AFCOM intern Chris Martin clarifies his path at CyrusOne
The Taoist philosophy teaches its followers life is like a river, and the path of least resistance is to simply go with the flow. It’s a philosophy CyrusOne intern and Northern Virginia Community College engineering technology major Chris Martin has adopted to find his way.
“Just keep it moving,” he said. “If things aren’t working out, eventually they will,” he said. “Just don’t quit.”
The 27-year-old had already studied business in college and was working as a bartender in Falls Church, Virginia, near his hometown of Burke, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
“After that, I wanted to change careers and get into something different,” Martin said. “I eventually found the data center operations program online, and I just went with it, and I stuck with it.”
As a native Virginian, he watched the local landscape change as data centers and IT became big-growth industries in the commonwealth.
“The market here in Virginia is just so big and I’ve grown up around this area well-aware about how the industry kind of exploded out in Ashburn and Loudon County,” he said. “Growing up and living around this area made it impossible for me not to be interested in it. I saw this place go from rural farmland to a bunch of big buildings in the matter of 15 years. And there are all sorts of avenues that you can go through in the industry – endless opportunities.”
He took professor Thomas “TJ” Ciccone’s data center operations class, where he discovered the Association for Computer Operations Management’s (AFCOM) summer data center internship program. The data center industry currently has a labor crunch and skills gap that require rethinking how the sector recruits and attracts burgeoning talent. AFCOM wants to help bridge that gap, advancing data center and IT infrastructure professionals through delivering comprehensive and vendor-neutral education and peer-to-peer networking to its members around the world.
All it took was nudge from his professor got him to investigate the AFCOM program.
“Ciccone did a lot of work to create the program at NoVa and currently teaches one class there,” he said. “It’s really a crash course in the data center industry and operations. He’s just been in the industry and can help people. He really pushes the internship program.”
Martin did a four-week internship at CyrusOne from July to August 2022, where he gained invaluable experiences. CyrusOne is proud to partner with AFCOM’s Potomac Chapter and offer paid internships to train and inspire the next generation of data center professionals. We believe internships are a vital part of any company’s talent pipeline and often the launching point of a great career, providing insights and experiences academia rarely offers while earning a degree. Our interns get one-on-one assignments, career mentoring, weekly check-ins, progress reports and long-term mentorship.
“I’ve been on tours at data centers and it’s obvious there’s a huge gap in skilled labor to come in and fill these holes that are needed,” Martin said. “I’m proud to be the next data center professional and part of the next generation of data center professionals.”
During his summer internship tour of several date center companies, CyrusOne has stood out.
“CyrusOne’s been a little bit different than the previous companies I was with this summer,” he said. “I’ve spent lots more time with CyrusOne’s leadership, for example, and less time with shadowing techs, engineers and facility guys. I’ve attended a lot of meetings and customer tours and did more admin.”
What really challenged him at first was the “alphabet soup” of industry terminology.
“Sometimes learning the verbiage that’s tossed around can be kind of hard, especially when you’re only given one month,” he said. “It can be hard to wrap your head around all the acronyms. But for me, it’s been more of ‘Let’s give you a holistic view on the industry and a crash course and how the facility runs.’”
He added that he was interested in seeing “the magic behind the curtain.”
“This is what facilities and operations really is,” he said “When I first got into the data center industry at the beginning of the summer, I had no idea how much is involved in just powering a server. But to run a data center, it’s a huge ordeal.”
Having the chance to intern with CyrusOne also helped him clarify his goals after graduating.
“Until I got to Cyrus One, I was still kind of hesitant about which avenue I wanted to start my career in and how I wanted to start my career,” he said. “But now I’m fixated on applying to become an operations engineer. I want to learn the bare bones of how a data center runs.”
And the internship was a vital step along his path to a career in the industry.
“I would definitely recommend getting into the data center industry,” Martin said. “I’ve only been attempting to break in for a year, and I’ve already done an internship and I’m pretty sure made some advances toward reaching my goal of getting an operations engineer job. So, I’d recommend the program to anyone, especially the AFCOM internship.
Sometimes, even when going along with the flow, it’s easier to navigate and get ahead with the help of a partner.
“CyrusOne definitely gave me a jumpstart,” he said. “Each company I worked for this summer, showed me different avenues of the business. I got a lot of sales and project management exposure. And I was able to spend time with all the leadership of Cyrus One in this area and got a good grasp on things.”
When he has his degree in hand later this year, you can expect to find him in Northern Virginia’s data center industry, just keeping things moving.
“I’ve always imagined my career to include the ability for constant progression, teamwork and to be meaningful,” he said. “I never want to be stagnant; I love being engaged and staying curious. Constantly learning new things is something I’ll thoroughly enjoy while working in the data center industry.”