In this engaging #NomadFuturist podcast, Peter Hannaford recounts an entrepreneurial journey that spans multiple locations—England, Nigeria, France—and tracks the development of computing and the data center industry over a fifty-year period.

A child of the 60’s, Hannaford grew up in London, left school early and jumped into the workplace. His first job at a bank led to an opportunity to become a computer programmer. 

“Commercial computing was coming into its own in the late 60s. In those days, being a programmer was a bit like being a rock star!”

In 1976, the bank sent him to Africa to set up a data center operation for their Nigerian branch.

“That was a brilliant time. When I went there they told me ‘This is the land of limitless impossibility.’ Trying to run a data center when you only have power for 8 hours a day is a bit of a challenge.”

Back in London, Hannaford set up the bank’s data processing department deploying what at the time were state-of-the-art IBM machines. He was then hired away by an Arab consortium bank which led to a stint in Paris.

Hannaford has been able to successfully “go with the flow” and be responsive to ever-changing conditions, opportunities and challenges, pivoting and re-inventing himself multiple times over.

He built and sold a number of companies including Waterfields which became one of the biggest datacenter design & build companies in Europe, and Tecnikon, which designed and patented the first water-cooled server rack with an integrated vertical cooling coil specifically for high-density computing. When Technikon was acquired by APC, Hannaford helped turn Tecnikon’s innovative cooling solution into one of APC’s most successful product lines. 

APC was in turn acquired by Schneider Electric where Hannaford served as Vice President for Datacenters and Alliances before pivoting again, three years later, to address what he saw as the pressing resource needs of the critical infrastructure industry.

Hannaford thinks that the talent pool of your people coming into the industry is robust. “I’m not at all concerned about the future. There’s plenty of talent out there and super smart kids coming on to take over from old people like me.”

His advice to the young:

“… be bold and courageous. Give it a go and don’t be afraid of failure. If you win six out of ten you’re doing pretty well…Just get out there!”

More about Peter Hannaford

Hannaford formed Datacenter People in 2010 to offer specialist recruitment services and consulting to the datacenter industry. Datacenter People is now the leading talent sourcing firm servicing the datacenter sector worldwide. Peter left Datacenter People in January 2020 following a management buy-out and now runs Executive Search firm Portman Partners which specializes in leadership positions in the Digital Infrastructure sector worldwide. 

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