Get to know: Alex Brew, Regional Director, Northern Europe at Vertiv

Get to know: Alex Brew, Regional Director, Northern Europe at Vertiv

On the lighter side of things, we ask Alex Brew, Regional Director, Northern Europe at Vertiv, what makes him tick. 

Alex Brew, Regional Director, Northern Europe at Vertiv

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

I would say landing the role of sales director for the UK and Ireland – which at the time was Vertiv’s largest region in EMEA – by the age of 30, is undoubtedly my career highlight so far. I was very proud that Vertiv put its trust in me to fulfil its ambitions for the region, but I’m even more proud of the success the team and I have had since the appointment. We’ve delivered tremendous growth through diversifying our market coverage and reaching next-level productivity to take market share. I’m now Regional Director for Northern Europe, expanding the region to include the Nordics, which is proving to be an exhilarating next step in what is a highly strategic market segment, within which Vertiv’s growth is far-surpassing the organic growth rates.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

I began my career in a highly innovative SME developing low energy building products. I was initially engaged in application engineering and R&D roles, and from there I was ‘encouraged’  into sales when the then sales director spotted a natural affinity for connecting with customers. After a few successful years I sought a shift into a larger, more corporate environment where I could forge a longer-term career path. I was fortunate to have several options at that time, but the company that really stood out was Emerson Network Power (now Vertiv). Somewhat unknown to me at the time, the prospect of working for an organisation with such a close affiliation with the IT and technology industries intrigued me.

My uncle, someone who has always provided me with great career counsel, shared some invaluable guidance at that time: “If you want longevity, to work in a highly dynamic, continually evolving space that remains constantly relevant, find a company that operates in the IT/technology space”. He couldn’t have been more right. It was the best career advice I’ve received to date and it shaped my career trajectory, pivoting it towards an exciting industry that thrives on innovation and growth.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

The foundation of my management philosophy is about establishing trust and empowerment within my team, and those I work alongside. For me, trust is the cornerstone of positioning myself as an effective leader, and within a well-functioning team it can quickly be earnt. Implement a solid operational structure and then surround yourself with diverse, talented people who want to develop and push themselves, empowering them to operate with autonomy and to believe in their own decision-making capabilities – this will have you navigating the complexities of the tech sector with the agility needed to deliver success. Effective empowerment then affords more bandwidth for strategic planning, organisational evolution and performance optimisation. In a rapidly evolving industry like technology this time is needed to gain a competitive edge – done effectively, it will foster a high performance culture that thrives on collaboration and allows for diverse perspectives to contribute to innovative solutions.

What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2023 and why?

Surprise, surprise – AI. It is undeniably a truly disruptive force, in our industry and beyond and the most impressive thing about it is just how far reaching its applications are – businesses of every size and shape stand to gain from it in some way. Generally speaking there’s a conventional shift of applications transitioning exclusively to AI, but at Vertiv AI represents a distinct segment of market growth that operates above and beyond everything else we’re working on. It is challenging traditional infrastructure topologies and acting as a catalyst for ground-breaking innovation, exemplified by transformative technologies like liquid cooling.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

Liquid cooling is a highly strategic area of investment for Vertiv, and we will continue to champion a diverse portfolio of products that lend themselves to a broad range of applications requiring this infrastructure. But second to that we continue to enhance our broader air-cooling portfolio to support traditional data centre deployments as well as hybrid strategies. It is crucial that the two sides of the portfolio are harmonised and work in tandem to ensure Business Continuity. By providing hybrid solutions, we aim to facilitate a smooth and adaptable evolution for our customers, meeting their current and future cooling requirements.

Prefabricated Modular data centre solutions (PFM) are also an area of strategic investment at Vertiv. Many of our customers need to rapidly scale their critical infrastructure and the most efficient way to do this is deploying PFM solutions, which can be built up to 50% faster than a traditional data centre whilst maintaining exceptional levels of quality, space optimisation, and most importantly keeping a handle on cost.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?

It’s a tad cliché, but I always look forward to the weekends and spending quality time with my two-year-old son – there’s no better way to disconnect from work and unwind than spending time with him in his world. And then second to that it’s cooking. Admittedly these days it’s a bit trickier to convince the family to let me spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking up a feast, but given the chance I will! I enjoy the craft, and the chance to be a bit creative.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

I’ve worked exclusively in sales for over 10 years, and on reflection I would have thought more about apportioning some of my early career to roles within other business functions, with a view to gaining a more well-rounded business profile that would support me later on. That said, I have no regrets – I’m fortunate to have progressed as far as I have and be working for a company that continues to fuel my desire to develop, learn new skills and expand my responsibilities as I set my sights on a C-level position in years to come.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?

The biggest challenge for our customers across Europe is the availability of land with connectivity, power and a means by which to deploy their data centres at speed.  Digitalisation and applications like AI need huge compute power and they need it now, so demand for critical infrastructure is unrelenting. For operators spanning multiple geographies with differing climates, achieving continuity can be challenging. Europe has a rapidly evolving sustainability agenda with newly introduced regulations and legislation that is changing the environment within which many operators are now working.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

In such a dynamic market my role is constantly evolving, but over the last year the press coverage that data centres have received in the mainstream media (primarily around utility usage), has meant that we are having to educate more and more about data centres and their role in modern day society. Not enough is understood about what they enable, but data centres are now a staple in nearly everyone’s work and social lives, and it is important that this is better understood, along with the good work that is being done to decarbonise them.

Over the next 12 months, because of concerns around heat and water usage, we will have to deal with more legislation and regulations concerning design, construction and utility usage. We will also have to supply increased reporting for scope 1,2 and 3 emissions, which is a highly complex exercise in the manufacturing industry.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?

A flippant answer would be: “I’ll tell you when I get there!” But in all seriousness, for those aspiring to reach executive positions, my advice would be to make sure you have a mentor (or two), and plan ahead with where you might need to invest in your education to subsidise an absence of experience. I’m not just talking the financial investment, but that of the commitment of your time. Understand where you have gaps in your experience and plan for how you can supplement them (a good mentor can offer great insight here). A company’s willingness to support you in such endeavours will also evidence their investment in you as an individual and your career journey, helping you identify if you’re in the right place to accelerate your career to such heights. 

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