In Technology


Title: Data Center Nerd

Age: 35

Education: Bachelor’s degrees in marketing, economics, and psychology from the University of Central Florida

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Certified Network Infrastructure Design Professional

Achievements/Awards: 2022 IM100 Award Recipient; Greener Data author

Melissa Reali-Elliott

Forehead, Smile, Skin, Lip, Eyebrow, Eyelash, Jaw, Sleeve, Makeover, Gesture

What led you to a career in technology?

I grew up in Central Florida, which everyone knows for Disney. What most people don’t realize is that Lockheed Martin is the second largest employer locally. Because of that, I spent my entire life surrounded by both creatives and engineers.

Anyone who's ever been raised by an engineer, had a sibling who is an engineer, or married to an engineer will understand. I have enormous respect for engineers. But, at an early age, I recognized that we have to find the means to translate complex data in ways that make it more conversational. It should be as engaging and entertaining as it is educational.

And, because of that, I always knew what I was meant to do — technical marketing — and I’ve been doing it for about 17 years. I wanted to get the latest incredible technology in front of people who needed it so that, together, we could build a better world. I wanted to provide content that helped others learn, that gave them the systems and information they would need to do their jobs better. I wanted to create engaging hands-on experiences and enticing events that left lasting impressions. And I wanted to do this all in a way that was strategic, delivered financial results, grew a brand reputation, and increased market share. Using creative means to spread the good news about technology would be the perfect mix of the world that I grew up in.

What motivates you to go above and beyond in your current position?

I absolutely love the data center industry and the people in it. I find the incredible network of individuals and the work we have done inspirational. What this means for me and my role is that I truly care to see great advances being made in this space and I care that the marketing conversations that ultimately drive tech adoption are handled in a way that is based on genuine desire to help this industry pursue our larger collective goals for sustainable operations, reliable uptime, diverse hiring, etc., instead of being an out-of-touch sales pitch or spam. I believe every operator in this space deserves to spend their limited time receiving quality content and earnest engagement as we seek to build lasting relationships.

What role does sustainability play in your life both personally and professionally?

My bio always states that I believe in a world that is connected, sustainable, and equal. Through this, I try to demonstrate my core values of striving to build a world where everything is digitally connected and where equality is considered. But none of that matters if there isn’t a healthy and thriving world to leave to our future generations.

Every person and every corporation can make a difference. I only represent organizations that are making strides to improve their carbon footprint and I also make this a personal mission in my spare time, as I build a self-sustaining farm in Orlando. The main premise is this: Don’t consume more than you create. Each and every one of us can examine our impact through that lens and decide for ourselves whether we are truly living up to this greater standard.

What is the most fascinating lesson you have learned while working with technology?

I am constantly in awe at how interwoven the many technical fields are and the delicate balance before decisions in one field dramatically impact the operations of another. Interconnectedness may seem pretty general or commonsense, but the number of times I have learned a mind-blowing way we can apply lessons learned in one field to discoveries in another never ceases to amaze me.

What is unique about you personally?

My personality makes me fairly unique — it comprises less than .5% of the total population and is even more rare among women. I take a strategic approach to everything I do, which incorporates calculated logic and intuitive ingenuity. This is what enables me to balance the right and left brain, pulling from the artistic and engineered world that I grew up in. Skillful technical marketing requires a personality that demonstrates both creativity and obsession to detail, with the ability to balance logical decision-making with passion for the end result, especially critical when striving to achieve goals across a complex and dynamic digital landscape.

“Don't consume more than you create.”

What is unique about you professionally?

There aren’t many trained marketers in this space — really only a handful. There are many people with a technical background who have taken on some marketing functions. There are also marketing specialists who often serve entire corporations without specializing strictly in the mission critical segment. I can truly only think of a handful of individuals who have dedicated years of experience wearing both hats.

What is your most admirable quality?


Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion necessary for this industry?

I used to say that it was not only possible, but necessary for people of all walks of life to join together to strategically, creatively, ethically, responsibly build the new technical business landscape. Now I’ve changed the order on that – I believe it is not only necessary, but possible. I think we have entered such a fractured time in our society that our next challenge is no longer demonstrating necessity, but convincing others that it is even possible. To that end I’m co-authoring a chapter in a book called “The Diversity in Humanity” this spring, with a full work titled “Fingerprints” scheduled for next spring. These will highlight new ideas on why some of our systems of equality are failing, what we can do instead, and share stories from my time on ABB’s internal diversity board of directors and other work consulting with operators in the mission critical space as they build their own strategic direction.

What aspect of the industry has the most potential for growth, and how can we accelerate that?

The future of our industry is going to depend on how we build out the edge. I believe edge technology is ultimately going to help us solve many issues such as power, land, and water use, which will help us combat larger challenges of sustainability and NIMBYism.

Where does the industry need the most improvement, and what can we learn from the current shortcomings?

Building for more sustainable practices present the biggest need and also where I believe we’ve learned the most. We need to readily admit that every advance in technology has been civilization’s means of showing that we can do things better or faster than our natural environment would allow, and what’s worse is that we’re robbing from the planet itself along the way. But there is good news on the horizon: for the first time in history, we are trying to change that; our generations have recognized the impact we have had and are trying to work with our planet by embracing sustainable programs and initiatives.

When you imagine the future technology, what does it look like?

Future technology will be even more interconnected and actively talking across networks. We’re still seeing new applications and innovation driven by sensored devices to build out smart city applications, analytics for predictive maintenance and advance planning, crowd-sourced data aggregation, and the like. AI will be another huge advance as systems are able to learn and evolve with new information with full access to all these other applications and systems.

What advice do you have for women and other minorities who are currently working in the industry but don’t necessarily feel like they belong?

Everyone can find a home here and a way they can participate. Don’t wait to see someone who looks like you. Make your mark and use your voice to bring others along. Be the change you want to see.

What advice do you have for young girls who may be interested in a future career in technology?

The world needs more of you. You will face many battles, but should know that you don’t need to take on the world single-handedly. You have sister warriors to join forces with, to learn from and alongside. Our shoulders were made to bear each other up, to distribute the load, to hang a head on in times of need. Never forget that we have each other in this world. By striving to be strong female leaders, understand that it is your place not to simply expect this support from others, but to graciously provide it.