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“Just Keep Swimming”: A Conversation with Elsa Pine – a Passionate Data Center Industry Veteran and Breast Cancer Survivor

In the latest of JSA’s Women in Digital Infrastructure series, Courtney Burrows chats with Elsa Pine.

Elsa Pine is a longtime veteran in the data center industry serving in executive sales and business development roles at EdgeConneX, CoreSite, Equinix and AT&T – as well as an advisory board member for JSA. In this “Women in Digital Infrastructure” interview, Elsa provides updates from her breast cancer journey that she originally shared here in 2020 – and offers her thoughts and insights on trends in the data center industry. Follow Elsa on LinkedIn here.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, you shared a very personal side of your life: the story of your breast cancer journey. Can you share any updates since then?

Little did I know that the COVID pandemic would cause me to go through my breast cancer journey alone; I had my family at home but couldn’t bring a single person into any appointments and would walk into the hospital by myself, which was probably the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. I’m very lucky to have the best breast cancer team at Mount Sinai in New York who took care of me during the entire journey. The experience has since inspired me to devote my time to other women that are going through this – to help them find the right resources for genetic testing.

I have now been breast cancer free for over three years and look forward to my five year reunion where I get to truly celebrate. And I’m doing great. I really feel good. I’m focused on my health, practicing Pilates each day and eating properly. Everything changes once you have breast cancer and you change your mindset. I’m not looking backwards anymore – the biggest key is looking forward. My motto was and still is “just keep swimming” – I think that will be the title of the book if I ever have one.

 

You are a long time veteran in the data center sector – can you share with us the path that led you to the data center industry? 

I have always had a keen interest in learning about technology. Right out of college I started off selling cell phones, which was a springboard for understanding the basics of telecommunications at the time. Talking about technology came easily to me – I was always drawn to Physics in school, but had landed on Economics in college.

After making the move from Florida to New York, I worked on the global overlay team at AT&T and sold, as well as trained the sales rep teams, on how to sell dedicated hosting services. This led to a role in selling colo at a time when there was an uptick in colo in our data centers and gradually I moved my way up into the hyperscale space. 

It’s funny to think that my career in the data center industry all began with my interest and ability to program cell phones!

 

What key attributes do you feel are important for being successful in sales and business development within the data center industry?

Have passion for what you are doing and trust in the people that you work with. Have empathy for your customers and what they’re going through or what troubles that they’re trying to solve. Work as a true team – I worked closely with my engineers day in and day out and have had a lot of amazing team members supporting me throughout my career. I certainly believe that if you have a good work ethic, it will help drive success.

 

What is your advice for attracting a new generation of leaders to the data center industry?

Technology has become a big part of the day to day lives of the younger generations, which has led to increasing interest in STEM programs. I think it would go a long way if the data center industry could take a more active role on the college, high school and even middle school level to introduce and educate students on the career opportunities in network infrastructure. This is something I’d personally be interested in doing in the future.

 

What trends within the industry most interest you right now and why?

The advancements that we’ve had in the last 15 years have been remarkable. I’ve watched from two to four to six kW per cabinet. Now we’ve got over 50 kW going into one cabinet, which was never heard of. 

When it comes to trends, I’ve been following the big uptick in cybersecurity efforts in response to the crippling outages we’ve seen across multiple large organizations. Meanwhile, AI is definitely at the forefront of the industry and I am very interested in how the governments around the world are going to be involved in establishing guidelines for AI usage. I’m also following the sustainability initiatives within the industry and excited to see the advancements in facility construction to innovations in power and cooling. 

It is truly a very exciting time to be in the industry. 

 

You mentioned that your mantra is “Just keep swimming.” Can you share the significance of these simple words?

It’s been my mantra the last several years, but looking back it’s how I have lived my whole life. I’ve always been into swimming – I remember being a little girl in Connecticut, watching the Olympics and telling everyone I would be the next big swimmer to win the race. My love for swimming has stayed with me through the years – my favorite place is to be in the water where I feel like I can disconnect from the world, clear my head and focus on what’s next. 

The mantra reminds me to strive for more. I want more out of life: to passionately live my life instead of waiting around to say I passed my fifth year anniversary of beating breast cancer. 

 

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