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EdgeConneX Salutes 2022: Lee Kirby

November 10, 2022

What is EdgeConneX Salutes 2022?

As part of our continuing mission of honoring and recognizing our amazing veteran employees, EdgeConneX, in partnership with Salute Mission Critical, launched EdgeConneX Salutes 2022. As a longtime partner of EdgeConneX, Salute uniquely addresses our critical infrastructure facility management needs. Salute’s skilled veteran labor force works alongside our EdgeConneX teams, which include dedicated and hard-working veterans like Lee Kirby. We are proud to share Lee’s experience with you. Please read his Q&A below to learn more.

Lee Kirby, Co-Founder of Salute Mission Critical and an Army veteran, was interviewed to learn more about his background and his experience in transitioning into a civilian role within the data center industry. Lee also shared what inspired him to start Salute Mission Critical.

Veterans blog graphic - Kirby

What geo are you in now?

I live on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest – Washington state (WA).

Tell me about your role and current initiatives at Salute Mission Critical (SMC).

I focus on strategic direction, growth and market evangelism.

Why do you think SMC has been so successful?

While our intention was to have a great social impact, we had to do it in such a way that it was also a viable business. So, planning to meet a market need in our industry was how we could solve two problems at once:

1. Veteran unemployment and underemployment
2. Address the talent shortage in the data center industry

We built our model to provide data center services with a highly disciplined approach that leverages technology, people, and processes in an optimal manner. I think it would also be a great MBA case study.

Tell me a little about your background/why did you enter the military?

The “Volunteer” spirit is ingrained in the Tennessee education system and becomes a motivation for many. I grew up in rural Appalachia (east TN), and joining the military was a way for me to go to college with the GI bill and fulfill a lifelong desire to serve this great country. When I completed my first four years of active duty, I went into the reserves and stayed in case I was ever needed. I was called up for the Haiti invasion in the mid-90s and then called up for six more years of active duty after 9/11. So, I ended up with 10 and a half active duty years and 25 and a half years of reserve time.

What was your role/responsibility in the military?

I enlisted in 1976, received my commission in 1982, and retired as a Colonel in 2012. Over 36 years, I grew from an E-1 working to master my skills through the leadership cycle of assuming the role of an Infantry platoon leader and following the command route through Brigade Commander. My last role in Iraq was fulfilling as I was responsible for all non-kinetic activity in the country as the C-9 (Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Affairs) responsible for rebuilding Civil Capacity, which ranged from the rule of law to public health to critical infrastructure.

What inspired you to start Salute Mission Critical?

I was retiring in 2012 and wanted to continue to serve. At that time, the unemployment rate for 25-30-year-old veterans was over 25% due to a couple of surges and the 2008-2009 recession. With my background in the industry, I could create the demand to be able to hire veterans and get them retrained and started on a data center career. The market needed our solution, so it worked out.

SMC has set out on a mission of sustainability. Tell me about your new operational model.

While the focus is justifiably on the design and build of data centers, we believe the existing infrastructure should be operated as efficiently as possible. We focus on delivering a solution withs the optimal balance of technology, process, and people to our clients. Our solution covers so many areas ranging from optimal supply chain actions, workforce development, systems optimization, and continuous improvement, that we have saved our clients far more than they have spent on our services. We are known for our Multi-Skilled Operator model, which differentiates us because behind that person you see on-site is a wealth of technology and processes that have been honed over time. To adequately cover the topic would require a book, which is why we were proud to contribute a chapter to the Greener Data initiative that JSA led.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for veterans making the move to the workplace?

Awareness that our industry even exists is the first huge hurdle. Once they are exposed to it, those who like the technology sector will thrive. We have worked the last 10 years to help raise awareness and are proud of our partnership with Infrastructure Masons; our long-term partnership with EdgeConneX drives ever-increasing results and sets a pace that others try to achieve in doing so will benefit their business, our industry, and the military community.

What are your Top Tips for others making the same type of transition? I wish I had known..

Be a sponge and soak up all the training and education you can get. Take on the toughest challenges to rise above the pack. Always be learning and reinventing yourself as you grow.

What inspires you the most?

Seeing others grow and excel. My greatest achievements are actually the successes of those whom I coached and challenged to grow.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

Now, my primary focus is on spoiling my grandchildren, but I am an outdoorsman ranging from fishing and boating to big game hunting. I like walking in the woods with my family and soaking up the wonders of nature.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn.

Keep an eye on EdgeConneX career openings HERE.

If you are a veteran or military spouse looking for an exciting career in a growing industry, please contact Salute Mission Critical. The team can help train and put you on the path to success.