01 Feb “Spotlight” on Jeff Hunter
Jeff Hunter is one of MiCiM’s six directors, starting his engineering career from a very young age, Jeff aims to impart his wisdom and inspire the younger generation to take on the challenges of the mission critical sector in the future, read his thoughts below:
Tell us a bit about your career and what you bring to your role:
I started my career as an engineer well before leaving school. I was fortunate to live next door to the chief engineer for Ferrari UK. I spent hours as a kid helping him build car engines and messing about with all sorts of engines. I started work as an electrical / mechanical apprentice in the process controls industry in 1978. I left school on a Friday and on the following Monday was on site with a small team of specialists rebuilding the old Scrubs Lane dairy in London doing the HV LV switch rooms and ammonia compressor plant.
The old boys I worked with were truly inspirational for so many reasons they not only taught you their job but provided many life lessons too. They all seemed to have great sayings like ‘you can be lonely in a crowded room’ or, ‘You only need a few things in life to be happy a good coat, a good bed, and a good pair of boots’, and as one old foreman said to me once ‘what God forgot to design an engineer did it for him’.
It still makes me think some days!
You have a highly pressurised career – what would you say are the key strengths you bring to a team?
I think when you really enjoy what you do and know what you’re doing you don’t see it as pressurised. It funny really but when I try to explain to others what I do they think I’m nuts. I have built a career taking responsibility and accountability during times of real adversity this has given me a certain extra resilience and knowledge that I would not have discovered if I had shied away and led a ‘quiet’ life. I genuinely like complicated and big problems to solve, the sense of self belief, confidence, and self-achievement when you resolve things is fantastic.
I have very high standards and won’t settle for second best, but I also like to think I inspire youngsters to achieve more than they think they can do and bring experience and leadership to our business.
What are the main challenges in the Mission Critical sector?
Lack of real leadership at every level is a huge problem for our industry. Poor leadership leads to poor education and direction and limits learning.
The continued issue of latency designs and lack of true investment for energy efficient design will become a much bigger issue in the future.
It amazes me to see what has happened over the past 40 years. In the early days we were all very naive going from very small server rooms in offices to full scale data centres, this was a big jump, and it took the industry a good few years to educate itself. By the middle of this period the good Engineering led construction companies got the hang of delivering quite well and our clients became very proficient.
We then went from very large DC’s with very educated clients to global campus builds with the same clients. This represented a whole new set of challenges for the construction teams’ having, totally transient staff, worldwide manufacturing capability, staff burn out rates, inter country legislation, etc. Which has taken years to resolve, and it is really still ongoing.
We are now also seeing lots of new entrants into the DC market which have sent some delivery models full circle back to our naïve server room days. The need for true knowledge led leadership has never been so important. The disaster recovery rate of projects is on the increase all over the world which is very enlightening.
What kind of skills does one need to have to enable a career in the Mission Critical sector that spans for 38 years?
Courage, resilience, determination, and focus
Over the course of your career, what would you say was your most challenging project?
I have lived in a world of total adversity, so this is bit like asking me what was your favourite war. I don’t really have a favourite challenging project but can tell you on every single one I have come away much more knowledgeable than when I started it. This has been my reward.
Is there any cutting-edge technology which you are excited about, which will be at the forefront of the industry in the next few years?
As a process control engineer, I realised the benefit on concentrating on the product in this case data use and servers and after many years of hard work building and testing, I have just received my US patent for a cooling solution for DC’s. I am now awaiting the European patent office to grant for Europe. I can get up to 20kw per cab using fresh air with a fully tested delta t of .5-degree top to bottom on a 42u fully loaded cabinet, I get an almost linear PUE from very low load to 100% and more resilience for no more money. This is very exciting for me, and I plan to re-engage with selective clients over the next few months to provide solutions for power reductions and overall energy savings whilst increasing resilience with better flexibility on cap ex, reduced insurance costs, and construction costs with much faster delivery.
Are there any skill/formulae/tech you learned in your formative years you still utilise today?
All of what I learned at college has been a constant companion and I regularly hold training sessions with the younger team members talking about all manner of engineering principles and equations. Maths is the language of the universe and I regularly revisit some of my old books trying to refresh my mind (this is getting more difficult now.)
As you are always heavily involved in the final push to complete a project, what are your coping mechanisms to deal with the pressurised environment you live in?
Detailed knowledge is crucial to enable you to understand and focus the team giving clear unambiguous direction in a clear and concise sequence to achieve your common goals.
The team is crucial if you want to play premier league they have to be fit to do so.
And lastly If I want to build a boat the trick is to get the ‘team’ to dream of the sea. From then on it becomes easy they build it for you
What is it that you enjoy about working with the MiCiM team?
As a director of the business the first thing is we as directors are all mates and there is a real belief, we can do anything, and the trust is present.
I also still want to laugh at work, and we do that quite often, either taking the mickey out of ourselves, or sharing past extraordinary experiences which there are a few! Or by telling jokes I love a good joke.
After a busy working week, what do you do in your down time?
I work a lot on other things at home I have just completely rebuilt a Series 3 land rover during covid which took me right back to being a kid. I have also just built a garage workshop, and a separate woodwork shop which I will fit out during the winter.
I also like golf, fishing, cycling, gardening, and reading. I support Liverpool FC and love watching international rugby.