Karen Petersburg is a Design Director at Digital Realty, leading cross-functional and intra-departmental teams that prioritizes sustainability and innovation within a standardized design environment. Primarily focused on the quality control of global designs and processes, she works with internal teams to positively impact the business’s overall objectives and goals. While most of her 17-year career has been in mission critical operations, she has held various roles within the design and construction space including sub-contracting, general contracting, commissioning, and design management. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and is a strong advocate for the future of our industry, be it workforce development, educating the public, supporting women and diversity, sustainability practices, or eradicating the digital divide.
With a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in Analytic Philosophy from Virginia Tech, Karen has a passion for problem solving and complexity combined with a desire for knowledge that drives her current focus to be on the philosophical impacts of data in society. Her wide reach within the industry has afforded her the ability to pull disparate organizations and people together to work on resolving industry-wide challenges such as workforce development, the education gap, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DIEB).
Background & Experience
Karen’s love of building and her entrepreneurial spirit were inherited from her father who owned a site utility sub-contracting company. And her passion for knowledge, efficiency, and hard work came from her mother, who retired as a successful chief financial officer (CFO). Even though neither parent went to college, they appreciated the benefits that came from a higher education which laid the foundation and importance of wisdom into her life at an early age.
The first time she set foot in a data center she was in awe of the complexity in the design of the controls and the infrastructure systems that were purpose built to keep power flowing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Always interested in the way things work, she dived into mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) by first managing and coordinating the trades during construction, then more extensively through testing the equipment and managing the commissioning process, then to managing the overall design of the buildings, and now focusing primarily on the quality of Digital Realty’s designs and standards.
Involvement with 7×24 Exchange and Mission Critical Industry
Karen started working with the Women in Mission Critical Operations® (WiMCO®) Committee, a community within the 7×24 Exchange Greater Washington DC Chapter in 2018. Soon after joining the Board of Directors in 2019, she was appointed to be Chair of the WiMCO Committee. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, 7×24 Exchange Greater Washington DC Chapter created the now popular “Wake Up with WiMCO” series which provides networking and learning opportunities in an increasingly remote society. In January of 2021, she became President of the 7×24 Exchange Greater Washington DC Chapter and worked closely with the Board of Directors and committee chairs, focusing efforts on activities that build up the data center industry. This included the planning and execution of a 4.99999k run and educational festival specifically designed to bring the residents and businesses of the local community to Data Center Alley – a cluster of data centers, businesses, and government organizations in Ashburn, Virginia – in a forum that would raise awareness about the industry and the career opportunities available. Thanks to 46 race and festival sponsors and the 788 resident and industry professionals who registered for the event, the 7×24 Exchange Greater Washington DC Chapter raised over $40,000 to jointly provide funding to Dulles South Food Pantry and helped grow their existing scholarship program.
In addition to her work with the local 7×24 Exchange Greater Washington DC Chapter, Karen is an active member of Data Center Coalitions Community Engagement Committee where she focuses on workforce development, joining forces with industry leaders to create a scalable educational roadmap that identifies the specific entry points necessary to capitalize on the career opportunities in our industry. This roadmap includes partnerships with other industry organizations and includes leveraging existing resources such as the 7×24 Exchange AIMS Mentorship Program, the AFCOM Potomac Internship Program, local scholarship and educational programs, and the Young Professionals’ Group. Lastly, she is a leader of the Nomad Futurist Academy, helping strategize and shape the organizational structure which will create an educational curriculum that will be available worldwide free of charge.
Karen recently moved to Leesburg, VA, with her husband, Derek and their two children Jaxon (6) and Julia (3). When she isn’t spending time with family, you can find her outside running, or on her yoga mat, trying really hard to golf, or reading (preferably in a bookstore).