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‘Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up’ – A conversation with Conexus Law’s Nancy Lamb

Nancy Lamb is a leading expert in data centre construction contracts and dispute resolution. She is known for her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach. 

Lamb started her career as a construction solicitor at international law firms Pinsent Masons LLP and Hill Dickinson LLP, in the UK and the Middle East before immersing herself into the data centre sector working for both contractors and clients. She also works in the pharmaceutical and residential and commercial property sectors. 

Today, the executive serves as the lead consultant on the Conexus Law collaborative contracting service.

Some of her career highlights within the digital infrastructure space, include for example serving as senior project manager for a data centre developer and operator to deliver a 32MW data centre in London, providing mission critical design and construction agreements for various facilities across the UK, including transforming an old engine room at a sewage plant into a data centre, and offering an early resolution of a data centre delay dispute in relation to a 20MW facility.

In this conversation with JSA Europe, Lamb talks us through her career as well as how data centre legal affairs and requirements have changed over time.

 

JML: Tell us about you and your journey. How did you get involved with the data centre world? 

NL: When I worked in private practice in Manchester circa 2010/2011, via an insurance client I became aware of a small data centre contractor in east Manchester, we stayed in touch and then in 2013 I moved to that small data centre contractor as their in house lawyer and that roller coaster of a role took on various forms and fully emersed me in the data centre world!

 

JML: Do you feel you’ve had to work harder than male colleagues to advance your career? 

NL: I don’t know. My drive to advance my career comes from a personal pressure and I don’t think my gender has anything to do with it. I mean I’ve been patted on the head, I’ve been given the tea and coffee orders, people have spoken to male colleagues instead of me, people have definitely assumed I don’t know what I’m talking about. And then in those big moments, when leadership has been needed and big decision had to be made, I’ve stepped into that and my colleagues around me in the data centre world have supported me and worked with me. I don’t feel that in the data centre world I’ve had to work harder than male colleagues to advance my career. If you’re good at your job, your gender isn’t an issue (in my opinion) in the data centre world.

 

JML: What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received? 

NL: Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

 

JML: What do you do in your current role and how does it fit in the current state of the market? 

NL: In my current role I assist my data centre clients to put in place the construction contracts that they need to build their data centres.

 

JML: How do you keep up-to-date with market trends and what is your trend to watch? 

NL: Listening to everyone in the industry from end users, to clients, to suppliers, designers, cost consultants. My trend to watch is data centre developers and contractors moving towards more collaborative contracts and better use of framework agreements with suppliers that are more than just a convenient way to get into contract quickly.

 

JML: How has data centre legal advising changed in recent years? 

NL: It’s increasingly become a specialist from a construction point of view and given the increasing number of new players to the market (who may not have previous data centre development experience) clients need that extra a level of data centre construction knowledge and understanding of the risks unique to data centre construction.  

 

JML: What are and why are collaborative contracts important? 

NL: Because the data centre world is small and the climate crisis is real! The pool of good contractors and suppliers is limited; pipelines are huge; the end customer market is becoming increasingly competitive; world uncertainties are impacting prices, availability and lead times and burn out of good people is real. Collaboration breeds innovation, supply chain sustainability and eventually evergreen construction. Anyone involved in construction loves the problems and the challenges that brings, so it will never be “easy” building data centres; but will collaboration we can make it better for the plant, people and profit margins.

 

JML: What three skills would you say are crucial to your role?  

NL: Listening, collaboration and an ability to get straight to the heart of the issue.

 

JML: What advice would you give to younger women entering data centres today? 

NL: Believe in yourself. Don’t make yourself small. Be nice. Be kind. Be strong. Be you. And you don’t have to be superwoman. Don’ sacrifice your mental health, your physical health, your relationships or yourself for your job. Don’t be afraid to have strong boundaries and maintain them.

 

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