A Fearless Innovator

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This engaging #NomadFuturist podcast takes listeners on an exciting ride with Phill Lawson-Shanks, a fearless IT innovator whose insatiable curiosity, daring, and ability to see patterns led him to insights and accomplishments that have helped advance the world of IT and critical infrastructure—including the development of some of the earliest instances of edge and cloud computing as well as advancements in data center efficiencies.

Lawson-Shanks, who found out later in life that he is dyslexic, was “released” from university into the real world where he started his journey as a security guard for British Airport authorities. Despite not having the typical academic credentials, he quickly won a slot to receive computer training. His natural aptitude for pattern recognition and for what he characterizes as 3D thinking led to a career in programming, followed by network development.

Since then, Lawson-Shanks has partnered with CEOs at various firms on the forefront of innovation and is now the Chief Innovation Officer at Aligned Energy where groundbreaking developments in cooling efficiency are transforming the data center space.

Lawson-Shanks believes that dyslexia may have given him an edge in his career.

“I don’t understand sequential thinking, so I just jump and go and do things. I don’t take no for an answer.”

Lawson-Shanks is modest and playful as he engages with Phil and Nabeel, touching on his involvement with the transition from mainframes to minicomputers, to networks, to the Internet, to data centers, the edge, and sustainability.

He describes how he moved from company to company as he took on exciting new challenges.

“I don’t thrive in large corporations. I like the scrappiness of the startup, the turnaround, the smaller entity. I like bringing it to that stage, that pivot point where it’s going to become something enormous and then look for the next thing.”

Lawson-Shanks has a constant childlike excitement and expectation about what we can do and where we can go. He sees many areas as important to the future including augmented reality, IoT, 5G, machine learning and the circular economy.

He is extremely optimistic about the future of the industry.

“Data centers are truly the engines of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And there’s so much going on that you can do to help the people who are changing how we all live and breathe.”

What does he see as critical skills for success?

“It’s the ability to recognize context and jump—being prepared to buckle down and do what needs to be done, but also,­­ if there’s an opportunity to do it differently, to be able to convince whoever that power broker is that there’s a better or different way… so communication skills are important, being able to read people, and timing.”

Phill Lawson-Shanks has more than 25 years of experience identifying new opportunities for further growth of leading data center infrastructure, network architecture, and cloud solutions in the U.S. and abroad.

As Chief Innovation Officer at Aligned, Lawson-Shanks is responsible for the management of revenue generation and profitability objectives, as well as championing key innovation, technology, and sustainability strategies aimed at maximizing new business development.

Prior to joining Aligned, Lawson-Shanks served as Chief Innovation Officer at EdgeConneX, where he was instrumental in driving strategies focused on creating the next generation of network edge-based data centers for the digital content ecosystem. Throughout his career, Lawson-Shanks has also served in numerous senior executive-level positions at Virtacore, Alcatel-Lucent, Savvis (now CenturyLink Technology Solutions), and MCI (now Verizon Digital Media Services). He currently holds eight active technology patents and serves on the Board of Directors for Netrality Data Centers as well as the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Advisory Board.

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