You’ve successfully secured yourself an interview, but put the victory dance away you’ve still got the difficult part to do. While you have a foot in the door and your file on their desk there’s still the dreaded interview to go before you are made the data center manager. Wouldn’t it be great if you could know what the interviewer was going to ask you? Or just have a general idea of exactly what it is they’re looking for? While it isn’t yet possible to read minds, there does seem to be a set list of common questions that are asked in data center manager interviews.
We don’t recommend that you have a set of revised answers to these questions, but it’s important to spend some time getting comfortable with what you could be asked so that you can stay calm and show your interviewer that you are the right person for the job. Keep reading so that you can find all the possible answers you could need so you can walk in and ace that interview.
1. What is a Data Center According to You?
By definition a typical data center is a group of networked computer servers that are used by organizations for things such as remote storage, processing or distribution of large amounts of data. A lot of people have different ideas of what is and isn’t a data center so keep an open mind and make sure you do a large amount of research as to what data center type the company your being interviewed for might be Focus on finding out the amount of servers and VM hosts your dealing with and then base your description around that.
2. What are Data Center Cages and Cabinets?
Cage and cabinets are places in shared room environments that customers can use to house servers, storage or communication equipment. Whether a customer has a cage or a cabinet depends on the size of the data that they need to store. Typically a cage is a moveable wall which is placed on top of raised flooring. The cage blocks off different sections for each customer and can be adjusted to fit the needs of each customer. Cabinets refer to customers buying lockable individual racks to house their data. These cabinets come in three size options of a 1/3, half or a full cabinet and are usually purchased by larger retail colocation customers.
3. What Is Your Daily Routine As A Data Center Manager?
Every manager has a different style of doing things; however, some key activities need to be undertaken as part of their everyday job. As the data center manager, your main responsibility is to make sure that all daily operations are running smoothly. Most mornings start with checking performance indicators and metrics. Afterwards moving onto to check the statuses of dashboards and shift change reports so that any issues with the team can be noted and dealt with. Once the status of the team is confirmed and all problems are solved the manager will normally continue onto checking in with various departments and team leads, discussing any problems or jobs that need tackling. Once all the initial morning tasks are completed the data center manager will spend a good proportion of their day in meetings before walking around the facility making checklists for teams on things that need addressing and taking the opportunity to have quick stand-up talks with employees ensuring that they have the opportunity to inform you of any concerns or problems. Afternoons will then generally be spent in one to one meetings and emails before handing the shift over for the evening.
4. Can You Describe The Key Roles Within A Data Center Team?
A data center typically consists of three types of staff groups, the main section consisting of the data center team which is then supported by IT and security operations. The specific types of jobs that are included in a data center are dependent on the type and size of the facility. While the data center manager is the main person responsible for making sure that the process runs smoothly there is also a long list of people included in the team who all perform key roles.
Data center technicians – key members of the team who’s skill base cover a variety of tasks, technicians normally go where they are needed most in the data center often performing tasks like running cables and cross-connections and rebooting servers.
Developers – These are normally found writing custom software or integrating products into the data centers systems. They can also perform tasks like integrating customers’ account information into other systems.
Network techs / Admin – The techs are the people you need when the data center runs into technical difficulties. They can be found dealing with networking issues such as allocating IP address blocks and updating or fixing routing information.
Laborers – Generally people with the lowest skill sets but one of the most crucial parts of the team. They are normally used for loading and unloading at the receiving dock, cleaning or other repetitive low skill industrial tasks.
5. Explain How Do You Plan Before Data Center Migration Activity Took Place
Data center migrations are possibly the riskiest operation that could happen within the company. With risks of lost data and excessive downtime, it is essential that the process runs smoothly which is where executives look to you the data center manager. To ensure that the complex process goes smoothly it is essential that you plan as much as possible. Before attempting the migration you should assess the current infrastructure, this involves updating the center’s configuration management database – this information gives you enough visibility to be able to tell what any challenges could be. Once all information about the current data center is collected it’s time to design and estimate what to move and when the best times are to move them before building and migrating the infrastructure successfully.
6. What New Strategies Will You Use When There Is A Skill Shortage As A Data Center Manager?
A skills shortage is the biggest challenge the data center industry is currently facing caused by management complexity and local shortages of qualified staff the situation is only getting worse. A possible solution is to use the STEM initiative, which aims to prepare the next generation of mission-critical engineers. Stem applies to skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and is being applied across schools to ensure that people are qualifying with useful skill sets. As a data center manager, it is also possible to use this initiative within the current data center staff base. By making sure that all employees have the four disciplinary skills it allows for staff such as laborers to be given opportunities to move up in positions starting a process of creating your own workforce with the exact skills you need.
7. How Will Climate Change Affect Your Resiliency Planning as a Data Center Manager?
Global warming is a huge current issue within society with many consumers starting to question companies on what role they are playing to help combat climate change. As the data center manager, you have to be responsible for coming up with climate change solutions that don’t just meet the expected company guidelines but go beyond to make sure that you are a leading example to other companies across the world. Along with climate change being a debated topic, it is also a complicated one meaning that you may have a lot of trial and error projects before successfully making sure your center is playing its part in reducing the damage to the earth.
Make sure that you have a list of options in your resiliency planning such as ways to make your existing facilities more environmentally friendly while also preparing for potential extreme weather threats in the future. There is also the potential to move towards hybrid IT which is using a mix of on-premises data centers, colocation, and cloud.
It’s important to remember with your resiliency planning that there are other options so make sure that you are will to adapt your initial ideas and then try again.
8. What Factors Will Make You Develop a ‘Zero Trust Approach’ as a Data Center Manager?
Guaranteed network security is essential for a data center, however with the technologies that hackers are using constantly updating and improving you need to make sure that your security is developing at the same pace. Which is why many companies are bringing in the Zero Trust Approach.
What exactly is the Zero Trust Approach? The security concept is based on the belief that a company should never automatically trust anything that is inside or outside the organization until it has been verified by the system. To develop an effective zero-trust approach it is important that every user is verified, every device is validated and that each individual’s access is limited intelligently.
The most important factor in a zero-trust approach is that it really is proven to help with security with breaches being 50% less likely than before. The security that is guaranteed from this model helps businesses to feel more confident in being able to bring new business models and customer experiences to the market. So as a data center manager developing a solid zero-trust approach seems like a sensible idea.
9. How Do You Arrange Your Staff Roster To Ensure There Is Coverage 24/7?
A 24/7 roster is a slow rotating shift pattern which generally used by having a total of four teams that all rotate with each other in three eight hour shifts. The four teams all rotate with each other every 28-days., ensuring that there is constant 24/7 coverage of the data center.
When arranging each team into a rota pattern it is important to ensure that there is the right team with the skills needed to keep the center running, making sure that there is an equal number of security guards, technicians, and labors, and so on to ensure that the teams created are effective. As the data center manager, you should also get to understand your employees so that you understand what employees would be most effective where.
10. There Is A System Breach On Your Organization Data Management System, How Will You Handle The Situation As A Data Center Manager?
System breaches are always planned for and well protected against, however it isn’t always possible to stop everything from getting through, with hackers constantly developing viruses that are harder to stop it is important that you are well acquainted with the process that you should follow after a system breach.
It is first important to ensure that the breach is stopped as soon as it’s noticed. The way that the breach is stopped is completely dependent on the nature of the attack and which systems have been affected by it. But isolating the systems accessed and disconnecting breached user accounts can help. Once the attack has been eliminated you should then assess the damage before notifying everyone that had been affected. After the team is dealing with recovering possible lost data you need to make sure you update your recovery plan with the information of the attack and how it happened so that your team can protect data against any similar attacks in the future.
11. Data Center Managers Need To Be Updated With The Latest Trends In Data Center Technology, How Will You Ensure Your Up To Date?
As the leading team member of the data center, everyone will be expecting you to have updated knowledge so that you can keep the center performing and improving with modern trends. With new trends and data center methods constantly appearing it is essential that you find an effective method of keeping up. A few way of staying updated include dedicating an hour of your working week to reading new research or news articles about your industry, talking to other data center managers to see how they are tackling current issues, or taking a course in a new software that has just emerged so that you are able to advise other members of your team. Just staying in communication with your working community is a good idea, but whatever method works for you is best.
12. How Do You Motivate A Junior Staff That Has Been Sidelined By Your Data Management Team As A Manager?
Whether you’ve seen it first hand or experienced it directly, it’s not uncommon for junior members of staff to be thrown to the sidelines by the senior staff members for being viewed as inexperienced or immature. It’s your job as the data center manager to make sure that they don’t start becoming unmotivated as having a junior employee holds the benefit of being able to train them with the exact skill sets you need as a company. If a staff member has been sidelined there are a few options you can put into place to try and rectify the situation. Firstly you could delegate specific roles that each team member has to complete and stick to, this allows the junior member of the team to feel like they are having a positive effect and direct involvement in the process. It’s also important that you get to understand the individual that way you can give them tasks that will develop the skills for the specific data management career they want. This also helps if you choose to buddy them up with a senior member of staff who is responsible for transferring skills. It may also be useful to talk to the rest of the team to find out what their concerns about the individual are and if you can solve them.
13. Please Explain What Activities Need To Be Considered During Data Center Migration
While data migration is often seen as been risky it is sometimes an essential process for companies that can’t be avoided. To ensure that the migration of data goes smoothly there are some things that you and your team have to consider. The first key consideration is the risks and how to reduce them. If there are any potential loss of data or server downtime they have to be recognized before the migration can even be considered. It is also important to consider that there could be applications that are decades old being migrated so all the systems and networks have to be understood so that it can be established what the best ways of moving each one are. Another key element that needs consideration when migrating a data center is latency, this is where the hardware can affect its performance through increased network latency. To limit the effect latency will have it is important to work out which programs work together. Once all of these have been considered and put into a plan the migration should run smoothly.
14. There Has Been An Insubordination Which Has Led To A Breach Of A Client Personal Information. Explain How You Will Handle The Issue As A Data Center Manager?
A breach affecting a client’s personal information is the worst possible kind as a long list of problems can occur for both you and the client. It is important to first deal with the breach following the normal process of stopping it, assessing the damage and then updating the recovery plan for the future. However, as it is personal information that the hacker has acquired it is important that after notifying everyone effected that you file a report with the Federal Trade Commission as the leaked information could potentially lead to identity theft. Make sure that you also inform the local police and your company heads so that an investigation can take place. After following the procedure keep working with the client and inform your team on how to prevent any future cases from hap
15. What Is Data Center Containment?
Data center containment refers to the process of intending to restrict the mixing of different air temperatures. The separation of cold airflow from the hot airflow that is being created by the system should help to save the company revenue by reducing energy and leading to overall improved equipment performance.
The typical model for data center containment is to enclose the cold aisle with ceiling panels above, between racks and with doors at either end, the hot air that is then emitted from the server is pushed out of the aisle through a chimney system to prevent the air from mixing. There is also the option to use curtain systems, modular systems, and in-row cooling to create even more efficiency.
16. Explain What Critical Power Means
One of the worst possible situations for a data center manager is to go into critical power. Critical power can lead to a power outage that could affect hospitals, communication centers, colleges and more. It is the data center manager responsibility to ensure that you have critical power systems put into place just in case one of these situations arise.
Critical power systems are also referred to as being energy management systems that can detect outages which then works to start back-up generators so that mission-critical equipment can be provided with clean power. Extensive backup generators can always be found in data centers so that the customers housed storage, servers or communication equipment is kept safe and working.
17. What Style Would You Use When Approaching Managing a Data Center?
This is the perfect opportunity to sell your personality to the interviewer. Avoid going off into a speech about a textbook management process you learned, while you’re likely to tick off all of the technical steps they’re looking for in a center managers process it can often come off as being generic. When referencing your style you should avoid label words altogether such as: progressive and consultative, as these words have several meanings and can be interpreted differently by each individual. Mention how you would change your management process in the center departments in reference to all the different elements within it, such as data specialists and technicians having different needs.
18. Do You Have Any Experience As A Data Center Manager?
It’s likely that everyone going for the job has some prior experience with data or just being a manager in general, so make sure that you speak about any specifics relating to the job you have. Being able to go into detail about the position and the company means that you need to make sure that you’ve done your homework and have enough knowledge about the job. While you may not have a massive folder of previous managing experience it is assumed that you have some technical knowledge of data centers and have perhaps worked in a different data center job previously such as a technician, let them know that you have a clear understanding of what it takes to be a data center manager.
19. How Have You Improved Your Data Center Knowledge Over The Past Year?
Now that you’ve let them know about the work experience you have it’s to showcase your personality some more. While you are there for the job that doesn’t mean that the talk has to stay strictly focused on work, most employers are looking for a self-motivated individual who has a clear understanding of the processes within the data center alongside experience with managing. While you could go into a ramble about your hobbies, it is generally best to put a bit of planning into this answer before you go in. By planning before you can create a list of work and non-work related things that you have done to get potential employers interested. Maybe you took a course specializing in data or have been part of a event where you needed to lead a group of people. You might have developed your knowledge in another part of the data center to increase your skill base or looked into helping the environment with upgraded containment systems.
20. How Would You Handle a Difficult Employee Who Was Not Doing Their Job Properly?
As a data center manager, your going to be dealing with an endless number of departments, which all come with their demands and needs. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the project gets completed on time and to a high standard, unfortunately at some points in your job you’re likely come across those employees that make your job that little bit more difficult, perhaps they aren’t routing things properly or have deleted some data while doing maintenance on multiple occasions, so what do you do to ensure that they start doing their job properly? You have a few options when handling a difficult employee, to start with make sure you listen to them as it may become clear what the problem is for them. Other options are to give performance feedback in a one to one meeting making it clear that there will be set consequences if things don’t improve. It’s also important to show to the interviewer that you will follow the company’s process when handling this kind of situation.
21. What Is Your Previous Experience With Managing Technical Responsibilities and Management?
This question allows the interviewer to assess how your management skills and technical data center knowledge combines. By establishing this they can see how hands-on your approach is as a manager and therefore if you are the right person for them. Some companies prefer the managers to just delegate the work to members of the team, whereas others prefer it if the manager takes an active approach getting involved with the process directly. Tell the interviewer about your previous management roles which don’t have to be directly related to data center management, but would be a bonus. If you have previous experience with other parts of running a data center then now is the best time to mention them, knowing that you have previously worked with cages and cabinets or have an in-depth knowledge of infrastructure management tools is important to the interviewer as it doesn’t only show that you would be a great manager but that you also understand exactly what your managing and how to deal with that process. Having a clear understanding of how the data center works will make your job of assigning team members to jobs a whole lot easier and make you more desirable to a potential employer.
22. Do You Have Experience Dealing With Serious Environmental Situations?
Serious environmental situations can come from an endless number of sources such as power failures, humidity, temperature, equipment failure and water detection so as the data center manager it’s your job to make sure that there are detailed plans on what to do on as many of those environmental situations as possible, such as installing data center monitoring systems that can notify you as soon as there is a problem. Let the interviewer know if you have worked with these systems previously or dealt with any environmental situations.
23. What Does Managing a Data Center Mean to You?
This is where you ignore the scale of the company and acknowledge the individual responsibilities you feel are an essential part of your role. In every data center, the manager’s role essentially comes down to making sure that the process keeps running smoothly. Make sure to mention that keeping the data safe, secure and available as your top priorities before going onto talk about any specific responsibilities related directly to that position.
24. How Do You Rate Your Existing Team And Manage Work Relationships?
As a data center manager, it is an essential part of your job to be able to successfully manage a team to a deadline while also still being approachable. Tell the interviewer about any previous teams you’ve managed, how you’ve successfully dealt with with an employee that wasn’t doing their job to standard and how you keep your team motivated. It’s a good idea to talk the interviewer about the different members of the team you would have and their roles so that you can show understanding of their individual parts that make up a data center such as service technicians and data center specialists.
25. How Would You Approach Management About A Troubling Issue?
Problems at work can happen at any time, while some problems may be within your power to solve there are other bigger issues that you may need to speak to management about. Chances are if the issues going to management then it’s a big one which they probably won’t be too happy about, such as going into critical power or lost data while performing maintenance. While you may be dreading having to tell them it is important to let them know about the issue as soon as possible so that they can get the right people involved to solve the issue. Depending on the style of the company make sure to raise the issue following the rules and procedures put in place to ensure that the problem is dealt with professionally. The problem may not be ideal but let the interviewer know that you understand that mistakes happen and that you always aim to learn from them so that you and your team can improve.
26. How Do The Initial Generations Of Infrastructure Management Tools Differ From Newer Versions?
Time to impress the interviewer with your technical knowledge, let them know how the early physical infrastructure management tools which were used when data centers were first established have the disadvantages of being limited in scope and requiring human intervention. The older generation tools were unable to make correlations between a physical infrastructure device and a server making your job as a data center manager a whole lot harder. Once showing them all your knowledge about the older generations of management tools move onto to show how you’ve kept yourself updated with the newer models which are designed to identify and resolve issues without the need for a human, tell them about all the benefits of the equipment and that you understand how it works.
27. How Would You Ensure That The Company Is Compliant With All Laws And Regulations?
Making sure that the company is compliant with all the laws and regulations set by law is important to ensure that the company is operating safely and isn’t at risk of any lawsuits for negligent acts. Let the interviewer know about any knowledge of relevant laws and regulations and emphasize the importance of following them. As a data center manager you could be sued for not managing the data in a secure way or having an unsafe work environment so make sure to mention a procedure that you would follow for making sure that the company stays compliant, such as updating any company policies with recent law and regulation changes, informing employees on the rules and what will happen if they don’t comply.
28.How Do You Overcome Any Problems And Continue To Make Sure That You And Your Team Improve?
As a manager your responsible for making sure that problems are avoided and that the system runs smoothly, however sometimes issues such as critical power or water damage can arise unexpectedly and when they do the team will turn to you for guidance. To show the interviewer that you are someone who can deal with unexpected situations calmly and quickly make sure that you consider a few situations where you’ve dealt with problem-solving in the past. The situations mentioned can be relating to previous management situations or individual personal experience. It isn’t essential that the example you give the interviewer is strictly professional based as long as it shows them that your a team leader and a problem solver who wants to learn from mistakes. You can also mention how you would look at a data center as a whole to see if there are any improvements that could be made to make your job more efficient overall.
29. Would You Make Changes To The Company Procedure If You Were To Join The Team?
Coming into the company as a new employee means that you’ll have the benefit of looking at everything with fresh eyes and could offer a fresh perspective on issues. If you see something that you think could be improved then go ahead and suggest an improvement. While you may want to run in and start shouting orders at everyone and everything to make your workplace the best it can be it is also important to remember that you are a new person going into an already well-established team so don’t alienate your new employees.
Once you’ve established a secure bond with your team then it’s possible to start making suggestions for any procedures you feel need to change. Data centers are constantly looking to evolve to function in more efficient ways and so any changes are usually welcome. Some company procedure changes that may be welcome include environmental improvements such as upgrading the confinement aisles so that the system performs better in both terms of saving the company money and the systems running more efficiently. You could also suggest some promising investment opportunities or a different managing style.
30. Explain Your Process Of Managing Routing Cables?
When looking inside a well established and organized data center you’ll normally find a rather presentable space of rows on rows of clean racks and servers. While every data center has the ability to look like that, the results can be the complete opposite of the people who are responsible for maintaining the data center stop making a conscious effort route the cables in a clean and organized manner, instead leading to something that can only be described as a birds nest. This approach creates an unorganized appearance but is also unsafe, so as the data center manager make it clear to the interviewer that you would take ensuring that the standards don’t slip and that work stays safe and organized as one of your main work priorities.
31. Are You Able To Work In Odd Hours?
Data center managers are normally expected to work unsociable hours, you could be working long days from 8 am one day till 8 am the following morning if an important issue comes up that needs handling straight away. There are also on-call requirements which can happen at any hour of the day or night and if a catastrophic event comes up where all management will need to be involved then you’ll be in for a long night. Data center managers have to be contactable at all hours of the day, even when on vacation so make sure you are completely honest with the interviewer when discussing your availability and show them that you are 100% committed to the job.
32. How would you do the briefing on the next issue?
Data centers are made up of endless departments that all specialize in their own subjects so it is therefore important that communication within the company is kept flowing. Cross-department communications are known to fall apart rapidly so make sure that you’re willing to make an effort so that everyone has the information they need. Communication within the data center is often left to help desk personnel so if you know about something that is coming down the pipeline let them know all of the relevant information that other departments may need so that their job becomes easier and you gain their support for being helpful.
33. Explain the Multi-tier Model?
Having extensive knowledge of what your working with is an important part of being a data center manager so be prepared for the interviewer to ask you knowledge-based questions, brush up on your technical knowledge before going, in case they ask you something like what is the multi-tier model? In which you’d then be able to reply with how the multi-tier model is a data center approach which is dominated by HTTP applications. The multi-tier approach uses web, application and database tiers of servers. The software that is used in the model runs alongside as a separate process and uses interprocess communications. There is also the use of multi-tier server farms which can provide improved resiliency and security.
34. Explain Why Do You Deserve This Position?
It’s important that you keep this answer focused on you instead of trying to drag down any fellow candidates as that may ring alarm bells and cause them to question your leadership skills. While there are lots of benefits that the job may give you we recommend staying away from listing all your benefits and instead let the interviewer know about how hiring you can benefit their company as a whole. You can also use this as a way to summarise all the previous points you’ve mentioned, bringing in personal traits alongside any previous management or data center experience you have. Desirable qualities that the interviewer may be looking for are things such as organization, leadership, expert knowledge of topics such as multi-tier models.If you think it will be able to make you stand out, it’s worth mentioning.
35. What Do You Believe Are Your Strengths?
It’s tempting to just list out all of your achievements and desirable qualities, but if they again don’t benefit the employer themselves then it’s not worth mentioning. Some personality strengths that the interviewer may be looking for is that you are a problem solver, a motivator and a natural leader as these would all benefit your performance as a data center manager. Make sure you consider the position and make a list of any qualities you have that can relate directly to the job. Most data center employers mention looking for previous experience or knowledge in service-level agreement management and data center infrastructure management before employing an individual. Whatever you believe your strengths are make sure you present them with confidence.
36. You Have Just Acquired A Company And The Data Center Is Getting All Their Assets. Tell Me How Would You Manage That?
Think about some hypothetical situations before going into the interview so that you can have a designated approach to tackling these questions. In a situation involving acquiring a company’s assets, it would be best to do your research on the company and its existing setup. There have been situations before where a new company’s virus-infested crypto mining setup has exploded across the established network so make sure you let the interviewer know how seriously you’ll take making essential checks on the acquired assets so that you can keep your company safe.
37. You Have The Job Of Reducing The Power Supply For Servers. What Would You Do?
With energy consumption becoming a major issue it is important as the data center manager that you look into ways of keeping the company up to date with modern times, which would also benefit you in the eyes of customers. Before the interview think about any current issues such as the environment which the interviewer could ask for your opinion on. Some of the examples you could for reducing the power supply for servers would be to wind down the number of physical servers which would majorly reduce the electricity use, with fewer servers running in the data center it would, therefore, be generating less heat which alongside helping the environment also results in more savings.
38. Do You Have Any Previous Experience In Using Patch Management?
Updating the servers is a crucial but time-consuming part of data centers. In facilities where there is a high number of servers to look after, going around to put every single one onto an update cycle is not an efficient option which has caused data center managers to start looking into ways to keep the servers current with security and performance updates leading them to use patch management. Patching is the process of repairing system vulnerabilities and is a necessity in a data center so having a good understanding of the process will be a benefit to the employer.
39. Explain What You Understand About Data Center Colocation And Cloud Based Services Such As Iaas
Colocation is a specific type of data center facility in which businesses can rent space for their data. A colocation usually provides the building, cooling, power, and security while the customer provides the servers and storage to go in the space. Some customers use the servers to run cloud-based services such as IaaS which is a virtualized computing resource that is provided over the internet. Do plenty of research to find out if the company you’re interviewing with provides this kind of service.
40. Top Level Management Has Asked You To Start Site Level Redundancy. What Would You Do First?
As the data center manager, it would important to start the process by creating a baseline by checking your already existing infrastructure. Once this is done it would then be a good idea to start planning out any upgrades that need to happen in the next 12-18 months. When all the figures are confirmed, you can then start shopping around for locations that can work alongside the original data center. Make sure you highlight that while you are an independent team leader, you will also involve others in the process to ensure the right result.
Overall, make sure you go into your interview with a good understanding of the business and confidently sell yourself with the ways you will benefit the company. Brush up on your technical knowledge and you’ll be walking out as their new data center manager.