Joe Kava

Vice President, Global Data Centers, Google
Joe Kava is a Founding Member and an Advisory Board member of iMasons. Joe is the Vice President of Global Data Centers for Google and leads the teams responsible for site selection, power purchasing, research, engineering, construction management, critical facility operations, hardware operations, environmental health and safety, sustainability, and physical security for Google’s global fleet of data centers.

Published in Issue 4 | July 30, 2020

Did you choose this industry, or did it choose you?
After graduating from university, I worked in the semiconductor industry. But after 15 years, I was looking for a change of pace. My mentor, the CFO of the Fortune 500 company where I worked at the time, suggested I get into IT when he saw I had a penchant for it. He said if I spent a few years learning about enterprise IT—the whole stack—I would be able to work in any industry, anywhere. That was the best career advice I ever received.

So, I joined the company’s corporate IT group and spent three years running global IT operations. I learned about everything from the infrastructure to the data center layer to enterprise applications. Prior to that experience, I was blissfully ignorant about data centers and their role in digital infrastructure and delivering applications. But running our own enterprise data center and being part of the committee that selected our disaster recovery colo data center, I developed valuable insights into facilities and IT operations.

Then the CIO that I was working for left the company to become the CEO of the DR colo provider we had selected. Four months later, he offered me the COO position to help him run the company and take it public. I thought, if ever there is a time to take a chance on a startup, this is it. So I accepted the job with RagingWire Data Centers, based in Sacramento, California. They were in the middle of an expansion, and over the next two years would grow dramatically, building hyperscale data centers and leasing them to Fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley. I moved my family to Sacramento: I was fully committed.

We had benefited from and been a part of this industry, and it occurred to me that I wanted to someday leave a legacy, to know I had lent a hand in shaping the future and the professionals who are a part of it.

But about 15 months later, the day after I had presented at a Gartner data center conference, I got a call from Google recruiting. At first I turned them down—multiple times, in fact. But they were persistent. So I agreed to a 30-minute call, which turned into a 90-minute call, after which I told my wife that this was probably the most brilliant person I’d ever spoken to, and that I now really wanted the job. In April 2008, that person became my first boss at Google. It has been 12 years since, and I could never have imagined the degree of growth that we have experienced. So this industry found me more than I found it!

Why did you get involved with iMasons?
When Dean Nelson first called me about his idea of a professional association, I asked about the vision and end goal of the organization. What I heard, and what I liked, was that it was going to be about individuals, not companies—about developing and giving back to others in the industry and to the industry itself. We had benefited from and been a part of this industry, and it occurred to me that I wanted to someday leave a legacy, to know I had lent a hand in shaping the future and the professionals who are a part of it.