Digital innovation and the new economy require new leadership skills

Founded in 2018 by industry ambassador and Data Center People founder Peter Hannaford, UK based Portman Partners is the leading executive search firm working exclusively in the digital infrastructure sector. Portman works with clients in the EMEA, APAC and North American regions to identify and place the senior level talent needed to execute value driven strategies in the new, accelerating digital economy.

You’ve been working with Portman for a while. How is this  new role different?

As chairman, I’ll keep leadership accountable for performance goals, relationships with clients and candidates and develop and implement strategic plans for future expansion. I’ll ensure Portman is the leading, most influential executive search firm in the digital acceleration arena focused on providing exemplary, high touch services for clients and candidates. With our strong core competencies and agility, we stay abreast of the industry like no other firm can. 

Why should DI clients choose Portman over larger, big name firms?

Portman is uniquely focused on digital acceleration, not just within digital infrastructure but the wider aspects of business transformation. We work to ensure we know everything one can about the data center ecosystem space and focus on finding and placing senior leaders, understanding their purpose, goals, and industry challenges. Plenty of people know “Search”. Very few, if any, know Digital Infrastructure (DI) AND Search.

What makes a candidate successful in today’s DI boardroom?

Visibility, transparency, empathy and purpose. Strong leaders remind people about the company’s mission, values and goals, investing in, and communicating about the role each employee play’s in the company’s success. They must be able to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

Like many in the digital infrastructure industry, you’re a white male. Talk about diversity’s value to senior leadership teams.

I’m not minimizing or stepping around it but, putting aside all the political and social weight of the diversity and inclusion conversation, I’ll put it into context of business value.

One of the biggest challenges for business is driving growth. To grow, organizations must differentiate from their competition. To do that they need to innovate which requires diversity. Diversity of thought, ideas and backgrounds in the boardroom and throughout the company, leads to innovation. Bringing about new solutions to challenges and different experiences brings awareness to different product or service issues and concerns. Diversity leads to innovation which leads to growth, making good business and people sense.

What are the greatest challenges in DI industry boardrooms?

In no specific order, I’d say:

  •  The DI boardroom lacks impact in its approach to diversity and inclusion hampering innovation and growth.
  •  Management of the transition between on-premise data to colo and cloud providers must be addressed sooner than later—we are in the midst of it.
  •  The impact of AI and automation—as more data centers have less staff, the sector requires more senior people serving as thought leaders and modern-day executives.
  •  Data center campuses are growing so there’s demand for a variety of staff to support that.
  •  The accelerating need for green power and sustainability in the DI sector–wind, solar, carbon and wave.  Doing new things in new ways is a key challenge for DI.

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