Leaders are Made!

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There are certain individuals in this world who draw people and opportunities to them through some combination of attributes that include likeability, trustworthiness, community-mindedness, and an aptitude for leadership. TJ Ciccone, currently Vice President of Critical Operations for STACK Infrastructure, is one of these individuals. In this #NomadFuturist podcast, he shares with Phil and Nabeel a career trajectory that includes a five-year stint in the Navy as a nuclear engineer and ten years in retail starting with the overnight shift at Crown Petroleum and moving on to roles at Wawa and Target, prior to finding the data center industry.

While at Wawa, Ciccone put himself through college. One of his regular customers was a District Manager for Target who wooed him away from Wawa.

Ciccone eventually decided to get out of retail. He studied for the LSAT exam and won a scholarship to law school at Widener. Yet something unexpected happened. “I was on my way to Widener and while I'm driving there, I got a phone call from my buddy Chris who was the Regional Manager for the Northeast for Digital Realty at the time. And he said, ‘Hey, how would you like to work in a data center?’”

Ciccone fell in love with the data center industry. He started out as an engineering technician and had the good fortune to work for a great boss who he followed to three different facilities during the first seven years of his career. He then got the opportunity to move up to a director role at Coresite and ultimately was recruited by STACK Infrastructure.

Ciccone emphasizes the importance of personal relationships. “People say it's all about who you know, but I like to say, it's all about who knows you.” Meanwhile Ciccone has now become a mentor to many.

“All of my best friends right now work in the data center industry. And a lot of them have even followed me from job to job.”

He ascribes his success in the data center world to a combination of HR skills as well as the ability to develop a Method of Procedure (MOP) and execute it in the field.

Ciccone also teaches a data center program at Northern Virginia Community College. He shares how satisfying it is to see the impact that the course is having on the lives of students from diverse backgrounds.

“In the first three and a half years of the program, we had approximately 45 students and close to 90% of them are working in the data center field right now!”

He talks about the importance of leadership:

“Good leaders make such a big difference on a team. I am a firm believer that leaders are made, not born.”

Given the dramatic growth in demand for critical infrastructure and the issue of so many resources “aging out,” Ciccone highlights the urgent need to bring more people into the data center industry and expresses his enthusiasm and commitment to opening opportunities for the next generation. His advice:

“As you're looking for next opportunities, if you're good enough, especially in this industry, the opportunities will find you. You're going to build up your reputation and brand.”

TJ Ciccone is the Vice President of Critical Operations for STACK Infrastructure. Ciccone has over 12 years of data center management experience and a combined 18 years of involvement with critical facilities. Ciccone is also an adjunct professor for Northern Virginia Community College where he teaches the Introduction to Data Center Operations course.

From 1994 to 1999, Ciccone was enlisted in the US Navy where he qualified senior-in-rate, Chief Mechanical Operator, while serving onboard the USS Enterprise where he was responsible for the daily mechanical operations of the nuclear power plant. Ciccone successfully graduated Magna Cum Laude from Immaculata University in 2008 with a B.A. in Organizational Dynamics with an emphasis in Business Management.

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