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 centre 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 Dawn Childs, Chief Executive of Delivery at Pure Data Centres Group 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 was a scholarship student in an independent (or private) boarding school from the age of 9, which was pretty tough! I did not have any military connections and chose to apply for the Air Force to try and gain sponsorship to attend the university. I didn’t know that the application process would be fiercely competitive, with only 10 places for over 1000 applications. I also did not realise that I had to sign up for a full commission until the age of 38 (which was 21 years, as I joined at 17) and that there was a contract clause stating that if I started a family, I would be sacked and that I would have to pay back the money spent on my training! Nonetheless, at the time, it seemed the best option for me – so I did sign up and have never regretted it!
And what are you doing today?
I am the Chief Executive of Delivery at Pure Data Centres Group, covering the construction and operation of our data centres for our hyper scale customers.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I served as an engineering officer in the Royal Air Force for 23 years. Most of my tours involved commanding maintenance teams on or being the engineering authority for air transport, air-to-air refueling or intelligence aircraft deployed worldwide.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “takeaway” did you learn from that story?
There are so many to choose from, but this one had the biggest lesson for me. During my first tour, I was the Junior Engineer Officer for C-130 aircraft operating on 47 and 70 Squadron. I was on detachment as the commander for air transport and support on a special forces training exercise in Norway. We were operating off ice-packed taxiways, and the airfield was very congested. Quite typically, for such an exercise, one of the C-130s arrived at the airfield off plan and the aircrew elected to taxi without receiving clearance. Due to the icepack, they could not see the taxiway markings and were relying upon spotting from the flight deck to avoid collision with any of the airfield infrastructure (lighting stanchions and the like) or other parked aircraft. Unfortunately for them (and me!), they collided wings with a parked aircraft. The aircraft they collided with suffered serious damage with one of their wing fuel tanks ruptured and had to be fully repaired before it could fly again, but the C-130 appeared to only have some minor dents to the wing tip. As the engineering officer in charge, I had accountability for assessing whether the C-130 was still airworthy and could fly back to the UK. So, I reviewed the aircraft log book briefly to understand if there were any other limitations on the aircraft, examined the wing and signed the aircraft off as fit to fly. I did not give the damaged aircraft a second thought and continued with the rest of the exercise.
Two weeks later, as soon as I landed back at base, I was summoned to the Head Engineer’s office. He had the damaged wingtip on his desk. He did not shout at me, nor reprimand me in any way – what he did was much more impactful. He asked me a series of questions:
- What are C-130 wingtips made of? “Aluminum”, I replied. “For 29 out of the 30 aircraft within your maintenance section, you’re correct,” he said, “but for the damaged aircraft that you assessed as airworthy, you are not.” This was because the wing tip was made of carbon fibre due to the special forces’ communications equipment on the aircraft.
- What happens to carbon fibre when it is damaged? “It fails catastrophically and loses structural integrity,” I replied.
- If any aircraft panel loses structural integrity, what might happen? “The panel could fail and become detached, could fall from the aircraft or inflict further damage to the aircraft as it detaches,” I responded.
- Could that be catastrophic? “It depends on the phase of flight – but yes, it could, “ I said.
- So the aircraft could crash, the crew could die, and the aircraft might crash over a populated area and kill civilians too? “Yes,” I replied.
- Do you now better understand your responsibility and what you are accountable for? “Yes,” I replied.
Never again, throughout my career, have I assumed anything!
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?
Absolutely, it did. It taught me everything I know about leadership, teamwork, and accountability.
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?
Although I loved my grandfather, he was very sexist and believed that women should be homemakers. Strangely, I just wanted to prove him wrong, which drove me to work hard and achieve everything I could.
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?
This is important to me because, as veterans, we have all served our countries; we are highly talented, motivated, and skilled and have earned the opportunity to be supported and successful.
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.
The movement I would inspire is driving diversity and inclusion until it is no longer needed and just is! The main goal is to get to the point where it is no longer a concern and humans of all cultures, backgrounds, shapes, and ages experience inclusivity.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can follow me on LinkedIn.
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 centre talent gap with individuals committed to bringing military precision to their careers, contact us. Employ the heroes of today, tomorrow.