Women in leadership: Amy Marks

Amy is a force in the subsea industry, and recognized as the Queen of Prefab on a global basis by the construction industry. As a thought leader, Amy was appointed by the Government of Singapore to their International Panel of Experts on Construction Productivity, which is now at the forefront in incorporating prefabrication. XSite Modular is a certified Woman-Owned Business.

Times are changing and we are seeing more women taking critical roles as C-suite executives, CEOs and board members, though this industry needs to go a long way before it shatters the glass ceiling. What challenges do you think women face and how should they overcome them?

More women and people from diverse backgrounds are added to C-suite and board member positions worldwide, but I would like to increase these numbers since studies prove that it positively impacts the bottom line. We are getting there but the gender and diversity gaps in technology and subsea are impossible to ignore.

XSite Modular works at the intersection of technology and construction. These industries are historically male, so some of the challenges are external to women. It’s challenging when women’s leadership behaviors are interpreted differently than her male counterparts. As women, the behaviors we are responsible for include the perceived challenge of asking for what we need in business. Compounding this problem is both men and women often find it socially unacceptable for women to ask. Women need to ask, and we need to start normalizing the behavior to others.

With a construction background, you have a specialized skill set. How has your career progressed to being XSite’s CEO?

I grew up in a New York construction family. I’ve seen things that go well in conventional construction and things that don’t. After my family business experience, I was part of a small group that purchased a modular company that built volumetric modular buildings and prefabricated elements for many complex industries. Then I started XSite. We have two parts of our business. First, developing critical infrastructure buildings – cable landing stations, data centers, ILA huts and PFE shelters for the data, subsea and telecommunications industries. Second is working as prefabrication consultants for large-scale, technology-embedded buildings to optimize prefabrication in the conceptualization, design, procurement and implementation. We have amazing clients and have worked hard to be recognized as worldwide prefabrication experts for many complicated buildings including semiconductor fabrication facilities, huge hospitals, large data centers, and other mid- and high-rise building types.

Our expertise is prefabrication and our passion is to make construction easier. Our knowledge and learning from our prefabrication consulting experience working with governments, global corporate leaders, large construction companies and entrepreneurs is poured into that knowledge base, in to building XSite’s smaller, but scalable, technology-embedded buildings in the critical infrastructure space. That’s been our journey from being fabricators to becoming worldwide experts in prefabrication alongside growing our critical infrastructure business that we feel very passionate about.

You have been instrumental in making gender diversity and inclusion a priority. Is there a message for young women to encourage them to join this industry?

What’s great about this industry is that you can carve your own niche and be a specialist. You can create a blue ocean strategy for yourself. The industry is small and needs diverse skill-sets right now. This is a fantastic time to join the industry and blaze your own trail regardless of race or gender.

I don’t think I woke up one day and said, “I want to be a cable landing station expert or an edge data center expert.” That doesn’t happen, but as you look at this industry there are some really phenomenal opportunities in many disciplines including construction, legal, operations, sales, management, or engineering. You can choose your own future in this small yet diverse industry and many would welcome you.

We understand you currently have customers in six of the seven continents in the world. What is the business strategy for the regions you currently operate in?

Every region has its own set of unique issues and challenges. I was recently in Africa and the issues there are different than other parts of the world. The biggest challenge is to enable efficient, scalable capacity, whereas in the Pacific Islands the concern is having robust and resilient buildings due to environmental impacts and rising water levels. There are some commonalities in all the regions that we work with — nobody wants a half-empty facility or one that will erode and rust. Few people in the world have subsea cable landing station expertise, and it is even more rare to find people who are experts in both subsea and data center modular construction. This is important as we are seeing a convergence of the two. Many of our buildings are now hybrid data centers and cable landing stations.

Clients are more and more concerned about overbuilding a facility for which they have to pay a large CapEx and OpEx. They are even more concerned about the structural integrity of buildings, and they are looking for more robust structural systems that are resilient, with redundant systems that are protected from environmental concerns and other threats. We have to protect our data and do it in an efficient way. Data is about trust.

What’s next for XSite Modular? Can you talk about some of your projects?

We are completing projects in the Pacific Islands, Europe and the U.S. We also have several new projects that are about to start up, which haven’t been announced yet.

As for what’s next for XSite, we are doing more turnkey solutions on the dry side of the business. We have the ability to handle everything on the dry side including terrestrial permitting, site work, and foundations through the commissioning, preventative maintenance and operating of the CLS or data center. We want to continue to make things easier for our clients. If they want just our buildings,  great. But if they want a one-stop-shop for everything on land from the beach manhole or for the entire data center development, we can offer that too.

What does success mean to you?

I believe in continuous improvement. I’ve been in lean manufacturing and construction for so long that I think of success as a process. With each success, I’d still like to do better next time. We are constantly thinking about how to improve. We learn from successes and from mistakes.  I am very hard on myself, as I think many women in leadership are. We don’t take a breath to talk about the successes in our career because we are always on a non-stop journey.

When I heard our building had survived the Category 5 Super Typhoon and was performing as designed, I couldn’t have been prouder.  Everybody had Internet access on the island, and everything worked the way it was supposed to. My daughter was there when I got the call and she said, “Mommy, a lot of people say their buildings do things, but yours actually did it! You should be so proud!” Hearing her say that did make me proud. Our word is our bond and we do what we say we do. We want to continue to bring the Internet to underdeveloped markets so we can give all kids the opportunity to get online and be better citizens. That is success.

Is there a passion that you would like to share with us?

My passion is my daughter, she is the heart that lives outside of my chest. So my first passion is being a good mom and my second passion is actually cooking. I have every possible kitchen gadget available on this planet, and I can use them all to cook food from many different countries. When I am not working, I am in my kitchen. Another passion of mine is fitness, I love to work out, and it is such a stress reliever.