Hidden heroes – Halvor Bjerke.

Not quite so hidden, but definitely a hero! A closer insight into our COO, Halvor Bjerke.

What is your role at DigiPlex?
Every day is different. As Chief Operations Officer my remit is to ensure the company is working at its highest levels of quality to deliver to our customers. I look after the operational teams responsible for this day to day work. However, I am not a data center technical expert – the people in our teams on site and in our customer-service teams are the real experts here. My role is more strategic – making sure they all have what they need to perform at the highest levels. I am the go-to person to help them overcome challenges, plan and innovate to constantly improve the level of our operations.

You might find it surprising that a COO spends more than half their time discussing, coaching and guiding people, but that’s the truth of my role. I start each day with a list of tasks, but it is most important to me that I make time to speak to, assist and support the fantastic individuals that make up the operational capability of DigiPlex to be the best they can be.

What's your career background?
With a degree in IT Operations from Sør-Trøndelag University College (HiST) my first job was as IT support technician with Cap Gemini.  I became a team leader within a couple of years and from then on was much more focused on the management aspects of IT. Although I did not set out with the aspiration to be a COO, I naturally gravitated towards situations in which I lead operations management. From Cap Gemini I moved to Amedia, Norway’s second largest media company, first as an IT operations manager, but latterly as the CEO of the IT business as it offered its services beyond the parent company.   

After nearly 15 years of selling and delivering IT services, I jumped the fence to become a buyer of IT services. As VP and head of service integration at DNB, Norway’s largest financial services group, I was over saw tendering, purchasing, risk and quality control for IT services procured by the business. My first direct experience of the data center industry came as I took on the role of site manager for the first hyperscale deployment in Norway, SoftLayer’s (IBM) Cloud Data Center in Oslo.

What excites you about working for DigiPlex?
When I was approached to join DigiPlex in 2016, I did not need much time to decide. The great thing about DigiPlex is the responsibility and flexibility it offers to all staff. No one is micromanaged. Instead, mandates are given and clear objectives set, but individuals are trusted to make their own decisions on the routes to meeting these goals.  This opportunity immediately attracted me to DigiPlex, and it is what excites me every day working for the company. As COO my role is all about people. Working with my teams, being in touch we the wide range of individuals who work here and helping them all to be at their best gives me real energy. I am especially proud of those moments where I have helped individuals to develop, take on new roles and perhaps find unexpected ways in which they not only add value to the business but grow and thrive as people. To me that is the real reward for what I do.

How do you see the industry growing?
It is clear to me that competition will intensify, whilst at the same time the market for our services will grow. With increasing digitalisation, accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, more and more organisations need help in creating, managing and supporting digital infrastructures. The skills, resource, investment and capabilities to do this are still quite restricted. Even within the Nordics market there are real differences between countries and suppliers in maturity, capability and quality. There will be consolidation and independent, agile and well-regarded businesses like DigiPlex are well positioned to benefit from this movement.

The quality of operations becomes even more critical in this context. As new players enter the market, and more customers from diverse industries look to colocation, cloud and hybrid solutions to their digital infrastructure requirements, quality of service will quickly differentiate between the leaders who can cope with these increasing demands, and those that cannot. With our track-record, commitment to never, ever go down and proven high quality operations this increased competition can only help us.

What's your soapbox issue?
As will be clear from this interview, I am 100% focused on the role people have in operations. Finding, retaining and rewarding the right people is a huge challenge. With skills shortages increasing across almost all roles, the temptation is to hire anyone who has the skills you need. But for me, it is critical to hire the person and not the competence. DigiPlex has a strong culture; preserving it is vital to our operations. DigiPlexers, as we refer to ourselves, have a distinct mix of curiosity, accountability, energy and sense of humour. They are resilient, collaborative and innovative people that thrive on the diversity of individuals at DigiPlex and enjoy working together to deliver projects that stretch them.

It’s not just a job – its something much more, it feels like a family. Ensuring the right fit and maintaining this energy, even as we grow quickly, is crucial and that means taking time over recruitment to get exactly the right person in each role.

Outside the office?
Outside of the office I am a keen outdoorsman. In the autumn and winter this means hunting for moose and staying at our cabin for skiing and snowmobiling. In the spring and summer we are out on the fjords in boats. At home I like to build – creating a garage and winter garden at our house this year.