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Salute Military Community: Clive Fotheringham

What is the Salute Military Community?

The Salute Military Community is a unique cohort of veterans and the military community who serve as examples of the value their experiences bring to our industry. The Military Community supports Salute’s mission and strives to achieve our shared vision of providing veterans and military spouses career opportunities in the data center industry. We are proud of the military community for giving back to other members seeking to start careers in this industry.

Lee Kirby, Salute Co-Founder, and retired Army colonel, interviewed Military Community member Clive Fotheringham, VP of Operations (EMEA) at Salute Mission Critical and Air Force Veteran.

Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?

I grew up in the military, so to speak, because my dad was in the Air Force, and we moved a lot. In addition to moving all around England and Scotland, we had wonderful postings in Malaysia, Belgium, and others. During that time, I also went to boarding school for 3 years in Germany. As with anything, there are pros and cons to growing up this way, but for me, it was enriching. We could be living somewhere lovely, but with not much going on, I knew that we would be somewhere else in a few years, so I learned to make the most of it. However, it disrupts your education; especially when you do the qualifications, you don’t have the support network you usually do socially.

On the other hand, you learn to make friends all the time, which is good, but some people struggle with it. Learning to break down social barriers and work your way in gives you a strength you don’t realize until later. So by 16, I had seen so much of the world and felt like I started a little ahead socially than my peers. I am so grateful for how my childhood shaped who I am.

And what are you doing today?

As VP of Operations (EMEA), I am generally responsible for service delivery. This includes data center operations, consultancy and project delivery throughout the region. Salute is growing rapidly, and one of my key priorities is maintaining the pace without sacrificing quality or forgetting that it is all about the client experience. I believe we can go toe-to-toe with any competitor on our technical competency and depth, but our culture is where we outpace the others. Our transparency and communication style is unique, and our clients never have to guess or read between the lines. This is a key differentiator that has proven so effective that in just 10 years, we have changed how data centers are operated and how owners can rely on a company to be a true partner.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

Even though I grew up with my father in the military, I was never pressured to join, but I joined the Air Force in 1982. The military was shrinking then, but I was selected for a fast-track engineering course. This meant 12 months of electrical training, and that really set me up for my career path. It was a very great tight-knit community, much like a boarding school, and we built lifelong bonds. It also fed my competitive streak, which has always helped me in business.

I got my posting after the training period and was stationed at the RAF Expedition Unit. That was a great assignment, and we did a lot of public demonstrations touring coastal towns and subtlety recruiting. I was then selected to work on a radar unit in the most northern spot in the United Kingdom, an island in the Shetlands. There were 200 of us, which was about the local population’s size too. This was a very remote assignment because if you wanted to go out, it took a drive across three islands and two ferries just to get to a restaurant. For those who like trivia, the AFB was Saxa Vord on the island of Unst. Interestingly, Saxa Vord has now been converted to a rocket launch site and will soon send satellites into space.

I spent 18 months in the Shetlands, and being a remote location, I got a priority choice for the next assignment and chose South Wales. This is where I did my initial electrical training; I really liked it and was able to stabilize for 6 years there and get married. I always sought to achieve more and realized that education was key, so I started a two-year course to get my engineering credentials and then went on to get a degree. The beauty of the military is you get the chance to learn and grow, and I took full advantage of that for the next 9 years and achieved all my educational goals while serving. Getting up at 4 am to get to London for the one-day-a-week course and then getting home by midnight is grueling, and doing for this period of time builds personal stamina that I did not realize I had. Doing this one day a week seems easy, but it required a lot of studying to keep up, and then there would be the odd deployments that stressed your progress. Then one day, my squadron commander called me in and enlightened me to all the opportunities ahead of me; it was not just military. That is when I chose to leave the military after 17 years.

My transition job was in an electrical consultancy role, and I finally got to put my degree to work in Bristol. An ex-colleague got a job with Orange Telecom and encouraged me to apply, and I got a job covering the South West of England and South Wales. I spent 4 years with Orange, ensuring the ‘lights stayed on’ in the data centers, telecom nodes and wider mobile network. Following a year’s sabbatical traveling the world, I became a contractor for a couple of years. Eventually, I joined Colt in 2007, had an enjoyable career with them, and finished up at the global director level.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “takeaway” did you learn from that story?

Great leaders take care of their people, and my squadron leader is a great example. We were not close, but he watched my progress over 9 years of training and where my career path could lead. He actually woke me up and helped me realize that my best option was to leave the military. This was a selfless act that was purely meant to ensure I had all the information to make the best decision for myself, and I think that is ingrained in leadership training in the military. It drives great value to anyone who has been through it.

Living in the Shetlands, which is such a remote location and considered one of the worst postings you could get, I learned that it is all about focus and attitude. I learned to focus on my job, and my life was organized around the radars. Everything I did was to keep the radar systems functioning. As a young man, I felt the huge responsibility of keeping that radar system up as the alternative was that our nation would have been blind to external threats, which was the height of the cold war. There was no one else to go to get help, and we would figure out what we needed to do to resolve complex problems because a mission failure is never an option in the military. I stand by that even today.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?

Respect and work ethic are the first things that come to mind. You might be born with it, but I think it was completely ingrained in me with the military training and lifestyle. Listening to your subordinates, leaders and team and understanding that we are all on this mission helps you know so much. Camaraderie is not just a good feeling but an advantage you could depend on then and now as you became so close that you could predict how your teammates would respond in any given situation. That level of performance can only be achieved with deep bonds.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped you get to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father was the first person that came to mind because he raised me the way he did. He gave me a deep set of core values and instilled a personal drive complimented by a world perspective. My morals and principles are the foundation he gave me to build a life, and I will always be grateful.

Guy Ruddock was my boss for 8 years, and he was a hard-charging proud Yorkshireman. His standards were high, and you either grew or left. At times it was challenging, but he invested in me and drove me, and I am better for it. He was not military, but you would think so because of his leadership and thoughtfulness. He backed me completely and always backed our team, even when we were in the wrong. This unwavering support drove our team to even greater performance levels and taught me the value of loyalty.

Ian Dickson was the VP of Operations for Colt globally. He taught me so much through his actions and management style, and we still talk today. His wisdom and trust taught me how to make judgment calls and that if you make a bad call, it is not the time for remorse but a time for learning and growing because you will always make mistakes, but the key is to learn not to repeat the same one.

David Marquet is someone I have never met, but I really enjoy his teachings. You can find him on YouTube, and he has a variety of 7-8 minute videos that share information and help people learn from his experiences as a submarine commander. One of the lessons I always lean on is empowering a team and unleashing its power by creating an environment where they can operate. It is fascinating, and I encourage anyone to check his social media outlets.

You are a part of the Salute Military Community that shares a common passion for helping veterans and military spouses get into the data center industry.  It is centered on veterans helping veterans. Why is this important to you?

It is important to me because of several reasons. It can be difficult to transition if you join the military at a young age, and it is all you know. It is like moving to a foreign country because you have to learn new ways of talking, acting, and doing even the most basic things. Because it is such a different environment, many of the counselors that are supposed to help direct these young people do not understand the opportunities and, without realizing it, funnel the veterans down paths that prevent them from realizing their full potential. Helping other veterans and seeing them achieve will always be my proudest moments. Our industry will challenge them and allow them to grow after the military, and what we do at Salute is to open a world where veterans have a rewarding career.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Every child to have the opportunity for a good education. While I come at that from a “dad” point of view, I know it is vital to society. We have to educate and grow future generations, which means from the top down with funding and focus that will produce well-rounded, well-educated citizens of a world community.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn.

Clive Fotheringham today, VP of Operations (EMEA) at Salute Mission Critical

If you are a veteran or military spouse looking for an exciting career in a growing industry, contact us at Salute. We can help put you on the path to success.

If you are looking to close the data center talent gap with individuals committed to bringing military precision to their careers, contact us. Employ the heroes of today, tomorrow.

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