø was employee number 3 when he started as site manager of DC1-Stavanger back in 2013. He truly knows his way around the facilities and has been responsible for introducing numerous new employees to the site. Now, as a DC Design & Operation Specialist, one of his focus areas has been the development of the new and improved Operations Training Program. This program was introduced in 2019. We had a chat with Bjarne on the contents of this program and why training is so important.
What is the Operations Training program?
In short, it is a part of the Green Academy concept and it consists of three elements. First, it is a 1-3 month on-boarding program for any new employee hired within the Operations department of Green Mountain. When completed, the employee receives his or her DC Operation Training Certificate. Secondly, it also includes a mentoring program, where new employees receive a mentor to support them during the on-boarding phase. At last, the third part is the annual training plan. This is a plan that is based on the training needs at the individual data center. It applies to all operation employees, no matter their level of seniority.
If we start with the on-boarding program. Can you give us an overview of its contents?
Certainly. We have divided the program into 12 modules with different topics. (See list below.) Each module is taught in a combination of classroom teaching and practical onsite training. Furthermore, the training is customized to the data center where the employee will work. However, to build bridges between the different data center locations, we also explain how things work at the other data center locations. I think it is important that we have an overall understanding of all our DC locations in addition to specific expertise on the location where we work.
List of modules:
- Fire Protection
- Civil & Structural
- Automation (BMS, DCIM)
- Physical Security
- Rack Infrastructure
- Service Management
- IT Support Systems
What aspect of this on-boarding program do you think is most important?
I think it is the combination of the modules and mentor program, The first few weeks as a new employee, they have a mixture of the training modules and actual tasks in the data center. (With the support of their mentor.) We want the theoretical training to go hand-in-hand with practical tasks. The mentor is typically a more senior technician that helps and monitors the employee when working. This is the person they can pose all their questions to and lean on for guidance. Moreover, the mentor is responsible for including the new employee in the social setting of the workplace. He must make sure the employee is introduced to everyone and is included as an asset of the team.
There are other international training courses out there. Why did Green Mountain decide to develop an internal training program?
First and foremost, it is because we want to give our new colleagues a specific training related to the data center they are going to operate. Although there is nothing wrong with other external courses, in the introduction program we want it to be as “hands on” as possible. None of the Green Mountain data center facilities are exactly the same, and it is important that they learn the specifics of the location. This does not mean that we do not send employees to other international recognized courses. If we identify a need for a more theoretical or overall training, external courses area a great supplement.
We want the introduction program to be as hands-on as possible. You need to learn the specifics of each DC location.
Moreover, since the data center industry is quite new in Norway, most of the staff we recruit do not have previous experience as data center technicians. They come from a wide range of industries and have solid technical backgrounds but are new to this specific industry. This makes an extensive onboarding program especially important. So far, all our new employees have found this new industry both interesting and attractive. In fact, not one operation technician has left the company to this point.
You mentioned the Annual Training Plan. Can you tell us more about it?
Every year Green Mountain assesses what the short-term leaning needs are at each data center location. This can of course differ a bit, based on both the workforce competence and specific circumstances at the location. A detailed plan is developed and implemented in the organization. A plan like this can for instance include training on new equipment from our suppliers. Let us say we have a new cooling solution. Then, representatives from the supplier can give our employees training on that specific equipment, either by web sessions or on- site. Other types of training can be external courses or knowledge sharing across our locations. For instance, in 2021 we will have an extra focus on fall protection and how to operate lifts. The objective is to make sure that the team as a whole develop the required skills.
In addition, each employee has an individual development plan, that is not necessarily a part of this program.
What are the employees’ responses to this program?
We have received a very positive response to this data centre training program. I think they appreciate the systematic approach and the predictability that it gives. But we are always open to suggestions for improvement and in an industry that is changing rapidly the content of the program evolves constantly.
Jarle Kristiansen, operation technician at DC3-Oslo, puts it this way; “The onboarding program provides a straightforward introduction. You get a dive into what the job entails and how the facility is built up. Meanwhile, you also start working and using the systems. This way, things fall into place naturally.”
Knowledge and experience should be shared in all directions, not only from senior to junior.
It is also important to emphasize that the learning process does not end when an employee has gained her certificate. Our philosophy is that “every day is a learning day”. The Operations Training Program is just one part of “The Green Academy” concept. An important goal is that the competence that this company entails should be accessible to all. In other words, that knowledge and experience should be shared in all directions, not only from senior to junior. In fact, sometimes even our apprentices teach their senior colleagues new skills.
Has Covid-19 affected Data Center Training in any way?
To a certain extent it has, but we have tried to find alternative solutions. For instance, more of the modules have been taught remotely via video. To avoid infection, we have divided the operations team into separate groups. As a result, this limits some of the social interaction that is important during on-boarding. It is unfortunate, but hopefully we will be able to compensate for this when the world gets backs to normal.
You have been a member of the Green Mountain organization for a long time. How would you describe the learning culture in the company?
The Green Mountain culture is based on four key values, one of them being “Knowledge”. Consequently, we have always had a focus on developing our competence in this organization. As time has passed and our company has grown bigger, we have become more systematic in our approach to competence development. Nevertheless, it has always been a part of our DNA. Today we have a culture based on knowledge sharing in the organization. And to be honest, that type of learning culture beats a huge course budget anytime.
A solid learning culture beats a huge course budget anytime.