TRANSCRIPT: Building hyperscale data centers and what it means for career growth - with Joe Proulx
Justin Swierk 00:04
Hey, this is Meet Mortenson.
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Justin Swierk 00:50
Alright! I'm Justin Swierk. Today
we've got Joe Proulx and Bill Peterman. And I'll let them introduce themselves.
Bill Peterman 00:57
This is Bill Peterman, Executive
Recruiter for Mortenson.
Joe Proulx 01:00
This is Joe Proulx, Director of
Operations for our data center group.
Bill Peterman 01:05
Joe, why don't you tell us a little
bit about the data center group.
Joe Proulx 01:09
Pretty exciting time for Mortenson
and the data center group. The group formed here in 2020. We currently have
over 75 salaried team members that are working multiple jobs and campuses.
Right now, we've got several hyperscale customers that we are working with, and
for, building some mega projects within the data center market. One of those
hyper scale customers currently is Facebook. And we're currently in two
locations with them working closely on building 70 megawatt data centers for
their capacity and needs. There's a lot of opportunity on the MEP front, a lot
of leadership roles. And obviously, on these large mega scale projects, we need
the best talent to help deliver an exceptional experience for our customers.
Bill Peterman 02:02
Will we pursue other types of data
centers versus the hyperscale data centers like colos or...?
Joe Proulx 02:11
I would say right now, our business
strategy focuses around our hyperscale customers just based on the demand and
the focus to make sure that we're delivering an exceptional experience for them
delivering top talent in teams that can help execute these types of jobs.
That's not to say that in the future, colos aren't something that we would
pursue or look at. But right now, our focus tends to be on a couple major
customers that help both the company build our data center group, but also make
sure that we're focusing the right time, attention and resources to deliver the
results that we need and the experience that we want for our customers.
Bill Peterman 02:51
Are there certain regions or
territories that we're going to be pursuing data centers east, midwest, west?
Joe Proulx 02:59
I would say right now, our data
center locations revolve around the Midwest and southwest regions primarily
with two hyperscale customers. And that's not to say in the future that that
couldn't expand and grow. But the current pipeline that we do have for the next
handful of years revolves around the Midwest and southwest regions for us and
for our group.
Bill Peterman 03:24
Are any of our other
industry-focused groups helping out on the project sites like power and civil?
Joe Proulx 03:31
So, I would say one thing that has
been a really good thing for Mortenson, as well, is that our customers that are
building these data centers have needs beyond just the general contractor
delivering the vertical build. We also have the ability to cross collaborate
with our our internal groups, whether it's power or civil to help support
whether it's the substation build that we have on the campus, whether it's
doing the civil work on the project site, all opportunities that help not only
for the company, but also allow us to cross collaborate multiple different
groups within Mortenson itself.
Bill Peterman 04:12
And Joe, when looking at an org
chart, it really wouldn't be much different than an org chart for a typical
commercial build out. You'll still have your project managers, your building,
project managers, superintendents, project engineers, but we'll have a heavy
focus on MEP and commissioning.
Joe Proulx 04:35
Yeah, and these mega projects we
have several component teams. So, there's a there's a safety team, a quality
team, a project controls team dealing with cost and schedule. That's not to say
that that is their sole responsibility. They're more of a support mechanism.
But, yeah, we we have a breakdown of a civil, structure, architectural team that
focuses on those scopes of work. And you know, those teams consist of multiple
project managers and engineers. The bulk of the work in the team revolves
around the mechanical, electrical plumbing scopes of work. And that's because a
bulk of the work that we have within these builds revolves around those scopes.
Joe Proulx 05:15
I mean, the data centers that we're
currently building at a hyperscale, you know, range from 500,000 to a million
gross square feet. So, they're very large, complex buildings. And to consider
that 60% of the work that's going into the build is revolving around the MEP
systems indicates the size of the team, the effort and focus that revolves
around those scopes specifically. Which is exciting for team members that want
interface and exposure to large electrical systems, large mechanical systems.
Systems that cross collaborate, and interface with each other, and systems that
ultimately are, are complex in nature that have a technical piece to it that
you might not get in a typical commercial build.
Justin Swierk 06:03
What are the parts of the data
center work that is that is different?
Joe Proulx 06:07
I would say that that a data center
build is different than a lot of your typical projects being that it's very
heavy mechanical, electrical, plumbing focused, very tactical in nature. Our
customers are very well versed in their builds and their expectations. There is
a lot of scrutiny and heightened focus revolving around the quality process and
delivering non-deficient work for the customer within these mission critical
facilities. Obviously, they need to operate and stay consistent within their
operations. I would say that a data center holistically is a mega-job. There is
a large team that's involved with it. So, there's a lot of opportunity
regarding cross collaboration within team members. There's a strong focus on
communication and engagement both internally, but also externally with the
customer base. These builds are very collaborative builds with the customer
being right on site with us and having subject matter experts that helps
support both the build as well as the effort for the team.
Justin Swierk 07:10
Those growth opportunities, what do
those look like and what are those in your mind that that it presents to
Joe Proulx 07:22
I would say on these on these large
mega scale projects, the staff and size of the team ranges from 40 to 60 people
per build. Ranging from multiple different disciplines. And that allows a lot
of opportunity both on a single job, but as we continue to grow and advance on
a campus on multiple builds there is a need to fulfill additional positions and
roles as the campus progresses. Which provides opportunities for team members
that are currently on a campus to get to that next level. Whether it's an
engineer to an APM, an APM, to a project manager, or into a leadership role.
And typically what we're looking for are high performing team members that are
doing a good job on our projects. And typically we're looking for those team members
to stretch and advance into those positions, which allows for growth and
advancement. But ,with multiple builds on a campus and the longevity of a
campus and the multiple opportunities and growth on the org chart that could
advance as the projects and campus progresses, I think provides an opportunity
for team members to grow and advance in their roles. And I would also say it
also allows for some cross collaboration. So if you're doing a specific scope
on a specific team, that's not to say that you can't do a different scope and a
different team as you progress through the campus.
Joe Proulx 08:46
And in reality with such big teams
that we do have, the leadership of the group and of the campus are typically
looking to put people that are high performing in those stretch roles and give
them the opportunity to fulfill the org chart as the campus grows. And I think
that's been a focus to promote within to have our team members grow in advance
and stretch them into roles as as they continue to do a good job.
Joe Proulx 09:14
I think for me within the data
center group, right now, the amount of opportunity that there is both on a
project level, a campus level, a program level. And when I say program, we have
a program team for our hyperscale customers that help support multiple builds
in campuses. Or from a group level, there's just a ton of opportunity as the
group is still in its infancy and forming and storming.
Joe Proulx 09:43
Once we continue to build these
projects on these campuses, the amount of open positions that we need to
fulfill is very strategic on who we put in those roles. And a lot of times the
first consideration for team members to get into those roles, is how do we grow
in advance the team members we have on our current jobs and campuses and afford
them those opportunities if they continue to do a good job.
Joe Proulx 10:10
And I think we've seen a lot of our
team members out here in Utah, specifically, where our data center group, more
or less started, have a lot of opportunities to grow in advance from certain
roles or component teams. And I think that a lot of times people can say it,
but until they see it. They may not believe it. And I think there's a testament
to a lot of team members out here that have ridden the data center wave, have
taken the opportunity, and have seen growth and advancement, and has been a
really good experience for them.
Bill Peterman 10:44
What are we doing out there that's
innovative or that may be different?
Joe Proulx 10:48
There's definitely growth and
advancement opportunities. There's stability. Once again, while we're a
traveling group, there is still that ability to have stability on getting on a
site and being here for a while. So for instance, in Utah, specifically, you
know, there is a long range vision of having more than a couple builds out
here, which lends itself to having five 810 years worth of work. So for team
members that want to have stability, this group and market provides that to
Joe Proulx 11:19
You know, I think one of you know,
me coming to the data center group, the unique thing about not being in trailers
and being in an office building together an office building that has a workout
room and a basketball court in the back, a game room, let's shuffleboard and
ping pong. You know, while those things are great amenities, and available to
our team members, it just shows the dedication and importance of that
supervisory experience for our team members. And being that our team members
are the most important thing we've got to deliver these projects it's a nice
compliment for both a value for Mortenson, but also our customers.
Joe Proulx 11:54
I mean, I think that's unique in
itself. I think the growth and advancement opportunities are unique. I think
the customers that we're working with, like Facebook is obviously public
knowledge for us, Bill. So, you know, working with a Facebook as a hyperscale
customer and client that has only increasing demands as a positive for
stability of a group, but also growth and advancement opportunities knowing
that the likelihood of Facebook's business slowing down is very unlikely. And
their capacities are only growing.
Joe Proulx 12:28
I would say that if there's any
wave that you want to ride, this would be the wave to ride. The data center
needs and demand and capacity is only going to increase as the market of
technology and innovation continues to grow. And this is definitely a wave
worth riding if you're willing to be part of large mega teams and large mega
jobs, have a willingness to learn, grow and advance, and have the ability to
engage in MEP systems. A customer that's very collaborative. And a large team
that ends up becoming more or less a family on the sites, which is super
important for just the overall experience.
Bill Peterman 13:11
Joe, thanks for your time today. I
certainly enjoyed listening to your story and learning more about the data
Justin Swierk 13:17
Yeah, this is great. This will be
Joe Proulx 13:20
I appreciate you both. A lot of
good questions. Really exciting time for the data center group and looking
forward to future discussions.
Justin Swierk 13:34
That's it. I hope you enjoyed the
conversation. Please reach out to us if you have any questions, but we really
hope you enjoyed this episode of Meet Mortenson. Have a great day.