Nancy Novak, Compass Datacenters’ Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), has over 30 years of construction experience and has overseen the delivery of over $3.5 billion in projects during that time. In this role, her focus is cutting-edge technology, lean practices, and developing an innovative culture through diversity to add value and improve return on investment. Prior to joining Compass, Nancy was the National VP of Operations for Balfour Beatty Construction.
Nancy is an outspoken advocate for women’s leadership and is heavily involved in organizations that lead the way for female advancement in the technology and construction industries, such as iMasons, Women for Women International, The National Woman’s Party in Washington DC, Women in Government Relations (WGR), Women Construction Owners and Executives (WCOE), the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI), Fortune Media Most Powerful Women, and Above Glass Ceilings LLC. Nancy currently hosts Compass’ women in technology podcast, Breaking Glass. She was a participant in the White House Women in Diversity in STEM forums. Nancy holds a degree in Construction Engineering and Management from San Diego State University.
How She Got Involved in Mission Critical Operations
My background at Hensel Phelps and Balfour Beatty included building mission critical facilities for the military and other organizations. At Balfour Beatty, data centers became a bigger part of my project portfolio. After I retired from Balfour Beatty, Chris Crosby, the founder of Compass Datacenters, approached me and asked me to come help him build his business. I had met Crosby in my past work building data centers where he was a primary client, and I loved working with him. But I was very hesitant because in my experience, building data centers sucks the life out of people. The data center builds I had worked on in the past required double triple shifts and left everyone absolutely spent. But Crosby convinced me to come out to Compass and check out what they had going on, and what I saw really impressed me. The investment he had put into the design of Compass’ products and how they were able to do things as fast or faster than competitors on a single shift with respect for the trades people to deliver a high quality solution; I was sold. So in 2017, I joined Chris Crosby at Compass Datacenters and I’m so glad I did.
What is so great about Compass is that they are fundamentally changing the way data centers are built. The things that frustrated me most about data center projects are the same things that Chris has set out to transform. At Compass, our goal is to make the data center construction process better for construction crews, the process safer, build environmentally sustainable facilities. The data center industry is such an exciting space to be a part of because it’s really still in its infancy, which leaves space for plenty of innovation. Building out a new kind of infrastructure at such an enormous scale and keeping pace with the expansion of tech companies is a huge and exciting challenge.
Participation in 7×24 Exchange
I became involved with 7×24 Exchange through speaking at and attending their spring and fall conferences. The thing that drew me to these events was that they put a major focus on issues close to my heart. For years, I’ve been an advocate for increasing diversity in the industry and addressing the massive workforce shortage by doing so. In order to make this happen, we need to disrupt the things that get in the way of diversity, and a huge part of this is educating people. It’s about training up leaders to stop trying to change the people applying for jobs and instead try to change the business. This change begins with conversations like the ones that take place at the 7×24 conferences.
The 2021 7×24 Exchange Spring event coming up in June is a great example of how 7×24 is pushing our industry in the right direction. The program is full of presenters who are putting a spotlight on forward-looking issues not only about our industry but about the role of our industry in making the world a better place. Chris Crosby and I will be doing a joint keynote about how we as an industry can help solve the Digital Divide, which has worsened during the pandemic. I’m excited to give that talk, but I’m just as excited to hear the other speakers who are discussing equally urgent and bold ideas. By shining a spotlight on these issues, we can help leaders to look through a different set of lenses and change how they think and act, and ultimately bring about change in these important areas. I’m honored to be a part of 7×24 Exchange’s community, and I look forward to continuing the conversation.