Climate Corps 2011: When Efficiency is Like Doing Chores

"How hard can optimizing efficiency in a data center be?" I asked myself upon completing this year's EDF Climate Corps Training. "You just need to change the tube lights, rearrange a few server racks and monitor your cooling temperature," I thought.

As an EDF Climate Corps fellow at QTS this summer, I initially wondered, "Do they really need someone like me to seek out energy savings? Surely large corporations like QTS aren't blind to such inefficiencies around them." As my fellowship has progressed, I've realized this stuff is not so cut and dry.

Fixing Things ... Can Take a While

My first few weeks at QTS have been nothing short of remarkable. Arriving as an outsider last month, I already feel as though I'm a member of the team. And I have the QTS swag to prove it: ball-cap, mini-football, coffee cup -- they were free, and I'm a student. Enough said. One of my colleagues recently pointed out that I now use "us," "we" and "our" when referring to QTS.

This experience, though, has strangely reminded me of growing up and the never-ending issue of household chores. There were chores to be done and usually something for my dad to "fix," but he had an undeniable (and almost admirable) way of putting off these household handyman duties time and time again. It was not that he lacked the ability to fix things, but these chores just were not at the top of his agenda.

It all came back to me as I engaged with my new colleagues, who are some of the sharpest minds I've encountered in my professional career. Most of the energy efficiency opportunities I was initially exploring had already been examined at some point in time. But given their demanding work schedules, a comprehensive review of energy efficiency had not yet been done. This too often leaves good ideas unimplemented or underused because they're not at the top of anyone's agenda.

To optimize my short time here, I realize I should tap into the extensive research of my colleagues and understand some of the unique variations from facility to facility. By involving department specialists in my interactions, being willing to shoulder responsibility, and driving initiatives on behalf of busy colleagues, I can act as the catalyst that they need.

While everyone at QTS understands my stay is short, sometimes urgent tasks and hectic schedules keep my colleagues busy. Thus, my initial project plan for my fellowship has drastically changed over the course of my time here.

Nonetheless, I've taken this change of plans as an opportunity to talk to more people. QTS is a close-knit community. You can always find more than one person with knowledge on a given resource or topic.

By utilizing the community within QTS, I was able to explore new initiatives while getting ahead on some of my original projects.

Am I Having an Impact at QTS?

How can I define my impact on QTS? Truth is, the initiatives now underway here would have been possible without me. But that is not to say I'm not making a tangible difference. I'm serving as the impetus that is driving the adoption of initiatives that have been considered but not implemented. And I'm helping to make the implementation quicker and more seamless.

Serving as the catalyst to put these current initiatives into motion clears the path for QTS to nimbly and swiftly implement the next round of initiatives to mitigate inefficiencies. Working on the implementation of efficiency initiatives that will become standard for QTS now and in the future, gives me confidence that the work of QTS and EDF Climate Corps is time well spent.

Photo CC-licensed by spengy.