More than 51% of IT executives planned to expand their data center operation in 2012, according to “The 2011/2012 Data Center Market Insights Report” from Data Center Knowledge, an online source that covers 13 industries in the United States. Additionally, the report, which was released last September, revealed that an unprecedented 62% of respondents said they were currently outsourcing their data centers, were planning to use an outside provider, or were currently testing an outsourced arrangement.

These trends toward growth and outsourcing have translated into an increased need for electrical contractors specializing in data center design and construction. In response to this demand, San Jose, Calif.-based Cupertino Electric, Inc. recently expanded its data center operations by opening a new office in Prineville, Ore. They also brought in a new project executive to supplement the team.

“A trend we’re seeing as a company is that customers of enterprise data centers — which are built and operated by a user as opposed to co-location data centers, which are available for lease to customers — are phasing or modularizing their programs,” says Mike Coleman, project executive. “They are programming large data centers that can be built in phases and that progress with the latest industry innovations.  Now, we are seeing a larger focus on future flexibility in the initial design.”

Coleman has a passion for this type of work. A native of Chicago, he began his career by completing an electrical apprenticeship and working for a small electrical contractor. He also studied business management at Loyola University in Chicago. In 2003, he migrated to Seattle to work in data center construction for a contractor with connections to the tech industry.

“I found data center design more challenging than some of the other electrical work I’d been doing, and I gravitated toward it,” he notes. “For most of the past nine years, I have been building various types of mission-critical facilities, including high-tech research and development facilities, software labs, and data centers. I joined Cupertino Electric in April, and I believe I can be an asset to its data center operations.”

Goals Coleman would like to accomplish in his new position include helping to build a world-class team across the nation and broadening the company’s customer base.

“Some of the things I like best about my job are the variation of what I do on a daily basis — no two days are ever alike — and the people I work with,” he says. “Designing and building data centers can be extremely stressful on everyone. Sometimes we start construction before the design is even finished, and what we end up with is very different than what we started with. Maintaining a project team and staying on schedule and within budget while dealing with an ever-changing design is challenging, to say the least. It definitely helps to work people you consider friends.”

In addition to his 23 years of field and technical experience, Coleman also became LEED accredited in 2008.

“My first exposure to LEED was as a project exec participating in a LEED project,” he recalls. “Watching the process made so much sense that not only did I become accredited, but I also encourage everyone I manage to be working toward it. In the Northwest, LEED is part of the culture, and becoming accredited has made me much better on the design side.”

According to Coleman, a large part of his success in the data center design and construction field is due to the skills he learned during his electrical apprenticeship.

“I think it’s really valuable to get hands-on technical knowledge in addition to a formal education,” he says. “I was able to get a grasp on the design side of the equation pretty quickly because I already knew how everything went together. For people who are looking to break into a data center group, I recommend finding a mentor at the company they work for. There’s no better way to learn the business than having someone on the inside who is willing to show you the ropes.”