Critical Thinking for Critical Infrastructure

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Can learning how to write and develop critical thinking skills lead to a successful career in critical infrastructure? In this #NomadFuturist podcast, we learn how data centers became the perfect space for Michael King, who combined a strong liberal arts background, an early exposure to technology and an openness to new experiences, leading him to his current position as Head of Data Center Strategy for Cloudflare.

King’s father was a math and computer science teacher and an ed tech CIO in the 80s and there were always computers around the house. As a young person, King became comfortable being hands on with components and operating systems.

“You really had to understand how it worked, put it together, maintain it, do really gnarly things like upgrade MSDOS. I got into the guts that way.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall captured the imagination of the nine-year-old King and led him to choose German as his language elective in middle school. This was the opening to overseas study. After doing executive tech support while in college, King’s German language skills landed him a job working for a large firm in Switzerland.

King started in tech support, moved on to IT management and after networking internally, found a mentor who supported his transition into the data center space.

Given his conversancy with personal computing, this was a perfect fit — something tangible that he could immediately relate to:

A data center is basically just a massive living technology organism that you have to touch all of the time. It’s like a gigantic desk top computer from the 1980s. It is tangible technology…on a massive scale.”

King helped his company with data center acquisition and consolidation. “I learned about the consultative aspects. I was able to work with people who had cradle-to-grave experience with data centers.”

King offers generous advice for people who are starting out. He stresses the fundamental importance of critical thinking.

“You can always concentrate your education on learning how to write and learning how to think. Those are portable skills that will get you in the door in opportunities that you probably wouldn’t otherwise get.”

He believes the data center industry is a wonderful space for generalists with the right skills.

“We need more people who can think in terms of business and critical thinking… who can make economic decisions, make business cases happen, make investment happen… but they need that engineering overlay, so they understand enough to not make poor decisions on a critical infrastructure scale.”

In terms of next big challenges, King sees resource management as key to maintaining the growth of the industry.

“I think that it’s really crucial that we track and measure and improve upon the resources that we are consuming.”

Michael King is the Head of Data Center Strategy for Cloudflare. In this role, he is responsible for all data center business development, partnerships & strategy globally, as well as a leading a team fulfilling Cloudflare's colocation supply plan to enable continued rapid and cost-effective growth.

Prior to this, he was on the Data Center Strategy team at Thomson Reuters, involved in creating and executing a data center consolidation and closure business case to enable migration to cloud. He started his career in enterprise IT. He speaks English and German and has lived in five countries. In his spare time, he collects too many records and enjoys traveling and road tripping with his wife, Melanie.

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