A day in the life of a Data Center Engineer


Posted: March 1, 20224 min read

DigitalOcean’s data center employees maintain the physical infrastructure in our data centers.  It’s an incredibly important and interesting career, and the work of our data center team is the foundation for everything that DigitalOcean does. That’s why we spoke with Joe Gagliardi, Data Center Engineer in NYC, to find out what it’s like on the frontlines of cloud computing.

Q: What does a data center engineer do?

Joe: “We maintain the physical infrastructure of the data center. We rack servers, switches, routers, power distribution units (PDUs), and other data center gear. We run cables, troubleshoot hardware and software on the machines, and replace parts. We’re also involved in the planning of data center layouts, new builds, and the creation of infrastructure tools.”

Q: What does a typical day look like?

Joe: “When I get there in the morning, I update old tickets and check to see what hardware will be showing up on-site that day. I prioritize tickets by what we have on-site and what has the most impact. If we have servers to install on-site, we’ll start unboxing and installing them as soon as possible. If something is actively affecting the usability of our infrastructure, we make sure we’re available to assist right away.”

Q: How do you take breaks throughout the day?

Joe: “Datacenter needs are unpredictable. Speaking for the NYC team, we try to take our breaks together when we can. Considering that every day can be different, we have different needs on the day-to-day. Busier days of racking and stacking can come with later breaks or lots of trading of responsibilities, so everyone can take a breather.”

Q: What do you enjoy about being in the “trenches” of our data centers?

Joe: “I love telling people that I literally work inside the cloud. Every machine that’s around me is potentially hosting hundreds of customer Droplets. This is about as close as you can get to being inside the internet, and we’re responsible for it. Every server we add to the fleet makes the internet larger. How many people get to say that?”

Joe and the NYC team

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

Joe: “Personal time is such a balance. I personally like to play and create music and there are other musicians on the team globally. The other half of personal time is continuing to learn about your career without burning yourself out. I know personally that there are some days where I’ll leave work just to spend the rest of my night on the computer, and there are other nights where I don’t even want to look at a computer!”

Q: How do you solve problems that arise?

Joe: “Team collaboration is incredibly important. We all have varying degrees of experience and come from different backgrounds. When problems without an immediate solution arise, we have so many different tools to fall back on. We have the immediate members of our team who may have seen it before, team members around the world with more varied backgrounds than us, and tools created by other teams such as the Systems, Tooling, and Automation Team (SYSTAT). The best way for us to solve problems is to work with each other, collaborate, and be creative.”

Q: How do you prioritize your work?

Joe: “Work is generally prioritized by the effect that it has on our customers. Having a server go down means customers are immediately impacted. These situations are a critical priority, and our immediate task is to get those customers’ droplets back up and running. Capacity is our next greatest concern. Anything that we can do to create more space for our customers, and expand our footprint, heads to the top of our pile.”

Q: What keeps the job fun?

Joe: “There’s always something new to do and to learn about. There’s new hardware coming in. New standards. We’re in a position to work with a ton of other teams, and we have the freedom to take on just about any project we’d like to.”

Q: Any advice for someone who may want to be a Data Center Engineer?

Joe: “Take in anything and everything that you can. Be flexible in working as a team, and by yourself. Being a data center engineer means you wear many hats, and sometimes those hats are stacked on top of each other. If you’re willing to learn, love to be creative, and maintaining critical infrastructure is your passion, then you’ll gravitate here naturally! Also…earplugs.”

Q: What can you tell us about your time at DO?

Joe: “I’ve never experienced a group of people that expresses so much love for each other so often. There’s no passing of blame. There’s no hoarding of knowledge. Everyone here is so appreciative of the help they receive from others and so willing to teach each other about the things they’re doing. It’s an environment that makes it very, very easy to flourish and thrive.”

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at DigitalOcean? Check out a list of benefits and open positions on our careers page.


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