Last year, Tim Shutz departed from his previous career in search of something new.
Starting his new career pathway at NOVA, he dove into Engineering Technology, Data Center Operations, and Computer Science. He also signed up for CLRI (NOVA IET’s Career and Leadership Readiness Institute) in 2022 to hone his professional and interpersonal skills, after which he landed an internship with AFCOM Potomac Chapter in 2023, fostering a passion for Data Centers along the way.
Now he has secured a job at Iron Mountain Data Centers as a Critical Facility Specialist.
When deciding to switch careers, Tim started with a leap of faith:
“It was as nerve-wracking as you can imagine, leaving behind the comfort, rhythm, and familiarity I had known. With the onset of the 2020s, as the world grew increasingly volatile, technology appeared to be on an exponential rise, and the pace of change outstripped my preparedness, I knew I needed to undergo a personal transformation. This journey brings to mind a cherished quote by Warren Buffet: “If the future is uncertain, invest in yourself.”
After Tim invested in himself through NOVA, CLRI, and AFCOM internship, and now at Iron Mountain, Tim’s leap of faith is paying dividends and he is confident about the future:
It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful for the series of events that have brought me to where I am today. I can’t wait to contribute my skills and embark on this exciting journey with an amazing team. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my path.”
Interview with Tim Shutz
We caught up with Tim and asked him a few questions about his experience with CLRI and AFCOM and how it prepared him to go to the next level. His answers give some insight on what he has learned and accomplished, who has helped him, and where he sees himself in the future.
Tim’s CLRI experience: 13 questions and answers
(Internship-specific answers detailed after the CLRI portion)
Q: What IET field are you pursuing and why?
I pursued and finished an Engineering Technology certification, and am continuing a Data Center Operations certification and an Associate’s degree in Computer Science. These choices stemmed from a desire to engage in technical work while also challenging myself through the pursuit of a computer science major.
Q: How did you find out about CLRI?
My introduction to CLRI came during my fall semester when I received an email about the program. Recognizing the importance of exploring various clubs and opportunities, I was drawn to the intriguing prospects offered by CLRI.
Q: Why are soft skills and effective interpersonal communication vital if you’re pursuing a career in a technical field?
The significance of soft skills and effective interpersonal communication cannot be overstated for those venturing into technical careers. While technical expertise opens doors, it’s the soft skills that pave the way for advancement and growth.
Q: How have you fostered continuing professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers?
Cultivating enduring professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers has been an organic process. By embarking on the AFCOM internship together and sharing subsequent experiences, we have forged strong bonds that greatly ease navigation within this field.
Q: Tell us about how CLRI aided in building your personal brand?
My involvement in CLRI significantly contributed to the refinement of my personal brand. Beyond the connections I established, working closely with a professional resume writer resulted in a standout resume that has garnered numerous compliments for its quality.
Q: In CLRI you worked on building an effective resume. What are the best ways to make your resumé stand out both technically and with the content you include?
Crafting a remarkable resume in CLRI involved strategic decisions. Placing my educational achievements at the forefront and quantifying my contributions with specific metrics enabled the resume to stand out both technically and content-wise.
Q: How did CLRI hone your leadership skills? Why is it important to have these skills even if you are not interested in pursuing a management role?
CLRI played a pivotal role in honing my leadership skills, particularly aiding me in enhancing my networking abilities after a period of isolation due to the pandemic. These skills hold value even for non-managerial roles, as they facilitate meaningful interactions within the data center profession.
Q: How did mock interviews prepare you for real interviews?
Participating in mock interviews through CLRI, particularly the ones hosted by Amazon, allowed me to refine my STAR interview technique, offering invaluable preparation for real-world interviews.
Q: How did CLRI enhance your professionalism and accountability?
CLRI’s influence on my professionalism and sense of accountability was substantial. Engaging with experts on soft skills and receiving personalized advice provided valuable insights. One conversation with a speaker helped me recognize the depth of experience I possessed, boosting my confidence.
Q: It was said during CLRI “every day is a job interview.” What does that mean to you?
The adage “every day is a job interview” underscores the importance of presenting oneself in the best possible light during all interactions. Just as in formal job interviews, daily encounters offer opportunities to make positive impressions.
Q: How effective was the networking event? Anyone in-particular that you connected with?
The networking event was effective in connecting me with individuals who have since become valuable professional contacts. The experience was highly positive, although additional in-person talks would have enhanced the connection-building process.
Q: What’s next for you? What opportunities do you feel you might have missed if you hadn’t taken CLRI?
So recently I was offered a job at a great company. Without CLRI I don’t think I would have gotten there. CLRI introduced me into data centers which got me into the DCO program, then into AFCOM, right into a job.
Q: What would you say in recommending CLRI to NOVA students?
I honestly think a program like this should be mandatory for students. My point is that school is only a part of the recipe to success, if you don’t go out of your way to meet industry professionals you will have a very difficult time getting the dream job you want, or even figuring out if the major you are in is the correct one.
Q: Anything else that we’ve missed?
CLRI introduced me to inspiring professionals and fellow students, setting the stage for what was to come. Thank you M. Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle!
TJ Ciccone’s ENE195 class was a game-changer, teaching us the art of acing interviews and igniting my passion for data centers. Thank you Thomas (TJ) Ciccone
Tim’s AFCOM Internship: 14 questions and answers
Q: Generally, why are internships important?
Internships hold universal importance as they offer firsthand experience, allowing individuals to assess their suitability for a role and their compatibility with a company. Additionally, internships facilitate longer and more revealing interactions with potential employers.
Q: What did you learn during CLRI that helped you in your AFCOM internship?
The insights gained from CLRI played a pivotal role in my AFCOM internship experience. This foundation enabled me to engage effectively in discussions surrounding data center operations and ask pertinent questions, showcasing my acquired knowledge.
Q: A number of CLRI grads have gone on to do internships together. How has that developed a sense of professional community?
The collective pursuit of internships by fellow CLRI graduates fostered a profound sense of professional community. This camaraderie not only provides ongoing support but also expands networks, enabling connections that will likely endure throughout our careers.
Q: Tell us about your AFCOM Internship experience? How did it build on what you learned through CLRI?
CLRI played a pivotal role in enhancing my soft skills during my internship. Many individuals have emphasized that cultivating these skills is indispensable for securing a position in data centers, which further underscores the significance of my experience there.
Q: Why have you pursued an internship in this particular field?
My motivation to seek an internship in this specific field was fueled by a keen interest in data center operations. The desire to comprehend the intricacies of these facilities and contribute to their efficiency guided my choice.
Q: What specific activities have you engaged in during your internship? What has been your favorite task or project?
During my internship, I engaged in a range of tasks, including rounds, coil cleaning, and learning about the building management system. These activities allowed me to gain hands-on experience and expand my understanding of data center operations.
Q: Who has had a particular influence on you during your internship?
My mentor, Hansen Troy Hill, significantly influenced my internship experience, providing valuable guidance and support. Thank you Troy and AFCOM Potomac Chapter. Moreover, Stephan Plock, the manager at DLR, offered indispensable insights during my job search.
Q: What skills have you learned during your internship that will help you during your career?
The internship equipped me with vital skills, particularly in terms of networking and professional connections. These relationships will likely play a pivotal role in shaping my future career endeavors.
Q: Have you discovered a job or career path through your internship that you want to pursue?
I’ve taken a job in data center operations at Iron Mountain which I plan on pushing as far as I can. I do plan on going further into the data center realm but I want that fundamental understanding of how the buildings work in order to hopefully help with engineering/software aspects down the line.
Q: Tell us a little about the personal side of internships. What are the relationships like with peers and with supervisors?
I had a great relationship with the team over at DLR. I really enjoyed the managers and team and thought they provided me with a lot of openness and helpfulness in understanding different aspects of the company.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
I had some challenges making sure that I was pushing myself to ask the right questions and make sure if I had nothing to do I found somebody who did. This took a bit of getting outside of my own comfort level but I think I managed to do that well.
Q: What has been the biggest game-changer for you in this internship?
It was the ability to get three different job offers, which was a blessing. I went from nobody responding to my applications to three on the table, you can say that was a huge confidence booster.
Q: What else should we know from your experience as an AFCOM intern?
I think the AFCOM internship is essential for anybody that wants to get into data centers. Even if you have an in, you will gain so much more than an immediate job.
Q: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I hope to become a manager in 5 years and in 10 years working on engineering projects within data centers to help push the boundaries.