So you work with, in, or around a data center…How do you describe your job to friends or family?

So you get a new job working or selling into a data center, and your so excited to tell everyone about it because you have been hoping for a great job like this forever. Then you tell your first person. I got this job and i’m going to be working with data centers….they are excited because you are excited (woo hoo), then the first question….so wait what do you do?  Well now here is where it gets a little complicated, because this person’s computer skills go as far as knowing how to write an email and check their Facebook account…so what do you say?

You could go Wikipedia style, basically saying the exact definition of what a data center is…..

Well I sell products that go into a data center, and a data center  is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices…..yep you lost them….you could have told them you fix rainbows so that unicorns can get to there magical place and you would still be in the exact same spot….










You could go with the classic: I work with computers

You figured they have to know what a computer is, so the fact you work with them should make sense? And acutually it does…but now they want you fix there computer, along with everyone they know, and now instead of calling geek squad they call you…grrr…











You could go with a vague response: I work with technology

Yep, lost them again, they think you either are an inventor, a scientist, or just a guy that selles computer parts at the mall….either way not as glamours and you originally thought it was going to be.










You could go Al Gore style:

I make the internet work….this is classic! The first time I heard it, I loved it. It sounds important, and everyone knows what the internet is, and very rarely does someone break the internet…usually their computer doesn’t work first…however…it still doesn’t explain what you do….











You could go with an analogy…and depending on the analogy this could work

So you know how all your information is stored at a bank and you can access it through online banking and your tellers can access it when you go to the bank, well that information is all stored in a central location called a data center…and I work in a place like that… at this point they are going to say they understand because quite frankly they probably understand about 50% and they don’t want to risk going back to understanding nothing so they just leave it.











Bottom line, unfortunately if the person has no experience with technology or computers they may never understand what you do. And probably at this point you have excepted that, well at least I have 🙂 But  I would love to hear how you describe your job to family members and friends! I look forward to hearing from you!!

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  • Joe Kovar - September 9, 2011 - 3:26 am

    My approach to non tech savvy people is this: You know how web sites like Ebay, Amazon and Facebook grow bigger and bigger by the day? Well the information that’s added (pictures, video’s, etc.) take up more and more data. So we need more machines to process and produce that data. The machines grow so big that they are in rooms called data centers that can be as big as a football field. I sell all the equipment that goes in those “football field” sized computer rooms. So as long as the internet keeps expanding and specific markets are flourishing, I will have a job.ReplyCancel

  • Michael Weaver - September 9, 2011 - 1:26 pm

    This is classic and I have always struggled with this for non-IT people no matter what position I have been in with regards to IT

    Describing mine is always tough with the title “Director of Cloud Operations”. First I have to explain the cloud and then I have to explain what I do and it usually goes something like this.

    “I am responsible for delivering IT cloud services to Insight’s customers. The cloud is just a way to provide services over the Internet – such as email, virtual servers, email security, and backups – Google is a cloud email service since it is Internet delivered (lightbulb comes on but very dim) Facebook is a cloud application since you use it over the Internet and all the systems that power it are in remote data centers and you don’t have to care how it works as long as you can access it and it works (Lighbulb is brighter) My primary responsibility is leading a project to deliver a portal where our customers can educate, purchase, procure, and manage cloud services (I lose them again). I am also responsible for Client Care and defining services to augment our cloud products such as data migrations and system integration.”

    At this point they either look impressed or they figure I am full of crap and all I do is fix computers and I am trying to dress it up, which isn’t necessarily incorrect. I am going to try the Unicorn & Rainbow approach!

    Thanks Diane – great post!


    • kipandgary - September 9, 2011 - 2:26 pm

      Thanks Michael this is great! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Mike Wright - September 23, 2011 - 3:36 pm

    Diane – I loved this post and the comics! When I get the dazed look I go with a version of the old BASF commercial. “We sell the things that make your cool things work”

    Michael – I enjoyed your Google / Facebook idea.. I may try that and see how bright the bulb gets…


  • Gary Bootland - September 27, 2011 - 2:22 pm

    Fantastic article. Its a classic situation! My best buddies outside of work always claim to never understand what I do, I’ve been doing it for the past 5 years so I just advise them i’m a “critical power and cooling architect” and then hope they assume i’m cool and that I build crazy but intelligent buildings/sculptures and hopefully nothing relating to UPS’s and InRow cooling.ReplyCancel

  • Michael Kreitz - September 27, 2011 - 5:08 pm


    You have captured the essence of being in the data center business with this thread. Well done!

    I have tried various things over the years, but I have found this to be most effective.

    “I work at a place that looks like a huge warehouse that is filled with computer systems” Quick and to the point. Sounds a bit dull but I find that if someone is truly interested, they will ask follow-up questions. If they do, I take your lead with the unicorn response.

    If not, then mission accomplished…ReplyCancel

  • Gonzalo - August 9, 2012 - 2:39 pm

    Really funny it reminds me the first time i started working in datacenter businees and i tried to explain to my family and friends!ReplyCancel

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